Karl W. SwartzComputer Notebook — Shutting Down your Computer

It has been brought to my attention on several occasions that many of you have received contradictory instructions concerning when and whether to turn off your computers. I would like to give you my own recommendations and explain the reasons for them.

There is no intrinsic reason why it is harmful to leave your computer on most of the time. Actually, turning the equipment on and off is probably more harmful than leaving it on, from an electrical standpoint. As I explained in my notes on electrical disturbances, it is the fluctuations in the electrical currents that harm the components. However, there are other "risk factors" which must also be taken into consideration.

First, there is always the possibility of losing power, either through a utility blackout or some natural disruption such as a thunderstorm or ice storm taking down the power lines. If this were to happen, the fluctuations of the electricity going off and coming back on will almost certainly be more destructive than simply switching the computer off and on. In no case should a computer be allowed to remain "on" in the event of a power loss. When the power is restored, there is almost always a tremendous surge due to all the appliances on the circuits, which can be very destructive to electronic equipment. If this were to occur over a weekend, you will not be here to switch off your computer before the power returns. It is certainly better to have turned it off before leaving.

Second, if your computer should experience a power loss, there will likely be a loss of data or corruption of files due to improper shutdown. When this happens, Windows will certainly run Scandisk upon restart. Eventually, however, the problems mount until there can be no recovery, and the computer simply must be reconfigured and all software reloaded. We have had several instances of this occurring, and it can easily take one to two days to restore a system.

Third, even in the absence of a power outage, there is always the possibility of maintenance or utility personnel having to move equipment due to some other unrelated problem. They will generally be untrained or disinclined to observe proper shutdown procedures. Again, the results can be disastrous.

Finally, there is also the issue of security. Since your computers are now password protected, no one can boot them up without the proper password. This will eliminate the possibility of anyone seeing sensitive or personal data, or accessing the Internet unsupervised.

I strongly recommend that you shut down all computers over weekends and Holidays. Leaving them on during the school week is probably not a problem, as the time intervals are relatively short that the systems are unattended. I certainly do not recommend leaving computers on over extended Holidays, and will probably shut down any I find left on. I am not your housekeeper, however, and will not follow in your footsteps to see that this is accomplished!

Please always observe proper shutdown procedures; otherwise, you are contributing to the problem, not avoiding it! Click "Start", then "Shut Down", and make sure that "Shut down" is checked in the window that opens, then click "OK". Wait until the message appears, "It is now ok to turn off your computer", and then switch it off. Sometimes Windows will "hang" when shutting down. If this happens for an unusually long time, tap the "Enter" key once or twice, often this will clear the problem. If not, then go ahead and switch it off. It has probably shut down most programs; if not, there is not much else you can do anyway!

Copyright © 2004 Karl W. Swartz — http://KarlSwartz.com
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