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Best practices for general PC usage

Posted on 2006-11-13
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Greetings,

I would like to know if there are any commonly accepted best practices for general day by day PC usage. Some systems are running Windows 2000, some XP Professional and they are basically only running your standard office applications like MS Word, Excel, Outlook, Internet Explorer. . . from what I monitored the systems are hardly stressed performance wise but people tend to leave them running 24/7 (of course even over the weekend and on holidays) and never restart just because they are too lazy. I'm a bit worried that these habits might wear out the PCs faster and more than necessary.

Are my worries groundless and is it actually better to let normal desktop PCs run 24/7 or should PCs be shut down as often as possible? Maybe there are some completely different best practices?

Thanks,

m
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Question by:Moother
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nobus earned 85 total points
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i shut down all my pc's more than once a day; if i foresee no use in the next 2 hours : shutdown time !
some may suggest this will wear your parts more, and lead to a shorter life time, but that was mainly true for older systems. I find nowadays systems handle starting / stopping sequences much better than before.
also, if you should decide to leave them running, , select in the bios to shut down the monitor and disk after 10-15 minutes; you'll hardly see any difference in startup speed, but the energy consumed will lessen drastically.

I suggest NOT to use Energy when not needed , the earth is warming up fast enough !
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by:SunBow
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> Are my worries groundless and is it actually better to let normal desktop PCs run 24/7

yes

> should PCs be shut down as often as possible

No. That is wear and tear. Actually, much of modern PC already has shutdown areas such as for power to HD and monitor. In older models, the on again off again would eventually cause chips (any connection) to separate from MB, losing connectivity. Go "pop a resister" or whatever

> Maybe there are some completely different best practices?

For remote maintenance or even offduty maintenance it can be good to have them on. You might want to use the time to give them a new virus pattern or make another backup for them when they are off duty.

Leave an MS system on long enough and it may have a problem such as corruption due to calendar overflow, but not to worry, the latest is that we are  supposed to all schedule vulnerabiility updates on a montly basis, and unlike other OS, MS always requires a reboot any time there is a change to any of their software products.

When it comes to energy, try to think of it doubling in summer - for very degree it heats up the place, you need to spend to cool the place back down. PS from what, 200-500 watts? Less? That is using everything at once, including CD, DVD etc.

But without an active user, no moving disks, no monitor on, the power used is probably less than that of your night light.
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by:SunBow
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Actually, there are too many reports of RAM going bad too soon for me, so I might just wonder if that had or has anything to do with getting too many power off/ons.

Any system getting moved around should at least get a chance to thaw to room temperature before facing the extra heat from powering on.

Same goes for any that have been left out to cook in the sun, without their own fan or cooling system running. Once indoors, let them reach room temperature first. That may take awhile.
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by:rid
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Interesting... Two experts and two diametrically different opinions... While I agree with NOT using energy when it's not needed, I acknowledge the validity of the thermal cycling concern as presented here. On the other hand, I pay my electricity all by myself and I haven't had a system going irrecoverably bad by escaping chips, so it could be interesting to see figures on failures caused by On-Off practice. Also, if you leave systems "On" and they're NOT on a UPS, anything may happen in the night if there's a brownout/blackout and a number of spikes during reconnect attempts and you could find a number of corpses in the morning under the desks.

/RID
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by:neutron7
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There are lots of opinions on this. I would prefer to save power. Leaving all those PCs on over the night / weekend is a big waste. but if you must do so make sure that everyones heatsink and fans are kept clean. the fans are running over 3 times longer if they have 8 hour days. so they will collect 3 times as much dust (plus weekends). the dust not only makes the cooling more inefficient, but also reduces the life of the fans themselves. and most fans are not very good anyways.

overheating is what shortens the life of PC components especially hard drives. keep them cool!

a half way measure if they are too lazy to turn the machines off, is to use power management to turn the hard drives off and monitors to standby
standby on CRT is wasteful though it uses power and doesnt save any time restarting  except a couple of seconds for degauss. and LCDs come on really fast anyways. (i read somewhere the EU is going to ban "standby mode")

tell them their computers will work better if they are freshly started in the morning. leaving them on for weeks will allow more and more rubbish to build up in the memory and slow them down.

power supply could die during the night . sometimes with lots of smoke.

modern components are designed to be turned on and off many times. older hard drives worked better if left on all the time.
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by:phototropic
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I think we should make a distinction between domestic and commercial computer usage:

You sound like you are working in an office environment...if the pcs are all part of an office network, you will probabley find that overnight is the best time to run backup software or to run updates...in fact, overnight is often the ONLY time to get any maintainence/upgrade/backup work done.  In my experience, most commercial machines on a network are left on so that administrator tasks can be run.

Domestic machines are different.  A family computer will be used on average for 8 hours a day, between the hours of 4.00pm (when the kids get home from school) and 12.00pm, when everyone goes to bed. The other 16 hours are almost always idle time, and a lot of energy could be saved by powering them down.  I agree with nobus: the argument that powering on/off every 24 hours stresses the components is old school thinking, and like screen savers and RAM draining, these ideas belong in the past. Modern pcs should not have any problem with being turned on and off frequently...
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by:SunBow
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rid  > Also, if you leave systems "On" and they're NOT

btw, turning it off will not defend from lightning, which fairly ignores the little switches. If you leave town for vacation it is good idea to unplug the more expensive household electronics

We've got over 30k cpus on constantly, except for the myriad frequent reboots for all these patches, and the HW basically outlives its warranty period well, the major problems being the raid drives and lemons, where the lemons were not in great shape to begin with, often better to replace entire unit at that stage than to attempt to fix parts.
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by:nobus
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...and also, rebooting will refresh your XP system, since it has none , or limited housekeeping software, as servers have  --> another good reason to shut down !
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by:Moother
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@phtotropic: Yes, the computers are used in an office environment. The oldest system is 2 years old. Newer ones are of the HP DX5150 series. It's a small office and none of the workstation PCs are being backed up since there is no crucial data stored on them. I've not yet "come in" overnight in order to do maintenance but I'm aware of that option. That's the only reason I'd seriously consider leavng the computers on at night.

Amidst all the suggestions I've kinda lost the final verdict though. . . should the PCs be shut down when the users go home (provided no maintenance is going to be done) or leave them running with monitors turned off (which is already being done instead of simply using a screen saver or standby option) and setting HDDs to power down after a certain period of inactivity? Even so the power consumption will still be a great deal higher than completely switching the PCs off after work. Personally I'm leaning towards completly switching everything off if the additional power on/off cycle won't wear components out faster.
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by:SunBow
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There are summer stories of air conditioning, where I'd turn off the home version on the way to work, and people say I waste electric bexauce it then takes so much more to cool a place down that had I left it running as is.

Light bulbs, too they say. It used to be said, we had to turn off the bulbs on leaving any rom to save electic, but the on/off process costs deeply, shortening lifespan of th bulbs while costing more, so much more on the getting them going again.

We leave them on. It works. Some individuals turn them off. It still works, just slower for them
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by:Nick Denny
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There is no correct or incorrect answer to this question.
It is a matter of opinion and whatever suits the circumstances.
If your office systems are in use for only 8 hours a day, and do not require access for admin overnight, then switch them off for the other 16.
The delay in startup, I have no doubt can be time ustilised in staff preparing the morning coffee's and discussing the night before!!   ;)
I am supremely confident that any stress caused by startup will manifest itself long after the systems have past their useful corporate lives.
But do please bear in mind, just about all electric/electronic equipment suffers excess stress on startup.

As SunBow, we also leave all of our systems running, as in addition to automated backups/ftp etc - we also run virus scans and clean ups overnight too as these processes slow down machines if done during work hours.

In summary - if no reason to leave on -then don't.
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