Switch the computer off, or it is going to catch fire and explode! So says a very concerned tech dinosaur mom in panic mode – But really? Just how long can we run a computer continuously, will it overheat and cause an explosion?
Modern mobile phones, computers, and servers these days are really made to run without being switched off – Until a critical software or hardware failure happens; Reliable computers should be able to run continuously for many months before a failure forces it to restart or shut down.
Also, there are no known cases of a computer meltdown that triggered a zombie apocalypse. That said, it might not be the best idea to keep a computer running for no reason, especially when you are not using it – Read on to find out more!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
HOW LONG TO RUN A COMPUTER?
Just exactly how long can we run a computer continuously? Through the many years in the IT industry, I have personally seen servers that have not been shut down for as long as 5 years – It only restarted for periodic maintenance.
Of course, servers are made to not shut down, run longer, and have better parts. But how about our “regular Joe” PC and smartphones? Let us walk through some of the factors and concerns of not shutting down a computer in this section.
NO REQUIREMENTS TO SHUT DOWN COMPUTERS
First, let us start by setting a very simple fact straight – There are no requirements for us to shut down computers periodically, nor are there any “safety notices” warning us against running computers for too long.
As far as I personally know, I have never encountered computer manufacturers putting instructions such as “for every 12 hours of usage, you must shut down the computer for at least an hour”. Computers are actually pretty robust and made to run for long hours.
IS THERE A SAFETY TIME LIMIT?
So yes, the computer manufacturers did not specify any safety notices on shutting down. But how about our daily smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops? Is there a recommended “safety limit” for how long we can operate computers at once?
Personally again, my record for not shutting down a smartphone is 1 year – It got shut down only because of low battery. Although there is no “recommended run time”, it still makes sense to shut down the computer sometimes, which we will walk through in the next section.
WILL IT… EXPLODE?
Now to address the good old urban myth – Computers will explode if we don’t shut them down periodically. It is a common misconception that computers will accumulate heat over time, meltdown, and eventually cause an explosion that wipes out an entire city. Nope, that is not going to happen.
Computers will only heat up when the processing gets rough; The processor will only generate more heat as it does more data crunching and consumes more power. If a good cooling system is in place, the computer will never meltdown or explode for the matter… In any case, most computers have an emergency shutdown measure on overheating to prevent damage.
Still not convinced that modern computers are made to run for long hours? Then consider the simple fact that most servers in data centers can run for years before they are shut down for maintenance and upgrades.
Need more persuading? Then consider the fact we have launched the first global positioning system (GPS) satellite on 22 Feb 1978 – NASA. Since then, the onboard computers have run for donkey years off solar power without shutting down.
NOT REALLY SMART TO KEEP IT RUNNING
It is safe to keep a computer running for long durations. But sometimes, it just makes more sense for us to shut it down completely – Here’s why.
NOT DOING ANYTHING PRODUCTIVE
So… Why leave the computer on when it is not doing any productive work at all? We may leave the smartphone on, because we are expecting calls, or maybe we want to use it as an alarm clock in the morning.
But for laptops and desktops? It only makes more sense to shut them down when not in use. That will conserve the battery life on laptops, and not add needless heat plus noise to the room… Probably less the radiation too.
EXTENDING BATTERY LIFE
While we are on the topic of battery life – Yes, battery technologies have come a long way and they can last pretty long… But that does not mean they are immune to abuse. Shutting down a computer when not in use will reduce the battery drain, resulting in less charging, and thus, effectively extending the battery life.
EXTENDING LIFE SPAN
There is no such thing as a computer that lasts forever. Granted, manufacturers will still offer a warranty period based on the worst-case scenario where the computer is kept running non-stop; There is certain quality assurance, but every computer still has a limited lifespan.
Continuously running a computer will surely degrade the computer faster. The question remains – How long more will the computer last beyond the warranty period, and are you looking forward to buying a new computer earlier?
Finally, there is the dreaded thing called “the Internet” these days… It intrudes your resting hours and holidays with emails, messages, and phone calls. Not cool especially when it is work-related. Sometimes, life is just happier without computers.
P.S. Here is something to take note of, the smartphone (and laptop) camera can be hacked into – LadBible. The best protection against hackers is to just switch off the entire computer. No power, no network, cannot access the camera.
That’s all for this guide, and here is a small section on some extras and links that may be useful to you.
KEEP RUNNING OR SWITCH OFF?
To keep running or not, that is the question entirely up to your own decision – I will personally switch off the computers and WIFI before going to sleep or heading out of the house. Less distraction, better sleep. Saves power and no worries of a freak fire accident.
But if you can’t live without a computer running and need that extra dose of radiation – By all means, go ahead. There really is nothing wrong with it, and yes, it is safe to not shut down a computer.
LINKS & REFERENCES
- Should you turn your computer off at night? – Digital Trends
- Should You Shut Down a Computer When It’s Not in Use? – Life Wire
- How long can I run my PC continuously? – Quora
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope this has helped you to better understand, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and may the cyber force be with you.
W.S. Toh is a senior web developer and SEO practitioner with over 10 years of experience in building websites. When he is not secretly being an evil tech ninja, he enjoys doing photography and explore ways to mess around with tech gadgets.