Does your computer need sleep?


sleep tight by Kaye Winiecki

Does your computer need sleep? I (Katie) have often wondered if I’m giving my computer the rest it needs? I’ve heard conflicting opinions about whether or not you should actually power down your computer each night, or simply let it go into sleep mode?  I generally let me computer go to sleep, which means I have changed the power settings to go into sleep mode after a certain period of inactive use time. When I come back to my computer, I can quickly start it up again without having to go through a full power up cycle. I also have a password on my computer so whoever logs back on after it’s been sleeping, needs to know the password. This is a good security measure if you use your computer in work or public locations. I only restart my computer if I need to install updates or if I’m packing it to go on a long trip. Sometimes, I will fully restart my computer if I’m having a lot of problems getting programs and files to work properly. For some reason, a good restart seems to clear out the bugs.

I asked some of our team members here at The Daily Digi to tell me what they know about the sleep/power off question and here’s what they had to say:

  • Heddy – I use Windows 7 and my instruction manual specified that the computer would work optimally if put to sleep each night and not fully shut down.
  • Wendy – Some computers are set to run updates and upgrades only during shut down or restart. Closing out of programs can free up memory and hard drive space taken up by temporary files. Restarting clears log files that keep things running smoothly. That said, my computer is very stable and I only restart it once a week. However, it is set to sleep after a certain period of inactivity.
  • Kim – I have a laptop and I completely shut it down every night and start it up in the morning. It runs hot (and I just burned out a cooling fan that I’d only had a month) so I try to turn it off to let it get nice and cool. During the day when I’m a work, it sleeps. I’ve had this laptop for 3 years and haven’t had any issues other than reheating once. [Knock on wood.]
  • Karen – I turn my laptop completely off at night, but my desktop goes to sleep after 20 minutes of not being used. I actually don’t know what’s better or worse, but I had an old PC laptop with my last job that, no joke, could take 20 minutes to fully power up, so with my Macs at home, I just got in the habit of not shutting them down unless I had to. It’s also partly a convenience. Our iMac is in the living room, so there’s very often someone on it. I don’t think it would have time to sleep!

As always, the team brought up some great points to help me in my research. After reading Heddy’s comment, I realized I should start with the manual for my own laptop. I use a Dell XPS laptop and run Windows 7 Home Premium. The user manual is available by clicking on the “Help and Support” tab in my start menu. After searching on sleep and restarting, I found these helpful bits of information:

Using sleep

You can put your computer into sleep mode instead of shutting it down. When your computer is asleep, the display turns off and often the computer’s fan stops. Usually, a light on the outside of your computer case blinks or turns yellow to indicate that the computer is asleep. The whole process takes only a few seconds.

Because Windows will remember what you were doing, there’s no need to close your programs and files before putting your computer into sleep mode. But it’s always a good idea to save your work before putting the computer into any low-power mode. The next time you turn on your computer (and enter your password, if required), the screen will look exactly as it did when you turned off your computer.

To wake your computer, press the power button on your computer case. Because you don’t have to wait for Windows to start, your computer wakes within seconds and you can resume work almost immediately.

  • When your computer is asleep, it uses a very small amount of power to maintain your work in its memory. If you’re using a laptop, don’t worry—the battery won’t be drained. After the computer has been sleeping for several hours, or if the battery is running low, your work is saved to the hard disk, and then your computer turns off completely, drawing no power.

When to shut down

Even though putting your computer into sleep mode is the fastest way to turn it off and the best option for resuming work quickly, there are certain times when you need to shut down:

  • When you’re adding or upgrading the hardware inside your computer—such as installing memory, a disk drive, a sound card, or a video card. Shut down the computer, and then disconnect it from its power source before proceeding with the upgrade.
  • When you’re adding a printer, monitor, external drive, or other hardware device that doesn’t connect to a USB or IEEE 1394 port on your computer. Shut down the computer before connecting the device.


Checking your own computer manual is the best option to help you figure out what’s best for your system. It’s a good idea for energy conservation, and for the long-term care of your computer to have some way to let it rest when not in use. Laptops especially run hot and the fan has to work hard to keep things cool. Change your power settings to let your computer sleep when you aren’t going to use it for awhile. Your computer will be happy for the naptime!


katie big