SHOULD I LEAVE THE COMPUTER ON ALL THE TIME, OR TURN IT OFF WHEN I'M NOT USING IT?
There are two schools of thought on this issue:
LEAVING IT ON ALL THE TIME:
Reasons for doing so:
1) Because Windows 98/ME/XP takes so long to start, your computer will always be ready for you to work on if you leave it ON all the time.
2) Because electrical parts can be damaged by the shock of the electricity being turned ON you should try to reduce the number of times you "cycle" ON and OFF your computer. (This is why light bulbs fail more often than not when you first turn them on.)
3) Electrical parts expand and contract with temperature which can cause failures over time. If they are left on, they will expand and contract much less. In fact, a problem with your computer can sometimes be "traced" to a very small break in the copper tracings or wires on a printed circuit board. This break will disappear as the board expands with heat, so your problem may go away if you leave your computer on for a while.
TURNING YOUR COMPUTER OFF WHEN YOU ARE NOT USING IT:
Reasons for doing so:
1) Your electric bill will be lower. A computer and monitor uses about as much electricity as one large 3-way bulb, or two or three regular light bulbs. Because of energy deregulation, electric rates in San Diego have gone way up, which is a good reason to turn off your computer when you are not using it.
2) The memory (RAM) becomes fragmented with use. As you open and close your favorite programs, little bits and pieces of your program stay in RAM and are not completely eliminated when you close them. Eventually, your 64 Megabytes (or whatever) of RAM becomes so "chopped up" that you cannot open large programs or data files anymore, or they open very slowly. We've seen computers that took about 30 seconds to a minute to respond to the click of a mouse button. This delay time would drop to about 2-3 seconds upon restarting the computer.
When you restart your computer, the RAM is loaded with Windows 98/ME?XP and a few of the small programs that automatically start when you turn on your computer. (You can see some of their icons in the System Tray next to the Time in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.) The rest of the RAM is free in a large, continuous block, allowing you to load more of your important programs.
3) Windows 98 has a bug in one file that will cause your computer to freeze after 49.7 days of continuous use. This means that you should restart your computer at least ONCE A MONTH to avoid this problem. But since Windows 98/ME and programs like Internet Explorer (the web browser) are not very stable to begin with, your computer will probably crash or freeze long before 49.7 days anyway.
When your computer does freeze or crash, it is always better to restart your computer to clear the RAM and remove any remnants of crashed programs.
4) Since electrical parts can be weakened or damaged by heat, leaving your computer on all the time means that the parts will always be warm, thus shortening their life spans.
We usually don't recommend using the Sleep mode, which we have found to be occasionally unreliable in Windows 98/ME/XP. (If your particular machine works well with it, then please go ahead and use it.) We have discovered too many problems with the Sleep mode: It can cause freezes or crashes, and it can cause your time (clock) to slow down, or cause you to think that the computer has frozen, when, in fact, it may just be a little slow waking up when you touch the mouse or a key on the keyboard.
Also, the problem mentioned above with the RAM becoming fragmented and your programs taking much longer to open will still exist if you use the Sleep mode. These symptoms can only be eliminated by turning the computer OFF and turning it back ON again (unless you have a special "utility" or little program that can flush the RAM).
* unless the computer is used in a business as a "server," in which case it needs to be left ON all the time. A server is a computer where shared programs and data are stored. These programs and data can be accessed from multiple "workstations," or computers, throughout an office or home.