Each week renowned gadget expert Peter Rojas from gadget Q&A site GDGT.com answers your questions about green technology in our Ask A Tech Geek Series. Read on for this week’s installment and submit your questions below!
QUESTION: I’ve heard that it’s better to keep a laptop on sleep mode rather than shutting it off completely. Why is that the case? What would you recommend?
– submitted by WIll Giron
What you’re probably referring to is the concern that frequently shutting down and booting up causes stress to your computer’s hard drive that over time will culminate in catastrophic failure — and almost certainly at the worst possible moment, like when you’ve just finished a term paper.
Read on to learn the greenest state for your hard drive.
While it’s true that hard drives are complex mechanical devices that simply will breakdown sooner or later, the truth is that you’re far more likely to damage your drive from simply dropping your laptop — especially if it happens to be reading or writing data while it happens — than from the accumulated stress of booting it up every day. As long as you shut your computer down properly you shouldn’t have a problem; hard drives have really improved in quality over the years. Eventually drive failure won’t be an issue at all — more and more computers are coming with solid state drives that don’t have any moving parts at all.
Photo by Declan Jewell
So, while you shouldn’t worry about breaking your computer by shutting it down every night, there are a few advantages to putting your computer to sleep rather than shutting it down. The biggest is convenience: if you’re waking it up from sleep mode you don’t have to wait for your machine to boot up before using it. Even though a couple of minutes might not sound like a long time, it can feel like forever when you’re sitting there waiting for everything to get going. You’ll also be able to pick up right where you left off, whereas if you shut down and reboot you’ll need to restart all of your applications.
The big disadvantage, of course, is that when you put your computer to sleep it’s still drawing power. If your goal is to conserve energy, shutting down completely is your best option. However keeping a computer in sleep mode requires very little energy – they usually draw about a tenth as much power as a computer that’s fully on. It’s not insignificant, but it’s typically not much more than a nightlight.
WANT TO ASK A TECH GEEK?
Do you have a green technology question you’d like to ask Peter? Submit it to him by leaving a comment on this post or tweeting it to @Inhabitat and/or @peterrojas with the hashtag #AskATechGeek!