Does Restarting and Shutting Down Your Computer Kill Your Hard Drive?

Does Restarting and Shutting Down Your Computer Kill Your Hard Drive
There has been a false rumor going around for years stating that shutting down your computer every night or restarting it will damage the hard drive and shorten the life of your computer.

The reasons behind it vary – some say it takes more energy and is more taxing on your computer to restart it than it does to just keep it running, while others feel that the parts wear out faster when you keep it running.  The arguments ensue, and really, everyone is probably right.

In reality, there are many benefits to actually going through the process of shutting down your computer every night- as long as you shut it down properly.  Here’s some of the reasons we’re in the ‘shut down your computer every night’ camp.

If you’re going to do something, do it the RIGHT way.

If you do shut down your computer, it’s very important that you make sure you are shutting it down properly. There are a number of things the computer is doing that are invisible to the user but are important to the health of the computer.

During the shutdown process, Windows will close down any files it was reading or writing. It will then close down the system registry, the most important set of files for the operating system. The hard disk arm, which reads files across the hard disk, is being parked at one side of the disk.

The only proper way to shut down a PC is to go through the operating system and tell it to shut down. It can take anywhere between thirty seconds and a minute for a Windows PC to fully shut down.

All these steps ensure that the computer files won’t get corrupted, and any changes that you made to the system are saved (except for any open programs- you need to save each one manually to be sure you don’t lose anything).

Computers have this procedure for a reason.  It’s one of the only ways you can ensure that your computer is protected from hacking or power surges.  It’s also the only way the computer can ‘start fresh’- which can improve performance, reduce load times, and increase productivity.

I Just Turned it Off- So What?

We’ve all done it.  We’re in a hurry and the darn computer is taking too long, so you hold down the power button to get it over with already.  If you don’t go through the shutdown process and cut power to the machine using the on/off button or by unplugging it, none of the items described in the shutdown process above happen.

What’s the potential result?  User files and system registry files can become corrupt and your operating system can become unusable. This causes the computer to slow down considerably- or not even re-boot.  A ‘hard boot’ can also cause the hard disk arm to stop in the middle of the hard disk, scratching it and causing physical damage to the surface.

User files can be backed up and system registry files can be repaired, but you damage the hard drive and it fails, there is nothing to do but replace it.

The Benefits Outweigh The Risks

Going through the shutdown process before you head home for the night is a simple and sensible way to prolong the life of a computer. Not only is it the safest way to shut down the system, it also has many practical benefits.

1) Lower energy costs – Computers, especially desktops, use enough power where having every single computer on in your office will make a difference in your bills.

2) “Fresh Start” – By shutting down and rebooting a computer all programs are also being restarted. Throughout the day, programs can develop little issues that could get in the way of day to day use of the computer.  If the computer isn’t shut down, over time these issues will remain, build up, and eventually present additional problems, decreasing performance, and software load times.

3) Longevity– When a computer is shut down, it draws no power, and the hardware inside the computer isn’t moving or being used. With less stress placed on the components, the computer’s hardware will last a little bit longer.  We’re not talking years, but it will extend the life of the computer.

4) Power Surge Protection– Power spikes and surges occur in your office and home every single day.  Long-term exposure to power surges significantly lowers the life of a computer, and large spikes, like a lightning strike or power outage, can completely destroy computer components.

When a computer is turned on, there’s an increased risk of a power surge causing a catastrophic computer failure.  Although you might get luck and be able to recover your data, there’s a good chance that your computer won’t boot, and your hard drive could be unrecoverable.

A good power surge protector can help protect you against major issues, but unplugging your laptop and turning off your computer- especially during a storm- can save your computer and your data.

Have a Backup System Implemented- and Use It!

You should always have a backup of your data.  As part of your shut down procedure, you should be backing up all your data. Keep a copy of your data on an external drive and a second copy with a cloud storage solution.

This protects you from data loss on your computer and even a disaster at your location. Going through the process of properly shutting down a computer and rebooting it will lead to a healthier machine with less software and hardware issues.

Look at it as a regular maintenance activity, the same way that you should remove dust from your computer components.  Your computer will last longer and work better if you do.

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