PC hardware--CPU & Motherboard & RAM/surge protector


I wasn't sure what category this best fits, but here goes: When I'm not using my PC overnight or for long periods of time, is it best to shut off my surge protector(for my PC/monitor/printer),or doesn't it matter? Thanks, Robert

It depends on what your goal is, as to whether this is a good or bad idea. In terms of harming anything, there should be no risk, although the switch on the surge protector may wear out depending on how frequently it is actuated (it is a mechanical device, just like a light switch, so it can wear out with use - this is usually never a consideration for a surge protector or something else that's rarely switched, but if you were doing this daily it may eventually become noticeable (we're likely talking over the course of many years)).


With the computer powered off, but plugged in, it will draw very little power (in many cases under 5W, however if the system continues to provide power to USB ports while off (a feature on some newer machines), using the machine to charge devices or similar will increase that power consumption, and is likely less efficient than using a stand-alone charger). It draws some power to maintain "standby" (this isn't the same as putting the computer into stand-by from within Windows), which is what allows it to turn on when buttons are pressed, and it also draws some power to maintain the real-time clock.

With power disconnected from the wall, the machine will rely on an internal button cell battery. Generally those batteries last for years, however if the battery were to fail the machine would not have an accurate clock setting, and the CMOS will also clear. This will not damage anything, but it will throw an error on start-up (it will not prevent the machine from working in any way), and once the battery is replaced the system can then rely on it again. These batteries are very easy and cheap to find, and generally easy to replace. Of course, if/when the battery fails and the machine is plugged into AC power, you will likely still get a message about the dead battery, but as long as the AC power supply is maintained, the clock/CMOS will not be reset. Think of this battery as similar to the 9V that some alarm clocks use to maintain their time when unplugged or in the event of a power outage.

The other devices, however, there is likely no downside to having the AC power cut periodically. The exception here would be if your printer is elaborate/complex enough to have a clock or other functionality, but more simple desktop printers likely do not. The same goes for your monitor.

Cutting off the AC power, however, will reduce power consumption from these devices when they are not in use. Especially if the printer does not have a power saving or "idle" mode. At most we're probably talking 20-30W, but if your goal is to reduce power consumption that's still something, and it's a very simple thing to do.

There is a more convenient option than manually switching the power strip/surge protector though - there are a variety of surge protectors that will automatically disconnect their outlets when a "control" device is detected as off. You could plug the computer itself into that "control" outlet, which would ensure that it gets 24x7 AC power for standby, its internal clock, and (if this is a feature your computer has) USB charging, but the outlets for the monitor, printer, etc would be disconnected when the computer was not powered on, saving power. These kinds of surge protectors are usually marketed as "Green" or "Environmental" models, and aren't entirely uncommon, or expensive. Here is an example device:

You can also find things like these at hardware stores and some electronics or department stores.

For extended periods of non-use (e.g. you're going on a two week vacation), I would generally suggest physically unplugging the computer (and other devices, like your TV) from the outlet. This not only will reduce power consumption while you're away, but can afford some protection from a power surge or other event for disconnected devices.

If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.


PC hardware--CPU & Motherboard & RAM

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.


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