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Should I Power Off My MAC Desktop or Is it Okay to Leave it On All the Time?

Home workspace with iMac.

Who has time to turn off a computer?

If you are anything like me, then you might have a bad habit of leaving your desktop to sleep rather than shutting it down. I constantly have some program or webpage that I want to leave open, even though I know full well I can save it in my bookmarks and find it later. Besides, it is just so easy to walk away and let the computer take a nap.

As common as this mentality is, it begs the question, is it okay to leave my MAC desktop on all the time? Are there any benefits of shutting the desktop down? And of course, what is best for the health of my computer?

Benefits of Shutting Down Your MAC Desktop

Woman on phone working on her iMac.

Important to note is that there are varying opinions on this topic. If you search for this question in Google you will likely find many articles urging you to power down your computer completely on a regular schedule. However, these tips are often directed toward PC users and fail to recognize that computers have come a long way in the past decade.

Many PC users regularly power down their computers completely each night. Proponents of shutting down your computer each night argue that it will save energy and protect your hardware. Putting your desktop into sleep mode does not pose nearly as many challenges as it did in the past.

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Powering down your desktop will indeed reduce its power draw to almost zero. However, the iMac desktop and MacBooks are extremely efficient and have a minimal power draw while in sleep mode. The difference between powering your MAC down completely each night and letting it go into sleep mode would barely register on your power bill.

There is also no significant risk to your hardware from leaving your MAC in sleep mode. Apple hardware, and most modern computers, are built to be far more robust than the computers of the past. Putting your computer into sleep mode is unlikely to cause any wear and tear on your hardware. 

So how often should I shut down my MAC desktop?

Closeup of iMac with mouse and keyboard.

There are still some benefits to shutting down your MAC completely. Leaving your MAC running all the time, even in sleep mode, will cause memory to get used up by the caches of data and apps running in the background. You can think of this as clogging up a pipe.

Over time, the processes running in the background of your computer will start to slow down. Powering down your MAC completely, about once a week, can help to alleviate the stress on your computer’s memory. Closing apps and internet tabs regularly will go a long way in reducing this stress, but occasionally, a full reset is necessary.

Resetting your MAC by powering it down completely will help clear out your RAM and make the MAC run more smoothly. Rebooting your computer can also clean up any dysfunctions running in the background. Think of all the times your computer issues go away after you just “try turning it off and on again”.

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Well, a proper reboot every week or two may help solve that issue before you even know you have it. Apple also recommends that you power down and unplug your MAC desktop when you clean it, which helps you avoid any unfortunate mishaps.

Does letting my MAC go into sleep mode have any drawbacks?

Closeup of iMac screen

Sleep mode is usually the preferred low power state for your MAC. As mentioned above, sleep mode will allow memory caches to build up over time, which causes some performance drag. On the other hand, there are plenty of benefits to sleep mode, especially if you are only away from the computer for a few hours or overnight.

In sleep mode, your computer will shut down all the high-power draw activities while saving a picture or imprint of the programs and apps you had running. This means that the webpage you had open or that photo you were editing will pop right back up when you power up your MAC. Your computer will also boot up much faster from sleep mode than it would if it were powered down.

The MAC must restart all your programs from scratch when you power down completely. This takes much longer and often draws more power than powering up your computer from sleep mode. Often, a full reboot will draw more power than leaving your computer in sleep mode for a few hours, especially if you have an older model.

Scheduling Shut Down and Sleep Schedules

Woman working on her iMac.

It seems you can feel safe about letting your MAC desktop lull itself to sleep without any significant risk to your power or hardware. If you are concerned about the build-up of memory mentioned above or want some control over when your MAC is sleeping and when it’s shut down, you can easily do so.

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Simply go into your Apple menu, click on System Preferences, click on Battery, then click on Schedule. Depending on the device, you may need to select Energy Saver before clicking on Battery.

You can schedule start-up and wake-up times on this menu. Do this by selecting “Startup or wake” and filling in the dates. You can choose to sleep, restart, or shut down any time you desire to schedule.

Explore the topic more with apple support to find device-specific details.