Cool computer can stay turned on

Question: I am running a small business. I would like to use my computer to send and receive faxes. My question is: Can a computer be left turned on for 24 hours a day with no rest? If the answer is yes, then is there any maintenance procedure to ensure the computer’s life span is not shortened by this continuous operation?

Answer: A few years ago, I asked the same question. Answers I got back from various experts and power users were mixed. Some believed that leaving the machine on all the time was better for the machine. Their rationale was that turning a machine on and off causes components to warm and cool. That unnecessarily wears the parts, they said. I bought that theory and have used it ever since.

The only problems I have had with my computers have been worn out power sources. First, on a 386 clone, on which it completely burned out, parts and service cost me about $250.

More recently – on my Micron Pentium 100 MHz machine – the fan on the power source got very dirty and now intermittently makes a loud grinding noise, even after a good cleaning. I’ll have to have it replaced eventually.

Experts still say that leaving a machine on is no big deal. “As long as the system is properly cooled,” said Mathew Fiszer at Edmonton’s West-end CompuSmart store, “you should not experience any problems.” Most new systems are Energy Star compliant, he said. “That means that it has power-saving capabilities built in.”

From a maintenance point of view, Fiszer suggested: “Keeping the system dust-free will help with the cooling. Also running diagnostics three or four times a year is a good idea, just to make sure there are no failing components.”

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