Should a laptop be rebooted on a regular basis?

Hello, I was hoping to get some advice to resolve a dispute at work. One person in the dispute says it is not necessary to reboot a contemporary laptop except when prompted by the system as in for example when updating Windows and the system prompts you to. The other person says no a laptop should be rebooted once a week or so because small errors build up over time but the reboot should only be done after running an anti-rootkit and anti-virus check. Not sure who is right. Please advise and thank you.

It depends on what software you are running. There’s nothing in Windows that requires an occasional reboot, and you can leave a windows computer (laptop or desktop) running for months with no ill effects. I do it all the time with several computers (2 laptops, 4 desktops).

Some software won’t run for that long, though. I have another desktop that needs rebooted every week or so. I don’t schedule its reboots, though. I wait until it starts acting funky and then I reboot it.

I’m not sure what your co-worker thinks are “errors” that build up. As long as you have perfectly functioning hardware you shouldn’t get any errors. Some programs leak memory (they allocate memory from the system and lose track of it and never free it back to the system) which makes them consume more and more memory resources until the computer gets very sluggish due to all of the page swapping going on. Some programs have bugs in them where they lose track of a pointer and write randomly all over stuff. If they happen to write over a boundary of what is their stuff and isn’t then the program crashes, otherwise they get more corrupted as time goes on. I’ve had to deal with programs like that where they behave much better if you reboot frequently or at least stop and restart the program.

Apart from updates, I don’t reboot unless my computer is acting irredeemably weird. That would be true of a desktop or a laptop.

I think this was generally more true in the past, with older software and operating systems. Less mature software will generally have more system-crashing bugs. And IIRC, recent versions of Windows have better memory management, so a buggy program can’t cause as many problems. Plus when there is a crash, a modern OS does a better job of recovery.

So, yeah, weekly reboots were a good idea if you were running Windows 98 and a bunch of odds and ends of immature and just plain crappy software. But they’re not necessary on Windows 7 when you’re running a handful of mature, stable programs.

There are programs like Firefox that will steal memory until it becomes a good idea to reboot. Actually, using a program to defrag and reclaim memory would obviate the need to reboot. Otherwise, I see no need to reboot based on time and certainly don’t see any advantage to running antivirus programs before doing so. There are some scans that are best done at start-up, but that’s another issue.

I only reboot my computers when updates that need reboot are applied.

Maybe it is just me, but I use Firefox and haven’t had any problems with memory (and I have just 2 GB, which is more than enough for my uses). That said, newer versions are probably fine and even when a program has a memory leak (like some crappy UPS software I had on my previous computer, which would leak ~20 KB a minute, eventually using several hundred MB), closing the program will usually reclaim the memory (as it did with the aforementioned software, which also wasn’t even necessary for the UPS to work, it only reported status, so I got rid of it). Of course, if you have Windows updates on, it will make you reboot with most updates, but otherwise I almost never reboot.

Some apps cause memory leaks or are otherwise poorly written and do cause system instability. As one example, our in-house request processing system can easily make Internet Explorer consume more and more memory. I once saw it running with over one GB of RAM allocated, and the system got to the point that the only fix was a reboot.

IME, Windows XP can really benefit from a daily reboot if you’ve been actively using it. If you leave it running just a browser window and an email app, it should be able to go a few days.

We run Windows XP SP3 at work and my group generally leave our PCs running constantly so we can use remote access, only rebooting if needed to complete software installations or updates. Last time I rebooted was when I installed Office 2007, a couple of weeks ago. While three of us have desktops, one guy has a laptop. He mostly works from home so his laptop at work is only rarely rebooted.

ETA: We generally have 10-12 applications open most of the time, ranging from Outlook and Excel to specialised network management software.

My laptop suggests a reboot to me after a week of continuous running. So I usually do it at the next convenient time.

Jeez, doesn’t anybody care about the energy wasted in keeping millions of PC’s running overnight? If you need remote access, that’s one thing, but just to save a couple minutes restarting your apps in the morning seems like a huge waste to me.

And I once had a coworker tell me, in all seriousness, that he never turns off his PC because he read that the power surges involved in turning it on take four hours off the life of the components. I asked him how many hours off their lives does it take to leave them running for 16 hours when he leaves work, and he acted like I was speaking Martian.

You just stumbled on the Chevy vs. Ford of the computer world.

I will attempt a thorough balanced reply.

The heating and cooling of components does cause fatigue but it often takes thousands of cycles for appreciable problems to have a chance to develop. Computers at idle draw very little power as well. So you run into a “how much does this cost in electricity” vs. “how much does it cost me to repair if something dies prematurely.”

I usually tell folks as long as you are only turning it on in the morning and off at the end of the day, no biggie but those cycles do add up. I have seen folks who turn on a pc, use it for 5 minutes, shut it off, go back an hour later, turn on, use for 15 minutes, shut it off. Those people will shorten the lifespan of their PC. Laptops are particularly prone to this situation especially when you have things like sales reps running around town doing little 5-10 min demos. Plan on that guy needing a new laptop every couple years.

Just like cars, many of the components in computers function best in a specific temperature range and it takes time to achieve those temperatures. Trying to force performance out of components that have not come up to temp does force them to work on the ragged edge of its desired performance range. Alot of folks I work with want their $297 walmart special laptop to perform the car equivalent of sitting overnight at the starting line of a drag strip, turn the key, and immediately proceed to zoom full throttle down the drag strip. This causes some chemical and heat damage to compnents, maybe not as dramatic as my example, but someone like ECG might be able to better comment on failure modes of electronic subcomponents than I.

One other thing to consider in business is loss of productivity. If a bunch of employees are sitting around waiting for 4-5 minutes for all their machines and apps to load up, this has a very real measurable daily cost vs. sit down, login, proceed to work.

As others have mentioned, good apps will no leak memory or interfere with other operations, but half of all programmers are below average programmers and like it or not issues will slip through.

The machine I am sitting at right now has been on for 42 days without a reboot.

I don’t doubt it. But surely there is a happy medium between turning it on and off every few minutes, and leaving it on overnight?

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy was right about a power cycle taking four hours off the life of the PC, but I think we can safely assume it is some number of hours X, where X is considerably less than 16. So the obvious thing to do is to turn it off if you’re not going to use it within the next X hours, and leave it on otherwise.

As for the productivity lost in the five minutes it takes to restart your apps, please. There may actually be people who start working full speed the second they sit down, but I’d sure like to hire them if there are. Most modern PCs would be ready to go if they just flipped it on and then hung up their coat and unlocked their desk, let alone getting coffee, shooting the breeze, taking the NYT into the restroom for a lengthy visit, etc.

Modern computers - especially laptops - have very good sleep and standby modes. Mine goes to sleep overnight, and uses just over 1 watt when it’s in sleep mode.

There is. Let the modern power management in computers put the thing into sleep mode where it uses less than a watt.

This is patently false, the part about Firefox at least.

One way to look at this is to look at the specifications of a typical hard drive (the weakest link in a computer, being mechanical and all) in terms of power on hours and start-stop cycles; typical figures are 20,000 hours* (or 5 years, whichever comes first) and at least the same number of start/stop cycles (laptop drives can have several hundred thousand load cycles, which are similar except they use a ramp to protect the heads; normal drives simply crash-land the heads in a landing zone when they power off), thus at the most one power cycle is equal to about 1 hour of life (specs usually state that they drive can withstand its rated start/stop cycles and its rated power on hours concurrently).

For some perspective, if the drive is powered on/off 10 times a day and you keep it for 5 years, it will have gone though 18,250 cycles, within its limit (which is often higher).

*Note that this is not the same as MTBF, which is much higher, up to a million hours for some drives; this only indicates the probability of failing in its rated lifetime (20,000 / MTBF); of course they can fail anytime (and in my experience, the one drive failure I had wasn’t during power on).

Unless you have messed with the power settings of your PC the hard drive is being spun down whenever you don’t use the computer for a while, so it the decision to turn off the computer of not should not hinge on stressing the computer or not.

Like I said, off at night, on in the morning is not going to be a big deal on average desktops. Even then, computers sitting at idle do not draw much power compared to when they are working. at idle with darkened screens with hard drives still spun up you are still talking less than 100w whereas 250-300w is not uncommon for typical office machines while working.

I used to work for a company where is was not unusual to see 6-7 year old computers that took 5-7 min to finish starting up. If your office is running <3 year old boxes I would agree with you, not everywhere is kept up so well. I was running win98 and office 97 on my work machine in 2005. I was considered lucky because I had a 7 year olf actual machine not a 5 year old thin client.

If you are looking for somewhere to pinch pennies, you are barking up a tree your IT people most likely do not reccomend. As a computer guy providing mostly small business support, fighting your IT guys is often a recipie for epic disaster unless you are a better IT guy than your IT guy, and I don’t know any IT guys who would reccomend what you propose.

This is also coming from a guy who will not be getting a bonus for making your computers last longer or get a sale if they dont.

I would say this, shut them down over the weekends, especially long ones unless you have backups or other processes that run then. That will save you some power for the 60 or so hours they would be doing nothing anyway.

Advice, please. Interested in maximizing the life of my laptop.

I’m a freelancer and I also go to school where I use my laptop in class. So there are days when I get to class, use laptop for 1.5 hrs, go to client’s office and use laptop for 3 hours, then go home and use laptop during the evening. (It’s my only computer. Win 7, 8g RAM)

Should I be putting it into standby/hibernate mode (which?) when I put it in my bag to go to my next destination?

Should I turn it off overnight or leave it in sleep/hibernate? (What is the difference between these two modes?)
I’m old enough to remember when you had to “park” a hard drive, so I have this learned aversion to carrying the computer around in a bag when it’s technically on. I can unlearn that.