Standby mode question...

Something I’ve been thinking about lately.

Every new piece of electronics I get does not shut off. They all go into “Standby Mode”. My DVD player, stereo, Playstation 2, and Cable Modem all do this.

Does “Standby Mode” actually have any benefit, other than saving memory states? Is it less “wear and tear” on the elecronics if you don’t turn them on and off repeatedly?

This is actually not an easy question to answer.

First of all, the theory is that standby mode reduces power (true) and makes your electronics last longer by giving them less wear and tear (this is the tricky part). For something like a casette deck or a VCR or a DVD or the hard drive in your computer, turning off the motors reduces the wear and tear on them quite a bit. For electronics, the waters suddenly get a little murky.

One of the things that kills electronics in the long run is use, both from the heat generated and from the transistors and such switching states. These effects are exaggerated in devices that do not use adequate cooling, such as a computer with only a big heat sink instead of a nice huge fan over the processor. A basic rule of thumb (horribly inaccurate at the edges of the scale but good for general purpose discussions) is that every 10 deg C above ambient cuts the expected life of the device in half. This forces the manufacturers into a tradeoff between cost and reliability, and these days they tend to put more emphasis on the cost.

While at first glance it seems that turning your electronics off would be better for them, the fact is that if you do turn things on and off they tend to heat up and cool down. This causes thermal stresses, and is the exact same effect that causes your sidewalks to crack as they expand and contract in the weather and can shatter a glass if you take it out of the dishwasher hot and stick it under a cold running faucet. In electronic devices, dissimilar materials expand and contract at different rates, and you get things like solder separating from the pins on the electronics and the itty bitty wires inside the chips themselves coming loose and lifting off of the pads that connect the silicon inside to the outside world.

So, if you leave stuff on all the time you have one set of things trying to kill it, and if you shut it off or have it go into standby mode then you have a different set of things trying to kill it. Trying to determine the relative weights of these effects is not a trivial thing to do, and you’ll likely not find any complex reliability analysis done for simple consumer devices.

In theory, it should be better, however in practice modern electronics I noticed, last longer if they are turned off when not in use.