Leave computer on or turn it off?

Q. Is it better for the computer to shut it off or leave it on if it is going to be off for only 12 or less hours?

This question makes me feel nostalgic. It's been among the top 10 for years, and I still have at least one e-mail a week on the topic.

Expert opinion is split. Since this is my column, I'll give my opinion.

First, there is no real wrong answer here (which explains the divided opinions you'll see from experts on the Web). Either way is a viable option with very low risk.

Second, I'll tell you what I do:

I turn the computer off if I'm going to sleep, going to be away all day, or – for sure – if I'm gone on vacation.

For the sake of argument, here are the arguments on both sides as I understand them.

For turning it off: If left unattended, the power can go off and a power surge could hit when it's restored. Also, a lightning storm could brew and hit the computer (even if you do turn it off, the only way to avoid damage from a direct hit is to unplug the machine).

For leaving it on: Modern desktops are made to operate 24-7, so there's no real harm in having one run continuously, other than using more electricity. Also, there is a small (tiny) amount of damage done each time the on switch is pushed because there's an internal surge of electricity.

Q. I read your article about computing in a tight economy. You recommended some free programs. I just want to know which ones you use regularly.

For antivirus, I use Grisoft (, which I've often recommended.

But I'm thinking of switching to AVAST ( There's no strong reason. I just want to spend more time with AVAST.

Bill Husted writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: