What is the standby option?

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I recently received an email question from Lynn, a friend in Maine (incidentally, Lynn and her husband Bill are owners of Old Comfortable, a great place to stay when you are vacationing in Vacationland).

Lynn writes: “When you click on start, turn off computer, you get a screen that asks you three things. I have either hit restart or shut off and never paid any attention to the other option, standby. If I use standby for overnight, does it save on electricity? Will the overnight programs (backup, virus update, etc) still run in Standby mode? When should you use this standby option if ever? I just turn my monitor screen off and don’t worry about turning anything else off.”

The idea with Standby mode is that the computer is effectively powered down, but it saves your current session in memory (assuming enough memory is available). So, if you have a Word document open, and 3 different websites open, and you’re in the middle of creating an email, all of that should come right back on the screen when the computer comes back out of Standby mode.

However, using Standby for overnight is generally not an option that I would recommend (depending on how your computer is configured). All of the computers in our house do their “housekeeping” overnight: antivirus is updated, antispyware is updated, and all data is backed up to a single external drive. If the computer is in Standby mode, those things will not happen. Of course, if you have your computer do that stuff during the day, then it doesn’t matter.

Since the computer is basically shut down while in Standby mode, it does save a little on electricity. However, the biggest electricity hog is the monitor (especially if you are using one of the old CRT monitors). You can always shut down the monitor and it has no effect at all on the functions of the computer.

I do still recommend that you restart your computer once a day. This clears the memory and gives it a “fresh start” so that it will perform at its best. The easiest way is to do the restart when you are done using it at night. When you come back to it in the morning, it will be ready for a new day of work.

This week’s video was made by some guys in Finland with a whole lot of time on their hands. They set up a supermarket with a domino-like trail of pallets, boxes, etc. and then video the trail of falling items throughout the store. Interesting to watch, but it seems like a whole lot of work for not enough reward. And then they have that whole mess to clean up.

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