Animated graphic on why you should shut off your work computer

Millions of people leave their work computer on every day, thus wasting lots and lots of energy through the night when no one is there. In this animated infographic, Nigel Upchurch describes what it means when you leave your computer on. As with most of these types of things, the numbers are a bit simplistic. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to watch and well-designed. And well, it kind of makes me want to make sure I turn off my computer at night.

[Thanks, Nigel]


  • I suppose that the data are accurate — however, if you want to change individual human behavior, one needs to show individual advantage — as in, your electric bill will decrease by 273 bags of chips per year.

    Arguments of ‘scale’ are rather specious — although make nice graphics.

    I used to work for a company for which many people claimed “we make 4 billion widgets a year and if I can show a method to save us $.01/widget — I’ll save the company billions of dollars, therefore I deserve a million dollar bonus.” Needless to say, many employees ran around waving their hands in the air, claiming to have saved hundredths of a cent — and wanting big bonuses.
    As you may have guessed, the bottom line of the company was unchanged and REAL money(saver)makers went largely unnoticed until well after bankruptcy.

    or, perhaps I just have a different view of human nature.

    • People respond differently to different arguments — some subset of people will respond to arguments of direct self-interest, other people will respond to global-good arguments. That’s not a “different” view of human nature, just a more varied one.

  • This completely ignores the need to update and patch computers. Particularly the house of cards that is windows machines. If everybody turned their computers off at night, when they are all at work the next day, they would be inundated with patches and couldn’t work very effectively.

    Sure, at home put your machine to sleep, and that could be done in business as well if windows power management was better. Then you could wake computers, patch them, and let them go back to sleep.


    • I don’t believe that individual eco-friendly gestures can have a noticeable impact on environment. However if Microsoft changed the default power scheme of windows-powered desktop PCs from never go to sleep to, say, go to sleep after 20 mins of inactivity then we could see some progress.

  • We’re required to leave our computers on at work overnight because that’s when they run updates and install patches. Otherwise I’d be all about turning it off. Instead, I just turn off my monitor.

  • I’m sure if PC’s didn’t take 2-3 mins to boot up people would probably turn them off more. Sounds like a marketing campaign for MS and Apple. :)

  • I leave my lab PC (quite powerful one) on, because I use it as a server to get remote access to my research data in it when I work at home… Moreover it runs BOINC application constantly, using 100% of CPU time and 100% of GPU time, to do some scientific computation for the global community…

  • never left my computer on overnight, it can flood my dreams!

  • john l stevens October 19, 2010 at 8:35 am

    They never turn off any of the 500+ imacs and PCs at the Guardian offices in London, including a large number of workstations which remain unused even during working hours. You can’t easily turn them off – generally the shutdown menu command has been disabled. Obviously a daily print publication, massive website and a media organisation require a large number of computers to be used on a very regular, almost consistent basis, but this isn’t true for all the workstations in the entire building. I find it disappointing that a newspaper with the environmental credentials of the Guardian hasn’t developed a more innovative, lower-energy solution.

  • Since when does every person who uses a computer at work actually have their own computer? Lots of places share PCs, sometimes dozens of people only use one. Also, does it take into consideration the % of these computers that go into Sleep, Hibernate, etc modes, beyond that they are “modern” models? How many of them are laptops? How many are servers?

    I’m in line with the spirit of this ad, but not with the figures. Making this kind of ad, honestly, is nearly pointless, unless you care more about the graphics than the data. Which maybe you do.

  • And imagine how much you can save by turning your computer off twice every day! :)

    It is true that anyone can save energy, but we will REALLY save if:

    – computer manufacturers will make energy-saving computers
    – companies will invest more in energy-efficient computers
    – software vendors will not make you keep computers on to upgrade, synchronize, etc.

  • One solution is to make wake on LAN standard

  • This video doesn’t consider one little-known aspect of electronics that engineers and technicians know very well. Aside from moving parts, electronics generally don’t fail if they aren’t powered up and down. Heating up and cooling down is the primary cause of failure in any solid state component. Your PC would likely last your lifetime without failure if it was never allowed to cool down (and if it didn’t have a hard drive). I wonder what impact all those replaced components (power supplies, motherboards, network cards, etc) have on the environment and the economy.

  • The office in which I work is electrically heated. My laptop total power is less than 100 watts when running and simultaneously charging the battery. It typically draws less than 40W so in the winter the only result will be to shift the burden to the heating system, my four colleagues also use laptops. The office is about 100m2 and certainly requires more than 200W to keep at a bearable temperature so turning them off will save nothing in the winter and not more than 3.2kW-hr per day in the summer. We are in Norway so you can forget any idea that we will be running air conditioning at night or even more than two days a year in day time. We have some heating on for at least six months of the year so the most generous saving would be less than 600 kW-hr per year. Better than nothing but it’s not going to save the planet. If all five of us were to simply work at home for three days day instead of driving to work we would save roughly 1000km of driving, at least 50 litre of fuel. Petrol has an energy content of about 9kW-hr per litre so bearing in mind thermal power station efficiencies we would be saving even more energy. Yes I know we use hydro but we are unusual in that. If Wikipedia has the correct figures for aircraft fuel consumption per passenger just cancelling one trip to Zurich would have even more effect.

    See Professor David McKay’s book,, about saving energy and his argument that individual small changes are welcome and desirable but not enough.

  • for what it’s worth, here’s an artists rendition of un-used electrons escaping:

  • Do you mind me asking what program you used to create this animation?