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Ask Arthur

Ask Arthur: Can I leave my tech running over holidays?

A reader wants to know if tech should be unplugged or switched off when they leave home or the office for a week or more. Yes and No, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Q: I’ve been told I must unplug all my tech when I go on holiday. Isn’t that old-fashioned advice? What must I unplug or switch off, and what can I leave on?

A: In most cases, it’s safe to leave your tech running, but that’s not a one-size-fits-all rule. 

Ultimately, it depends on what kind of tech it is. If it’s an appliance or machine that performs critical tasks, it will probably need to run continuously.  Think refrigerators that need to keep food cold. Think computer servers that are crucial for other computers on a network to be fully functional. Even some non-essential tech can be kept on, such as a TV that has a standby mode, which uses minimal power. 

Any device that is programmed or contains extensive data, that would be lost or wiped clean if switched off, should remain on, with backup power that can kick in if there is a power outage.

That said, it also depends on how much time you will spend away. If it is as long as a month or more, it is preferable to leave an empty fridge or freezer, which can be switched off, and to unplug any non-essential appliances and devices. That includes home and office computers, home Wi-Fi, TVs, and gaming consoles, Bear in mind that a power surge or lightning storm can fry your equipment if it is plugged in and left on. If it is an appliance or gadget that draws a lot of energy, it can also overheat.

I asked Google Gemini for some tips in this regard, and it told me:

  • Update your software: Make sure your device software is up to date before you leave it running.
  • Enable automatic updates: If possible, configure your device to download and install updates automatically.
  • Surge protection: Use a surge protector to safeguard your electronics from power fluctuations.
  • Good ventilation: Ensure proper airflow around your device to prevent overheating.
  • Background tasks: Close any unnecessary programs or background tasks that might consume resources.

If you’re still not sure, find the manufacturer’s instructions, also known as The Dreaded Manual, to see if it has recommendations for this circumstance. Many products no longer come with printed manuals, and you may need to search online for a digital version.

 or customer support for specific recommendations.

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