When Should I Shut Down My Mac?

Shutting Down MacBook with Power Button Credit: Kamil Zajaczkowski / Shutterstock
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One of the greatest things about Mac computers is how quickly they boot up. You only need to open the lid, and your Mac will start working almost instantly. That’s something most other computers just don’t do. However, because of this, many people think they can keep their MacBook asleep forever, which is not the case. Sometimes you’ll need to shut it down or restart it. But when? Here’s what you need to know.

What’s the Difference Between Shutting Down, Restarting, and Putting Your Mac to Sleep?

First, let’s discuss the main differences between shutting down, restarting, and putting your Mac to sleep. While using your MacBook, you can log out of it, put it to sleep, restart, or shut it down at any time. Although it may not seem like much, there’s a big difference between these four options.

To log out of your Mac after using it, you’ll choose the Log Out option up in the Apple menu . You’ll then see a popup asking you to decide if you want your running app windows to reopen automatically when you log back in. However, if you don’t want this to happen, you can deselect the option to reopen the windows when you log back into your Mac.

Restarting is exactly what you think. It means that you reboot your Mac, so it starts “fresh.” This clears the computer’s memory by closing all the running programs.

Putting your Mac to sleep is simply clicking on the Apple menu  and selecting Sleep, or as most people would do it, by closing your MacBook. You can power it back on by opening the lid or by pushing the power button.

  • A MacBook in sleep mode will be instantly ready for work with all the applications and programs you were using previously after you open your MacBook’s lid and unlock the computer.
  • Shutting your MacBook down ends all the running programs and applications and completely powers your Mac off. This helps clear all the memory from your computer. It will take more time to start up the computer and you’ll need to reopen all the apps you need.

Why Do You Need to Restart or Shut Down Your MacBook?

When you use your MacBook for long periods, the apps and processes may clog up the computer’s RAM, lowering the system’s performance, especially as your Mac gets older and apps become more demanding.

You can help your Mac by restarting it and relaunching the applications, though you can have the same result by turning your Mac off. But if you need to keep working and your Mac isn’t helping, restarting it might be a quick fix.

Although Apple designed macOS to manage memory use automatically, it is sometimes better to restart your Mac to basically clean it and wake it up as good as new. The RAM will be cleared this way, maximizing certain processes that previously got stuck or became slow.

Additionally, the only way for you to install software updates is by restarting your MacBook. If you have an older MacBook or Mac in general, a quick restart might go a long way.

How Often Do You Need to Shut Down Your Mac?

Shut down your MacBook when you’re done with work, and you won’t need the computer for some time – a good example might be Friday evening before the weekend.

Even though it may not seem like it, Macs run much smoother when they’ve had a chance to be restarted or shut down. So it’s beneficial to turn it off completely if you know you’re not going to use it for a few days. Doing this enables the computer’s system to clear up possible issues it may have, making it perform better next time you use it.

If your Mac is giving you any problems, it’ll likely perform better after you shut it down. Shutting down may also be beneficial for your Mac’s battery, extending its overall lifespan.

Just remember to make sure you save all the work you did before shutting it down, especially if you’re working on an online platform. I’m speaking from experience on this one.

Shutting Down or Putting to Sleep: Which Is Better Overall?

Shutting down your Mac will cause longer wait times before it picks up once you power it back on and it may take longer to load up specific programs or apps. Putting your Mac to sleep, on the other hand, makes it operational almost instantly after you wake it up.

Shutting down your Mac puts a certain degree of stress on the computer’s components, such as the motherboard, power supply, and internal supply. Although these components are more than capable of handling a situation like this, doing it (slowly) increases the wear on your Mac. Of course, you’ll probably only see this issue after your Mac is several years old.

Shutting down your MacBook also prevents it from running the essential maintenance tasks automatically. Some of these tasks include receiving new messages through the Mail app, and the Contacts app keeps updating across other devices, calendar invitations, and updates. Other apps that keep running in sleep mode include Notes, Reminders, antivirus, VPN, Find My Mac, and Mobile Device Management. All these apps and tasks will stop working if you shut down your Mac completely.

Believe it or not, overall, it’s recommended to shut down new computers each night, but leave slightly older units turned on and put to sleep most of the time.

Although shutting your Mac down will refresh the RAM and give your computer a clean slate, cleaning the memory on your RAM may not be necessary because macOS can manage your Mac’s memory automatically. Plus, you may be harming its components more than you would by putting it to sleep.

Because of this, it’s recommended that if you’re planning to leave your Mac idle for just a few hours every day, or even overnight, keep it on and just put it to sleep. Shut it down if you’ll be leaving your Mac alone for multiple days, and restart it whenever it’s simply acting up.

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