At the end of the workday, many people lock the computer - or walk away and let it lock itself. This seems pretty handy at first glance - when you return, you log in and everything is just as you left it - ready for your next session. But just as you shut down, rest and recharge every day your computer - Mac or PC - benefits from the opportunity to shut down and rest, too!

To maintain good "computer hygiene," Ag IT recommends closing all applications, restarting your computer, leave it powered on and remain logged off at the end of every work week.

One of the strongest reasons for a restart is that software developers like Microsoft and Apple release updates to their products on a continuing basis. Many of these updates fix bugs or vulnerabilities that can impact your work. Microsoft and Apple regularly release updates to critical applications and to the operating systems that also safeguard and improve your computing experience. Although many application updates can be applied when you launch the application or completely in the background, updates to your operating system software (Windows 10 or OS X) are typically only applied when the computer restarts. If you don't restart your computer very often you increase the opportunity for compromise. A computer compromise ensures a loss in productivity while it is taken offline to be scanned for malware and personally identifiable information -- and if either is present, the computer may need to be reimaged.

There are many good things that happen when a computer restarts - you often hear that a restart is the first troubleshooting step when things go wrong! A restart can clear all of the contents of your computer's memory in the most efficient manner possible, giving you full use on restart, and a restart closes all background processes that should have closed themselves and didn't. In essence, a restart gives you a fresh slate to start the next workday.

Other recommended best practices include:

  • Ensure laptops have restarted (before shutting the lid) and kept powered on over the weekend.
  • Computers that are not frequently used should still be updated on a regular basis.
    • Desktops: Turn on the computer and ensure it has a wired network connection, but do not log on. 
    • Laptops: You may need to log into the laptop for it to establish a wireless network connection. Once it does, restart the machine and leave it powered on (but do not log on).
  • Do not eat at or around your computer. But if you do, clean your keyboard.
  • Keep it cool. Clean away dust buildup and ensure there's plenty of airflow around the computer.

Penn State's Environmental Health and Safety division created a computer cleaning guide, which provides tips and products for cleaning and disinfecting your electronic devices.