I like to watch TV on my computer at night but sometimes I fall asleep before the program ends. How can I set my computer to shut down at a certain time or after it finishes specific events?
Signed, Tired in Tacoma
Photo by Tallent Show.
You're right to be concerned about shutting down your computer at night — it's a huge energy drain, otherwise. Leaving it on overnight once or twice isn't a big deal, but over the course of several weeks and months it can have a significant impact on your electricity bill.
The good news: You've got lots of options for making sure your machine shuts down at night, even if you've already gone to bed. Windows, Mac OS X and some Linux operating systems come with an auto-shut down feature baked right in, but there are plenty of free, feature-packed after market utilities you can try, so let's start with those first.
Previously mentioned Smart Shutdown for Windows gives you lots of options before turning off your computer for the evening. Set it to complete certain tasks like emptying the Recycle Bin or close all your apps before turning off your machine, then decide how long you want your computer to be idle before Smart Shutdown leaps into action. If you're a Mac user, then iWannaSleep will do the same thing for you. Linux users can turn to previously mentioned Auto Shutdown for Firefox.
Some apps you may already have on your computer do double duty — they'll complete a task while you're off doing other things and shut down your system when they're done. Many popular BitTorrent apps, for instance, can do that for you, as can the computer maintenance app CCleaner.
Want to skip fancy software and just stick with your operating system's native functionality for automatically shutting down your computer? Go for it! Mac users need to dip into System Preferences and set up the Energy Saver option to shut down the system at an appointed time. It'll even wake it up again if you'd like.
The Spinning Donut has a great little tutorial on scheduling and automatic system shutdown on Windows XP and Vista. nixCraft explains how a couple of simple command line tweaks get the job done on your Linux box.
Still on the fence about whether you even need to shut down your computer every night? Read up on the subject and decide for yourself.