Why Turning off Your Computer Network Can Help Home and Family Safety

The advantages and disadvantages of never turning off a network

Do I have to turn off my router?
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Most broadband internet connections stay always on so that connected devices can be online at all times. However, whether this approach is a good thing is debatable and usually depends on your situation.

Do I Have to Turn Off My Router?

Home network owners often leave routers, broadband modems, and other devices powered up and operating constantly, even when those devices aren't constantly used, because it's convenient.

Advantages of Powering Down Home Networks

Here are some of the advantages of turning off the power to your network and connected devices when the network isn't needed.

Security

Powering off a device when you're not using it improves network security. When network devices are offline, hackers and Wi-Fi wardrivers cannot target those devices. Other security measures such as firewalls help and are necessary, but not bulletproof.

To disable Wi-Fi for security benefits or because it's never used, find out when and how to turn off Wi-Fi.

Save on Utility Bills

Powering down computers, routers, and modems saves money. In some countries, the savings is low, but in other parts of the world, utility costs are significant.

Surge Protection

Unplugging network devices prevents damage by electric power surges. Surge protectors also prevent this kind of damage; however, surge units (particularly the inexpensive ones) cannot always protect against major power spikes like those from lightning.

Less Wireless Interference

Shutting down wireless routers opens up previously used frequency space for other devices that were weakened or unusable while the culprit device was running.

Noise Reduction

Networking gear is quieter since loud built-in fans were replaced with solid-state cooling systems. Your senses might be adjusted to the relatively low levels of home network noise, but you may be pleasantly surprised at the added tranquility of a residence without it.

Disadvantages of Powering Down Home Networks

Here are some of the reasons to leave the power turned on for a home network.

Hardware Reliability

Frequently power-cycling a computer or another networked device shortens its working life. Disk drives are particularly susceptible to damage.

Communication Reliability

After power cycling, network connections may fail to reestablish. Special care must be taken to follow proper startup procedures. For example, broadband modems generally should be powered on first, then other devices later, after the modem is ready.

Convenience

Network devices such as routers and modems may be installed on ceilings, in basements, or other hard-to-reach places. Shut down these devices using the manufacturer's recommended procedure, rather than pull the plug. Powering down a network takes time to do properly and may seem an inconvenience at first.

Remote Access

If your network is set up to access remotely with a remote access program, shutting down the equipment that allows for that access means you cannot remotely log in to the computer when you're away from home. The same is true to remotely print to a home printer or view wireless cameras when away.

The Bottom Line

Home network gear doesn't need to be powered on and connected to the internet at all times unless your personal use case requires it.

Turning off a network during extended periods of non-use is a good idea. If you're going to be away on a vacation or are purposefully pulling the plug on electronics over the weekend, then, shut down the devices you won't be using.

The security benefit alone makes this approach worthwhile. However, because computer networks can be difficult to set up initially, some people don't want to disrupt a network once it's up, running, and working well.

Ideally, power-cycling home networking gear shouldn't be done too frequently to avoid damaging or disrupting your setup. Once or twice a week might be fine; once or twice a day is probably too much.