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I have found contradictory opinions on this. Some say Windows users tend to shut down but that it is not necessary, and I tend to do that too.

Others say it is preferable to shut down, as it does not take too much time to boot anyway, and that in this way the battery is protected. While others say that it is in fact better not to shut down to often, including for the battery, etc.

An interesting opinion - cannot find the link for that now - was that shutting down / restarting serves no purpose for Macs, except when that is needed after installing or upgrading applications or the system, unlike in Windows, where shutting down was (is?) very important. Also, that Macs do periodical system maintenance work during operation and even sleep, which eliminates the need for restart; possibly restarting would even come against all this, etc., and "not shutting down" is in fact a typical differentiating Mac feature. Is this true?

I need a competent opinion on this - not just a description of the most common use - preferably reflecting some advice from the manufacturer.

I have a Macbook Air.

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Update after answer:

Although I got a good answer, a crucial point in it (that the system has to be shut down, but only from time to time) is not yet clear: how often should I shut down the system. So, I will bring my question down to this formula.

As pointed out by that answer, my question cannot be answered in relation to a tangible benefit for the system, but rather in relation to the battery life. So, I guess this last point can be answered by some information on how how is battery life dependent on how often the system is shut down.

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Whether to shut down or keeping it in sleep state (by closing the lid) depends on the time usage in between. The short answer is:

  • If you use it daily, enter sleep mode is recommended.
  • If you rarely use it, shut it down.

So let‘s see the difference between each option.

We’ll start with this statement:

An interesting opinion - cannot find the link for that now - was that shutting down / restarting serves no purpose for macs, except when that is needed after installing or upgrading applications or the system, unlike in Windows, where shutting down was (is?) very important. Also, that macs do periodical system maintenance work during operation and even sleep, which eliminates the need for restart; possibly restarting would even come against all this, etc., and "not shutting down" is in fact a typical differentiating Mac feature. Is this true?

It’s true that OS X has a periodical maintenance script that runs daily, weekly, and monthly. Each script has a different purpose to remove logs, rebuild whatis database, and bunch of maintenances on user levels. I can say that it doesn’t affect our day to day usage. It’s more like system maintenance to clean up and sort logs.

In fact, for MacBook models, we should decide whether to shut down or enter sleep state by focusing on which method can keep the battery healthy. Healthy in the way the battery can maintain a maximum capacity in its lifespan.

Most of the MacBook models use Lithium-ion polymer batteries which requires low level discharge to get the maximum usage. Based on the explanation by Battery University:

Similar to a mechanical device that wears out faster with heavy use, so also does the depth of discharge (DoD) determine the cycle count. The shorter the discharge (low DoD), the longer the battery will last. If at all possible, avoid full discharges and charge the battery more often between uses. Partial discharge on Li-ion is fine; there is no memory and the battery does not need periodic full discharge cycles to prolong life, other than to calibrate the fuel gauge on a smart battery once in a while

For the maximum battery health, you should use your MacBook Air at least until the it depletes to ±60% level before you keep it plugged in again.

It‘s okay to just close the lid without harming your MacBook. Beside, it can run the maintenance script on time.

The only time when you should consider shutting down is when you’re not going to use the MacBook for more than 36 hours. Apple recommends to discharge the battery around ±50% before shutting them down.

If you don’t plan on using your notebook for more than six months, Apple recommends that you store the battery with a 50% charge. If you store a battery when it’s fully discharged, it could fall into a deep discharge state, which renders it incapable of holding any charge. Conversely, if you store it fully charged for an extended period of time, the battery may experience some loss of battery capacity, meaning it will have a shorter life. Be sure to store your notebook and battery at the proper temperature. (See “Notebook Temperate Zone.”)

I know I’ve emphasized too much on battery health in this answer, but instead of asking if shut down or sleep is better, the decision affects your battery health more than the performance of the operating system.

Feedbacks and corrections are welcomed in the comment below.

  • we should decide whether to shut down or enter sleep state by focusing on which method can keep the battery healthy. Healthy in the way the battery can maintain a maximum capacity in its lifespan ... I’ve emphasized too much on battery health in this answer, but instead of asking if shut down or sleep is better, the decision affects your battery health more than the performance of the operating system - that is very instructive and reflects upon other answers as well – user61618 Apr 21 '14 at 10:19
  • can you please point out the source for the idea: consider shutting down... when you’re not going to use the MacBook for more than 36 hours"? It seems a short time compared to what I heard. – user61618 Apr 21 '14 at 10:48
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    This is more like a personal opinion. Although Apple states that long term storage up to 6 months, I believe it’ll be beneficial to shut it down when you’re not going to use it for more than 2–3 days. 36 hours is more a psychology number to help you remember this suggestion. – sayzlim Apr 21 '14 at 11:18
  • too bad... i greatly appreciate your answer, but this is an important point of the question; of course shutdown is supposed to be recommended some times: the crucial point being how often. All my question comes down to that in fact, and cannot be answer by a psychology number, can it? You clearly pointed out that all the question cannot be answered in relation to some benefit for the system, but rather for the battery life. So: how is that dependent on how often the system is shut down? – user61618 Apr 21 '14 at 17:26
  • if the computer is fine with just the lid closed after 24 hours, wouldn't it be as fine after 36 or 72 hours? – user61618 Apr 21 '14 at 17:49
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I do not claim to provide an answer - as much as a step-by-step clarification of the question (by re-edits), which in the end might sum up to an answer.


I see here the idea that: waiting for an OS X Update or Security Update is generally a sufficient time between reboots. Also, that shutting down is useful, because system temp, memory, swap, and cache files get cleared out during boot. But how useful is that it's not very clear.


I appreciate a lot this answer which states clearly some important ideas that sum up to what I was looking for:

  • for MacBook models, we should decide whether to shut down or enter sleep state by focusing on which method can keep the battery healthy. Healthy in the way the battery can maintain a maximum capacity in its lifespan.

  • MacBook models use Lithium-ion polymer batteries which requires low level discharge to get the maximum usage. -- The shorter the discharge (low DoD), the longer the battery will last. If at all possible, avoid full discharges and charge the battery more often between uses.

  • For the maximum battery health, you should use your MacBook Air at least until the it depletes to ±60% level before you keep it plugged in again

  • If you don’t plan on using your notebook for more than six months, Apple recommends that you store the battery with a 50% charge.

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    I think the usefulness of that is very much dependent on usage. So it is near impossible to give advice that is good for everybody. Lately, updates requiring reboots seem to be rare, so for me at least, such reboots are too far apart. I typically find my laptop feeling a bit sluggish if it's more than a month or so since the last reboot. – Harald Hanche-Olsen Apr 19 '14 at 18:21
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    the way to see objectively that is to have something to check usage of memory. Some apps have memory leaks. By using apple system monitor or another app like that you can see when this happens. and then its time for a reboot. However all this is empirical ... and not something out of apple :) – Mamonu Apr 19 '14 at 20:49
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So in short, it's like your iPhone? :) I too am conflicted about this topic but I rarely shut down my macbook because I'm a forgetful person and I tend to forget something I should've done when the laptop was still awake. That's why it's convenient to just let it sleep because I can open it and it's immediately right at my home screen :)

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according to apple:

"Standard Maintenance

For proper maintenance of a lithium-based battery, it’s important to keep the electrons in it moving occasionally. Apple does not recommend leaving your portable plugged in all the time . An ideal use would be a commuter who uses her notebook on the train, then plugs it in at the office to charge. This keeps the battery juices flowing. If on the other hand, you use a desktop computer at work, and save a notebook for infrequent travel, Apple recommends charging and discharging its battery at least once per month. Need a reminder? Add an event to your desktop’s iCal. When your battery no longer holds sufficient charge to meet your needs, you may choose to replace it. If your notebook came with a built-in battery, you should have the battery replaced only by an Apple Authorized Service Provider."

So basically you most SHOULD shut down when not using it for some time. You don't want the Macbook to be for a long time on and in sleep mode. leaving your Macbook both ON charge AND in sleep mode is bad on the battery.

Being merely in sleep is another matter, which is fine.

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    Nice, so the question is do you have any numbers for prolonged life? And your conclusion is not correct, they say keep the juices flowing, not shut down. – Ruskes Apr 19 '14 at 13:04
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    @Buscar - I see nothing in that quote that supports the idea that shutting down a macbook air is preferable to closing the lid (sleep). In fact all the linked article is only about battery - while my question is not restricted to that - and doesn' t entail the idea that "ON charge AND in sleep mode is bad on the battery". It only says that it is meant to be charged after using it unplugged in view of a new such use, and not to leave it plugged in for a long time. – user61618 Apr 19 '14 at 14:48
  • "you most SHOULD shut down when not using it for some time" : this seems to mean that the rest of the time it can be on sleep - as you say: "Being merely in sleep is another matter, which is fine.". But what is the relation between these ideas and the other one: "You don't want the Macbook to be for a long time on and in sleep mode. leaving your Macbook both ON charge AND in sleep mode is bad on the battery.". The later may be false. When leaving unused for some time the mac should NOT be charging (but 50% charged and unplugged, as seen in the quote). But it may be shut down or sleeping. – user61618 Apr 19 '14 at 15:25
  • anyway, down-votes are not mine :) – user61618 Apr 19 '14 at 15:29
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    @cipricus correct, but a battery is a consumable, so getting more mileage out of it is ok, but does it do much? you Mac is not a consumable, so letting it operate all the time it will not shorten its life. Do you turn off your iPhone? – Ruskes Apr 21 '14 at 11:02
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I'm no expert at all, but I can tell you that I regularly keep my Mabook Pro 2008, MacBook Air 2012 and Mac Pro 2008 powered on / asleep for weeks if not months at a time without rebooting. When their charge drops to around 20%, I plug them in. The machines don't noticeably slow down over time like PCs do, so I only reboot if installing something, or if I experience a bunch of software crashes, which is pretty rare. They only get turned completely off if I'm going away for a few days or more.

Basically I treat them like iOS devices - always on / ready, with very occasional reboots!

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I'm no expert either, but I know that if left on sleep/having the lid down but the power on can build up enough heat (if on long enough) to catch on fire. iOS devices are different though, as they do not release heat. If you need to charge the MacBook quickly, shut it off completely as this increases charging efficiency.

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Keep in mind that if you use FileVault, it only encrypts when it shuts down. Leaving your Mac turned on but sleeping or just shutting the laptop doesn't encrypt it.

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