Am I "hurting" my HP laptop by leaving it running, unplugging from outlet - walking a few feet and plugging it back in? My brother-in-law says I am.

  • 81
    No, this is common practice.
    – Moab
    May 9, 2016 at 0:05
  • 8
    There is a minuscule chance of damaging the power supply, just as there is every time you go through a power cycle. There is a lot more chance of damaging the laptop by dropping it than by changing the power outlets.
    – AFH
    May 9, 2016 at 0:24
  • @AFH - no kidding - when I consider how many people I see wandering around my office building - going floor to floor via elevators or stairs - while holding their laptop to their chest while it's open - I just wonder how many cracked screens the company is paying for. (Don't these guys have laptops that sleep?)
    – davidbak
    May 9, 2016 at 16:15
  • 12
    @davidbak I think that's the problem: they do not wish their computer to sleep (on some platforms, recovering from sleep is noticeably slower than not recovering from sleep, it interrupts wifi, or forces a lock screen [potentially requiring a domain controller to authorize the unlock]). Since the laptop sleeps, by default, every time they close the lid, they don't close it. Of course one can adjust the power setting, but that isn't known to all laptop users.
    – Calchas
    May 9, 2016 at 16:24
  • 3
    Yes, if you're not on battery! (e.g. data corruption)
    – Andrew T.
    May 10, 2016 at 3:55

4 Answers 4


Nope, it should be fine. Laptops are designed to switch between battery and mains power.

Stuff to watch out for? Tripping hazards. While barrel connectors are fairly robust, they've been known to fail — especially with a sideways force. Unplugging the power connector totally would mitigate both this and tripping risk. While there are special mechanisms for laptop HDDs that park the head, this is in case you drop it.

In essence, anything that can kill a laptop while moving it would kill it anyway. I've had a few desktop divas experience the same failure modes, so... it's not especially dangerous to move a laptop.

  • 2
    +1 I've busted 2 laptop power... ports? holes? whatever the term is... by dropping it sideways and it landing on the plugged in cord. In the same vein as tripped hazards, make sure you have a good grip on it; dropping has a very similar effect.
    – jpmc26
    May 10, 2016 at 0:10
  • 6
    I'd really move a laptop after unplugging everything. I'm a klutz
    – Journeyman Geek
    May 10, 2016 at 0:41
  • 1
    "I've busted 2 laptop power... ports? holes? whatever the term is" DC jack is the proper term :-)
    – Moab
    May 10, 2016 at 1:23
  • I've had both sides break on different systems. I've also gotten into massive amounts of pedantry with 'sockets' 'jacks' and so on. Connector seems reasonably gender neutral.
    – Journeyman Geek
    May 10, 2016 at 1:27
  • Much care should be taken when handling a device with a running hard drive as it can hurt it. Moving a running laptop with a hard drive is a bad idea. May 27, 2016 at 6:12

Your brother-in-law has an outdated view of how rechargeable batteries work. Older laptops used NiCd batteries were susceptible to the memory effect. Their maximum charge could be reduced if they were repeatedly partially discharged and then charged. There were all sorts of attempts to mitigate this, including waiting until the battery was discharged before charging it again. It's debatable whether the memory effect was real.

Modern laptops use lithium-ion batteries which have no such problem. They also have sophisticated hardware and software to monitor the battery, keep it in good condition, and prevent anything a consumer is likely to do from harming it.

  • 1
    Maaaan. I don't remember the last time I saw a NiCd powered laptop. Late 90s?
    – Journeyman Geek
    May 10, 2016 at 6:51
  • There is not only the "debatable memory effect" but even the membrane deterioration one (eventually see above the comment to the question). Technique makes progresses and materials changes each day, but I shouldn't be so strict judging the brother-in-law, even if they always get wrong, by definition :-).
    – Hastur
    May 10, 2016 at 18:09
  • 2
    For what it's worth, the old NiCd packs had such horrible problems with memory effects because the manufacturers were cheapskates. The packs were designed for the computer to work while each cell was in the 1.2-1.5v range. For NiCd batteries this is the "overcharge" zone and holds relatively little power. The vast majority of the cell's power storage is in the 1.2-1.0v range. I rebuilt a few packs and added one more cell so the pack was operating in its main range instead of overcharge and the run-time tripled, as well as being able to properly discharge the cells to avoid memory problems.
    – Perkins
    May 10, 2016 at 18:58
  • I don't see any indication in OP's question that this is the source of the BIL's cluelessness. May 10, 2016 at 22:16
  • 1
    @R.. Sure, the brother-in-law could think it will spook the electricity ponies that make the laptop go. I'm making an educated guess based on the rationale behind questionable advice I've heard about laptops over the last two decades.
    – Schwern
    May 10, 2016 at 22:21

Unless your laptop doesn't have a battery, you're fine. Leaving it plugged in all day, everyday can minutely reduce your battery's efficiency. But since your battery degrades overtime anyway, that's not really an issue. Lithium batteries don't last forever, nor retain their peak efficiency indefinitely.

  • 11
    The control circuit for a Lithium Ion battery is such that leaving it plugged in is unlikely to noticeably degrade your device. I'd be more concerned about a fire from overcharging, if the circuit failed.
    – Gusdor
    May 9, 2016 at 13:26
  • 7
    @Gusdor I think this has become conventional wisdom because it was much more likely to be true of Nickel-Cadmium batteries.
    – Random832
    May 9, 2016 at 14:22
  • 1
    Ah, true - she didn't specify whether she had a lithium or nickel cadmium battery. Or how recent her laptop is. The answer would change based on her laptop model, but still be mostly ok. May 9, 2016 at 14:31
  • 4
    @Gusdor two of the many, many things that shorten the life of a Li-ion are being kept at full charge (for example because a laptop is keeping it topped off) and being kept at high temperature (for example because it's stuck inside a running laptop). It's a really sensitive chemistry.
    – hobbs
    May 9, 2016 at 15:06
  • 1
    @Tonny As someone who is currently replacing the battery in their still otherwise fine 2011 laptop, I must disagree.
    – Schwern
    May 10, 2016 at 22:34

Yes you are but not in the way you think. Unplugging it and replugging is fine however hard drives are not designed to be moved while in use and are extremely fragile and easily damaged by bumps that would be safe while the laptop is not in operation.

  • 4
    Many modern laptops have an SSD today, which is not susceptible to heads crashing due to vibration or movement.
    – dotancohen
    May 10, 2016 at 11:37
  • 3
    @dotancohen Surprisingly enough SSDs in laptops are still quite rare, in all but the higher end, because of the added cost. But what you say is right if it has one.
    – JamesRyan
    May 10, 2016 at 11:47
  • 8
    Most every laptop I've seen in the past 10 years or so also has acceleration sensors and driver-level software to turn off spinning disks to prevent damage to the hard drive in the event of acceleration that would crash the disk heads, so this isn't likely to be an issue. May 10, 2016 at 14:07
  • 1
    Modern spinning disk hard drives, especially 2.5", are not "extremely fragile". Laptops are designed to be moved while in use, otherwise they'd just be a portable desktop Their drives will not be easily damaged by a bump. Just don't drop your laptop, but even that isn't so bad anymore.
    – Schwern
    May 10, 2016 at 22:31
  • 3
    @JamesRyan I'm pretty sure Apple will not void my warranty because I walk around with my Macbook open. Every hard drive has a shock (in g's over time) and vibration (in Hz and g's) tolerance while operating and not operating. For example, this Toshiba drive can handle 70g's over 2ms and 5-500 Hz of vibration at 0.5g's while operating. The specs for the Seagate Barracuda are similar.
    – Schwern
    May 10, 2016 at 23:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .