Is Power Cycling Safe?

One of the most common troubleshooting techniques whenever a piece of electrical equipment is acting up, especially in computing, is simply turning the power off and back on. This is called power cycling and can definitely fix a lot of issues. But can this act damage your machine and cause further issues? The answer is yes and no. While simply turning off the power shouldn’t typically harm anything, there are certain situations you should be aware of to avoid a costly machine failure.

What is Soft Power Cycling?

In most modern machinery there are two ways to restart a system. One is called a soft boot and the other is a hard boot. A soft reboot is one where a command is given to the CPU to shut things down. Usually this is done through your machines operator interface as a reset or start command. Once this operation has started the OS gives a command to the motherboard or numerical control to start safely shutting down hardware one by one, while safely turning off any running tasks or software operations. If given the option this is the safest bet to shutting down the machine. But often this option is not available for whatever reason such as a machine error, memory leak, fatal crash etc. that prevents commands to be given by the user. This is when a “hard” boot or power cycle may be necessary.

What is Hard Power Cycling?

A Hard Power Cycle or reboot is one where the machine is restarted by simply removing all power and turning the machine back on. This effectively restarts the machine and gets you to the stage one starts up procedure that your hardware would experience when it was started up for the first time. There are a few issues with this method.

If the machine was in the middle of a process or operation, there is a high likelihood that that operation is lost. Depending on your application this could cause issues.
On older machines if the OS is writing data to a disk, there is a chance you could corrupt the disk and possible damage the drive.
Doing this repeatedly within a short amount of time can stress hardware and could lead to failures due to repeated inrush currents, depending on how your machine is constructed.

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