How to run a Mac OS X PowerBook or iBook; no shut downs, restarts, or quitting applications


As I flip open my PowerBook, whether it’s at the beginning of a presentation, plane flight, or just about anywhere, people invariably ask me about it. Most are Windows-only users, so I just give them the basics; yes, the screen is big, yes, I can read Word documents, no, I don’t use Outlook, yes, I can run Windows on it, but I don’t have any need to do so, this browser is called Safari, this is how iTunes works, etc. But, sometimes, like at Macworld Expo, in an Apple Store, or even in a coffee shop somewhere, I run into a Mac user.

Of course, we all know there are two types of Mac users: those who run Mac OS X and those who don’t. Yet. For the latter, I run through the OS including the Dock, Column View, applications they can’t run like iTunes 4 and the iTunes Music Store, the Genie Effect, Force Quitting applications without crashing the whole shebang, not setting memory allocations, Mail, Safari, etc. But, it’s those who run Mac OS X, especially on a portable Mac, that I learn the most from and can really get into discussing how to run a portable Macintosh with Mac OS X. After almost four years now with OS X, I’ll tell you how I think a PowerBook or iBook should be run.

I never shut down my computer. Well, hardly ever. My PowerBook has been on or asleep for over three weeks currently. This excludes any restarts due to software updates since I have to keep current. I must have gone over two months at least without restarting or shutting down at times in the past.

Although the frequency of Apple’s incremental OS and other application updates sometimes makes me wonder if they are forcing me to restart when I normally wouldn’t for a reason or just to mess with me.

I use a 21-inch CRT monitor at work at 1600×1200 resolution, monitor spanning with the PowerBook’s display. I use another monitor at home, an Apple LCD display the same way. Obviously, at other times, I just use the PowerBook’s screen. My day starts with sliding the PowerBook into my BookEndz Dock at work, opening the lid, instantly awaking from Sleep, hitting Detect Displays from the Menu Bar, banging to Location under the Apple Menu which sets my Network Prefs with a single click, and starting work from any of ten or more already running applications.

At the end of the day, I simply close the lid, the computer goes to sleep, slide it out of the Dock, slip it into my backpack, and head home. At home, I either open the lid while on the couch or side the PowerBook into my home BookEndz Dock, Detect Displays and start computing again. I have Airport at home and a hard-wired connection at work and various Wi-Fi points in airports and other places.

The next day, I do the same thing again. Just Sleep, no Shut Downs.

After talking with many people running similar hardware and Mac OS X, I’ve concluded that there is almost no need to ever shut down your computer. While in Sleep mode, the PowerBook consumes almost no battery power. I restart very infrequently and I hardly ever Quit applications like Dreamweaver MX, Photoshop, ImageReady, Mail, Safari, BBEdit, iTunes, etc.

I will admit, though, that as a long time Mac user, I still use the Desktop heavily and have drives on the Desktop. It’s a vestige of having used the Classic Mac OS for so long, I guess. Though I hardly ever click on the drives sitting there on the Desktop because I have my hard drives in the Dock and have customized my Finder windows with commonly-used Folders and such.

I’m interested in hearing from you if you’re running your iBook or PowerBook the same way or think I’m crazy for how I’m using my Mac or a little of both.

is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

MacDailyNews Note: This article is an updated version of the original article from June 5, 2003 where other reader feedback comments can be found regarding this subject.]


  1. I always shutdown my Dual 1.8 G5 at work every night. It has about 20 things on the desktop. Less frequently I shutdown my Rev A 12″ Powerbook at home. There are various things on the desktop mostly belonging to my wife. It does run for days at a time without restart, but I have found reason to restart when having problems. Just last night my Airport Express seemed to disappear as well as the Airport Extreme base. The Airport card was on but here were no bars. This happened while I was using the computer. Tried a few things to fix it, no joy. Then restarted and all was well. Fixed by a restart: so it seems to me that an occasional restart is not anythng to fear.

  2. Same here. I never turn my iBook G4 off, just put it to sleep. The power button gets used very little. I only restart when a software update requires it; my current iBook uptime is 21 days 18 hours.

  3. I do the same thing with my PB17″ – run all day at work, come home and do more there. I hardly ever reboot/shutdown – almost always just sleep (which really doesn’t use much battery at all – I’ve gone over a week without plugging in during sleep). However, from time to time I do close the apps or just log out and back in again… It’s good to do to “keep things fresh” as sometimes you might have a “leak” in an app that slowly saps RAM, etc. I haven’t scientifically tested to see if it’s really necessary, but I do it anyway. I gotta look into these BookEnz though!

  4. I think you’re totally sane. I use my PowerBook the same way.

    I also think it’s fair to require a restart when certain system components are changed. They could probably find a way to not require a restart, but depending on the updated services it might still require logging out but not quite restarting, which could confuse novices. I’ll betcha they weighed the support costs of getting that to work successfully vs. the nice clean slate of a restart, and probably decided “screw those anal uptimer fanatics.” Which is fair. It doesn’t take that long to restart if you only do it once every few weeks. I’ve had a PowerBook get 60 days of uptime, but it really is a stupid game.

    The other often brought up issue is the overnight cron scripts. What do you do about those? I use Macaroni because it runs maintenance even if the machine was asleep at their scheduled time. I believe Macaroni is essential to true unlimited uptime.

  5. even with 1gb of RAM, my 1 Ghz g4 iMac seems sluggish sometimes. when i quit apps i’m not using, it perks up. so i quit applications. sometimes i even restart to resolve an issue. i use onyx as a maintenance utility and it requires a restart for a full job. i use the desktop as a place to temporarily place items, even when in a finder window, and there is nothing wrong with that. i tried the diskk in the dock technique, but prefer using finder shortcuts to go directly to places like applications and utility’s. hell, now that i use butler i seem to be just using butler. and i have no idea why a person would track uptime like there were a prize to be won. if i were the guy with the g5 at work, i’d leave it on all the time. then os x could run its regular maintanence.

  6. basically same here. I have a 5+ yr old Pismo running 10.3.8 and Bookendz dock w/21″ monitor at work (plus all sorts of USB, network and FW devices plugged into the dock). The dock is handy. Then at home just wirelessly using the PB alone.

    But what’s with you having to click on “detect monitors”? I don’t do that – I didn’t even know there was such a thing ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” /> I just plug the Powerbook into the dock then lift the lid to wake it up and the big screen is detected – the monitor wakes up spanning the desktop as before. I think as long as the monitor is plugged in before the machine wakes, it should detect it fine without any specific user command.

    The Locations menu is a real timesaver, I have probably a dozen different settings for the various locations I frequently travel to – just a simple click and ready to go. Meanwhile my Windoze coworkers are busy futzing with TCP/IP settings (“can you connect, yet?…”) Speaking of PCs, what’s with the crazy long sleep/wakeup time for a PC laptop while it saves the world to disk/recovers from disk? The instant wakeup/sleep of the Powerbook is nice, just shut or open the lid.

  7. My powerbook is always on with restarts only for software updates. I am no expert, but I have heard that constant powering on and off can reduce the life of the components. I’d be very interested to know if that is based in fact.

    I do, however, shut down apps like Safari when they are not being used. With 512MB of RAM, I notice a difference if too many apps are running simultaneously.

  8. Geez, I tend to not side with never shutting down thing. I have this fear of lugging around my PB (AL 1.25) while on even though, I feel its well protected when its off. It doesn’t make alot of sense I guess, but after that article, I’m thinking about trying that today. Also I can’t sleep my G5 1.8 because of all the sleep issues. I can’t wait for a fix on that..

  9. I wish Apple would advertize this functionality more. I am amazed at how long my Windoze laptop takes to boot up or shutdown. Even the “Standby” and “Hibernate” functions take seemingly forever. Anyone else ever compare their Mac to a Windows machine in this way?

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