Set your computer to turn on and off on a schedule

Save some energy and give your poor computer a break by getting it to run on a set timetable.
A person sitting in front of a desktop computer in an office, using a laptop. She should learn to schedule a shutdown on Windows.
When you've got a lot of work to do, you might not want to wait for your computer to turn on. Mimi Thian / Unsplash

Maybe you’re used to turning your computer on every day with the power button and off every evening with a few clicks—or perhaps you just leave it running around the clock. Instead, save yourself some time by making your computer turn on and shut down on a schedule.

Not only will you save money on energy bills, but you’ll also have your PC or Mac booted up and waiting for you in the morning when you reach the office (or home office). You can also leave your computer working on a task (like a hefty download or a long video encoding process) knowing that it will switch off when it’s done. Or maybe you just want to fall asleep to some streaming video, without leaving your laptop or desktop running all night—there are lots of ways to use this superpower.

How to automatically turn on a Windows PC

The screen you'll see when trying to schedule a shutdown in Windows 10.
If only we had an automatic shutdown program to help us sleep. David Nield

Powering up a PC on a schedule requires a bit of digging around in the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) that launches before Windows does. On computers sold in the last few years, the BIOS has been replaced by the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), but they do a very similar job.

To get to the BIOS or UEFI, you’ll need to press a specific key while your computer is booting up. Which one varies from device to device, but it’s usually F2, F8, Delete, or Esc. The key you’ll need should be displayed on screen during the startup process, but if you’re really stuck, try looking for documentation for your PC’s make and model on the web.

[Related: Small, game-changing utilities for Windows and macOS]

Different manufacturers configure their BIOS or UEFI differently, so we can’t give you exact instructions for how to find the scheduling feature, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to track down—look for some kind of advanced settings or power management menu after you press the proper key. If you can’t find anything, your PC might not have this feature at all, but you should check the web to make sure.

The Dell desktop we used as a test machine for this guide was running Windows 10, and we pressed F2 to enter the BIOS screen. There, we found an Auto Power On option under the Power menu. This gave us the choice to turn the computer on at a certain time every day or on one particular day, but as we’ve said, your PC may be slightly different.

Alternative ways to enter the Windows BIOS/UEFI

On a Windows 11 Lenovo laptop, we were able to access the BIOS/UEFI mode while the computer was still on by navigating through its settings. You can also use the Windows Terminal app. Just know that these two methods are somewhat more complicated and you’ll want to make sure you save all your work before you proceed. Although you’ll be starting with a device that’s already on, you’ll still have to reboot it in the end.

From the Settings app, choose System on the left, then scroll down to click on Recovery. Under the Recovery options heading, find Advanced startup and hit Restart now. Here, Windows will warn you to save your work, but if you’ve already done so you can click Restart now from the dialog box. On the next screen, go to Troubleshoot, Advanced Options, UEFI Firmware Settings, and hit Restart to enter BIOS/UEFI.

If you’d rather use the Terminal app, search for it via the Start menu. Open it and enter this command (without the period at the end): shutdown /r /o /f /t 00. Hit Enter to restart your computer. From the “Choose an Option” screen that appears, click Troubleshoot, Advanced Options, UEFI Firmware Settings, and then Restart.

How to schedule a shutdown on Windows 10 or 11

Shutting down a Windows computer on a schedule is much more straightforward. Use the taskbar search box or Start menu to look for and launch the Task Scheduler program, then click Create Basic Task and give it any name you like.

Work through the task creation process, using the Next buttons to move through the steps. Along the way, you can pick the days and times you want the scheduled shutdown to occur, and have it repeat automatically or leave it as a one-off action. When you get to the Action screen, choose Start a program and enter shutdown.exe as the program to launch. You’ll see a summary, and can click Finish to confirm the scheduling.

To see all the tasks you’ve set up, go back to the main Task Schedule interface and click Task Scheduler Library. You can edit and delete them from here using the options on the right side of the panel. Note that you can configure multiple tasks for multiple times on multiple days if you need to (so your PC automatically shuts down at a different time on a Sunday than a Monday, for example).

How to automatically turn a Mac on and off

The screen you'll see when you schedule an automatic startup or shutdown on macOS.
Make sure your Apple computer is only on when you want it to be on. David Nield

If you’re using a version of macOS that predates Ventura, you’ve got it easy and can skip to the following subsection. But if you’ve upgraded to Apple’s latest operating system, scheduling automatic shutdowns and boots is quite a bit more complicated than it used to be.

You used to be able to tell your Mac to shut down and start up on a schedule by clicking through obvious options in the macOS system settings, but all of those are gone in Ventura. Now, you’ll have to use the Terminal app. To find it, search for it on your computer using Spotlight search or your preferred app-locating method.

Inside this app, you’ll be using a “pmset” command, and there are a few things you’ll need to know before you build one:

  • Dates are formatted as MM/DD/YY, so April 10, 2021 would be 04/10/21.
  • Time is formatted as HH:MM:SS, so 9 a.m. would be 09:00:00.
  • Days of the week are generally formatted using their first letter (Monday is “M”, but there are two exceptions: Thursday is “R” and Sunday is “U”.

Whether you’d like to schedule your Mac to shut down, start up, or reboot, the commands follow a similar pattern. You may also need to enter your password before your computer will complete the task. Use these examples as guides to create your own schedule:

  • Automatic startup: To get your device to turn on every weekday at, say, 8:59 a.m. (the minute before you sit down at your desk), enter sudo pmset repeat poweron MTWRF 08:59:00 into the Terminal. If you’re someone who puts your computer to sleep instead, you can replace “poweron” with “wake”.
  • Automatic shutdown: If you want your Mac to shut down every Friday at 5 p.m., enter sudo pmset repeat shutdown F 17:00:00 into the Terminal. This may just stop you from working into the weekend.
  • Schedule restart: For an automatic macOS restart every other day at 3 a.m., enter sudo pmset repeat restart MWFU 03:00:00 into the Terminal. Maybe now you won’t keep putting off those updates.

How to schedule a Mac shutdown, startup, or reboot in older versions of macOS

Unlike with macOS Ventura, you don’t need to bother with the Terminal app to schedule various tasks in older versions of the OS. Instead, open the Apple menu, then choose System Preferences. To get to the scheduling screen, click Energy Saver and Change Settings (on a desktop Mac), or Battery and Schedule (on a MacBook).

Check the Start up or wake box, and you can set a startup time for every day, only weekdays, just the weekend, or on a single day of your choosing—just use the drop-down lists to set your preference.

[Related: 23 useful Mac settings hiding in plain sight]

The next check box has three options: Sleep, Restart, or Shut Down. Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll get the same choices you do with starting up the Mac. Click Apply to confirm your choices.

A few notes to remember: You can’t have multiple timings for different days, just one startup and one shutdown time for each day you scheduled automation. On a MacBook, startup scheduling will only work if the laptop is plugged in and charging.

Scheduled shutdowns only work when you’re logged into your Mac or MacBook and it’s awake (so you can’t go from a sleep state to a full shutdown). Plus, as with any manual shutdown, certain apps might stop it—like if you have unsaved work open and a save box pops up.

This story has been updated. It was originally published on April 29, 2021.