What's the best way to turn off my Mac? Should I Log Out, Sleep, or Shut Down? Or should I just close the lid on my MacBook when I've finished?

The best way to turn off your Mac is a hotly contested debate amongst Apple fans. Because OS X is an operating system with a long history, there are lots of different ways to turn the operating system off. Each of these has its uses, and merits.

In general, when you have finished using a Mac you can do any of the following things:

  • Sleep. Choose Apple menu > Sleep.
  • Shut Down. Choose Apple menu > Shutdown and click Shut Down.
  • Log Out. Choose Apple menu > Log Out and click Log Out.
  • Close Lid. If you have a MacBook, you can close the lid, which places your Mac in sleep mode.
  • Energy Saver. Leave the Mac alone and eventually it should sleep on its accord. Open System Preferences and choose Energy Saver > Power Adapter / Battery. Ensure in both settings that Computer Sleep is not set to Never (or click Restore Defaults). The default is 10 minutes, but if you want to use this as your default option, you may want to choose a shorter time.

Read next: Best Mac security tips

What's best for a Mac: Log Out, Sleep or Shut Down?

Choosing Sleep or Shut Down from the Apple menu

There are pros and cons to each method of turning off your Mac.

  • Choosing sleep: If you choose to put your Mac to sleep, it instantly switches off and idles. For the average Mac user putting your computer to sleep is the option to go for. On the down side, Sleep mode uses a small amount of power, and older Macs may run out of juice quite quickly if left disconnected.
  • Choose Log Out: The advantage of choosing Log Out is primarily security. You will need to log in to use your Mac again. This is useful if you use your Mac in a public place and don't want anybody else using it. Your Mac will automatically go into sleep mode, or you can then click Sleep from the Log Out screen.
  • Choosing Shut Down: The advantage of using Shut Down is that the Mac clears out system temp, swap and cache files when booting up. Some system updates are installed automatically on boot up so routinely restarting your Mac is a good idea. The downside is that it takes longer to Shut Down and Start Up your Mac.

Most users choose to Sleep their Mac or leave it till it goes into sleep mode.

There used to be an argument in favour of Sleep over Shut Down because OS X ran scripts (known as "cron jobs") during the night. This is no longer the case as OS X smartly runs cron jobs in the background or when it detects inactivity.

Sleep or Shut Down: Which option should I choose?

Setting the OS X Energy Saver preferences

For most users who work on a Mac daily, we recommend using Sleep when you've decided to finish work. The Mac will idle on low power usage, and be ready when you next need it.

If you use your Mac infrequently (not every day) then we suggest Shut Down. This will help conserve battery life on MacBooks, and is more energy-efficient (and a cost-saving measure).

Read next:

How to use System Preferences in Mac OS X Yosemite

How to force quit on a Mac, close programs that aren't responding

How to access your Mac remotely

Super-advanced tips for Mac OS X Yosemite