Why should I use a screensaver?
Today, screensavers do not serve the same purpose as they did in the past, when they actually saved your screen from what is called "image burn-in". On certain types of computer displays, a prolonged, non-moving image would literally be burned into the screen if no screensaver was used to replace it. Now that the technology behind computer and handheld displays has advanced, this sort of "screen burn" is rare, and you may be wondering: why should I use a screensaver?
Weighing the pros and cons
Disadvantages of screensavers
If your main concern is either with the longevity of your display or the preservation of energy, the single best way to "save your screen" is to power it off. There is no substitute for this: turning off your display, whether manually or automatically after a specified period of time, saves power and extends the lifetime of the device.
Moreover, when a screensaver is activated, a certain amount of processing power (CPU) and memory (RAM) is used to project images onto your screen. The severity depends on the type of screensaver: a complex, 3D-rendered and animated projection will use significantly more resources than a simple slideshow of photos. This is becoming less of a concern, now that modern computers are increasingly powerful and efficient in their use of energy.
Users of computers that get their power from a rechargeable battery, such as laptops, netbooks and tablets, are generally advised to set strict power management rules and not to use screensavers for long periods of time, unless the device is attached to an electrical socket by means of a power cord. Otherwise, a screensaver may quickly drain the battery and cause a shortage of power that may lead to a loss of unsaved work.
Advantages of screensavers
Despite the above flaws, screensavers have remained popular, and for good reason: they can be very entertaining. From slideshows of paradisiacal photographs to story-telling animations, among the thousands of available screensavers there is bound to be something for everyone. A screensaver can add to the festivity and decorations during the holidays, or add life and color to a room by projecting a virtual aquarium onto the screen.
Furthermore, screensavers can be password-protected, preventing anyone from accessing your computer once the screensaver has started. Some screensavers even perform a useful task, such as scanning your hard drive for viruses, or taking part in a distributed computing project, while others may be educational or offer news headlines.
Conclusion: it's up to you!
While the initial purpose of a screensaver has somewhat lost its relevance in this day and age, it is still a great way to personalize your computer, as you might with other desktop enhancements such as wallpaper.
If you combine your screensaver with efficient power management settings, you get the best of both worlds: you could use a screensaver for short periods of inactivity, and then allow your computer to turn off the screen when you are away for longer periods of time. So, should you use a screensaver? It's up to you!