All of Your Questions About Power Button On/Off Symbols, Answered

updated Aug 23, 2023
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Brand new Apple iPhone 5S with slide to power off option on a screen lying on a desk. Apple iPhone 5s, is developed by Apple inc. and was released on September 20, 2013.
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Electronics are part of daily life. Whether you’re brewing your morning coffee or using a computer at work, turning things on or off is essential at some point. However, if you look closely at the button, you may notice symbols that look like an I and an 0 instead of the actual words “on” and “off.” If you don’t know the reasoning behind the symbolism, it can be difficult to remember which direction to toggle. From history to differentiating among types, here’s a simple answer to the question, “What is the symbol for on and off?”

Why Do We Have Power Button Symbols?

When you first move into a house, it takes a while to get used to which light switch goes with what fixture, and then there’s the matter of knowing which direction to flick the switch. The same applies to power switches, and on/off buttons are common on devices. However, not everyone around the world speaks the same language, so the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) designed a symbol for global use. 

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How Was the Power Symbol Created?

The I and 0 are based on the binary system, with “I” as the number one and “0” as zero. Pushing the side of the button with “I” will turn your device on. Conversely,”0” means off. An easy way to differentiate is to think of the 0 as allowing your electronics to do zero functions, therefore, turned off. It’s also important to remember that your device will still receive power when plugged in to a working outlet.

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What Is the On Power Button Symbol?

The “I,” also known as IEC 5007 or the straight line symbol, will allow power to reach your device. When this symbol appears on a button or one end of a toggle switch, it indicates that your electronic is fully powered and can perform necessary functions. 

What Is the Power Off Symbol?

The “0,” also known as IEC 5008 or the circle symbol, cuts off power from your device. If you see this symbol at the end of a toggle switch or on a button, it means that using it will disconnect power from your device. 

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What Is the I and O Symbol on a Switch?

If you see both symbols combined, it usually looks like a broken circle with a line running through or a full circle with a line suspended within. Although these power symbols use both binary characters, there is a difference between the two. 

If you see a full circle with a line in the middle that doesn’t touch the ring, this is the IEC 5010 symbol. When pressed, it functions to turn the device on and off, therefore making only one button necessary to power the device.

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The other option is the IEC 5009 symbol, which has a broken circle with a line that reaches the center of the ring. Often referred to as the standby symbol, it indicates a low-power state or sleep mode. Some devices will use a crescent moon, or IEC 1621, to show sleep mode.