Whether to Make Windows Sleep, Hibernate or Shutdown

When we press the shutdown button on Microsoft Windows, we are presented with at least four choices – shutdown, sleep, hibernate or restart. This feature has left hundreds of Windows users confused. To enlighten us confused users on the subject, let us consult a reliable authority on things that are Windowish  – the user manual or online help.

In today’s world where energy efficiency and and green computing is becoming more important, computers adopt what is called a power management system. For most people, power management is defining how a computer behaves when it is not being used for a while. A while may mean a lot of things – like what do we want to happen to our computer when we are out for lunch ( an hour at most), when we are on a plane (a few hours maybe), or when its time for us to get some sleep (at least six to eight hours).

When we make a clear signal that we want to leave the computer (like closing the lid) the default action for Windows computers is to go to sleep. Online help says that when in sleep mode, the computer stores its state  – meaning the combination of software that is open, the data residing in the software, and the position of the windows on the screen – in memory, powers off the display and the hard disk and basically consumes 1 to 2 percent of battery charge per hour. This small drain is actually the power used by RAM to keep computer state alive in memory. Resumption of work state, when the lid is opened for example, typically happens in a matter of seconds. For older Windows versions like XP, standby mode is equivalent to sleep mode. It is safe to move the computer when asleep. If we started working at home and need to continue working at the office, sleep mode ensures that our hard disk will not suffer mechanical failure when the computer is being moved a lot.

When the computer has been left to sleep too long, battery reserve may reach a critical level and Windows transfers state previously saved in memory into the hard disk and turns off.

Hibernate saves the computers state into the hard disk and afterwards, the machine is shut down. When the machine is awakened, usually by pressing a key or opening the lid, the computer resumes saved state and we can continue where we left off. Although the computer is powered back on after hibenating, the long boot-up process is avoided and is much faster than booting up after a real shutdown.

Windows help actually discourages full computer shutdowns. When you have to leave your computer for a couple of hours, letting it sleep is the best option. When you have to leave your computer for a couple of days, hibernation is recommended. The only time our computer is shutdown completely is when we have to open it to replace or add some parts.

One comment

  • firefoxuser

    Thanks for the information – I never really understood what hibernation was (:

    I am still wondering some things though. Why is it recommended to never fully shut down? Is it rougher on the hard drive to do that? Also, what about when we have to keep re-starting for all these ‘updates’ that are always recommended?

    Thanks again!

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