PC tips: What's difference between Shutdown, Sleep, and Hibernate

When you’ve finished working with PC and no longer need to use it, you have three options. You can choose Sleep or Hibernate mode, or you can shut it down completely. Each option is a trade-off between saving power, and therefore battery life, and convenience.

Sleep vs Hibernate vs Shut Down

Sleep mode is the most convenient, because it allows you to start working with your PC again from where you left off. However, it’s the least power efficient mode because although it uses much less power than when your PC is awake, it still uses some power to run background processes. How much power it uses depends on which background processes run while it’s asleep.

Hibernation mode is a ‘deeper’ sleep. It essentially saves the contents of RAM to disk and then shuts down, so it uses no power. However, it takes longer to wake up and get going again.

Shutting down your PC means that it uses no power. However, starting it up again can take several minutes, particularly if you have lots of autorun applications and there are updates waiting to be installed.

For laptop, sleep, hibernation modes or shut down are important as long as they impact the life cycle of battery. As to the PC users, it should be noted that power fluctuations may shorten the lifespan of its components, like motherboard. That's why it is important to know what's best for your PC.

How to enable the Hibernate option for your PC

On Windows 11, the Hibernate mode requires an extra switch. To make it visible among other Power options, use the following path:

  1. On the Taskbar, search for Control Panel
  2. Navigate to System & Security settings
  3. Find Power options on the right panel
  4. Now, click "Change what the power buttons do"
  5. At the bottom of the following menu, tick the ✅ box for Hibernate.

Well done. Now, you'll have an extra option for Hibernate in the Power menu.

    When to use PC sleep mode

    If you’ve finished working or using your PC for the moment but plan to come back later, say in an hour or so, putting your PC to sleep makes sense. The difference in power usage in the space of a couple of hours is minimal, but the convenience of being able to pick up where you left off is much greater.

    You can put your PC to sleep by clicking the Start menu, and then the power button and choosing Sleep. Sleep mode is a good option when there is no risk of power outage, because unlike hibernation it doesn't save all your work as it is.

    Tip: Before you put your PC to sleep, make sure you save any documents you’ve been working on. Don’t rely on autosave to keep them safe. If you are worried about losing your work, opt for the Hibernate mode.

    When to use Hibernate mode 

    The main benefit of Hibernate mode is that it allows you to resume working exactly where you left off. So all the apps you were using will be open, and all the documents and windows that were open will be ready for you to continue. However, because it has to save the contents of RAM to disk in order to ‘remember’ what you were doing, it takes longer to shut down than either sleep or a regular shutdown. It also takes longer to start up again because it has to read all the data from the file.

    If you’re working in lots of documents and want to get back up and running quickly when you return, but are likely to be away from your computer for more than an hour or two, Hibernation mode is a good compromise between sleep and full shutdown.

    Tip: If you don’t use Hibernation mode and don’t plan to use it, it’s worth disabling it. The Hibernation file can take up lots of space on your hard drive and SSD, even if you never actually put your PC into Hibernation mode.

    To disable Hibernation, use CleanMy® PC. It makes it easy to disable the hibernation file at the click of a button. Launch CleanMy® PC and click Hibernation in the sidebar, then press Disable. That all you need to do!

    sleep or hibernate

    When to shut down your PC

    Shutting down your PC closes all the apps that were open, clears the contents of RAM, and gets rid of temporary files that were created during the sessions – provided you shut down properly. If your PC shuts down suddenly, it may not delete temporary files. The main advantage of shutting down your PC is that it saves power, but it also ‘refreshes’ Windows by getting rid of those temporary files and it allows downloaded updates to be installed.

    The disadvantage is that it takes more time to start up again than if you just put your PC to sleep and that you’ll have to re-open all the apps and documents you need to work on. Also, if you have lots of autorun programs, you’ll have to wait while they all get up and running before startup completes. Regardless, it’s a good idea to shut down your PC at least once a week. It will stop temporary files building up and make sure updates are installed.

    As you can see, it’s important to choose the correct option between sleep, hibernation modes or complete shutdown when you finish working with your PC. Hibernation offers convenience, but not much else and can be even slower than shutting down completely. Sleep is useful for when you’ll only be away for an hour or two, but you should shut your PC down completely at least once every week or two. 

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