Shutdown – Sleep – Hibernate

There are many ways to shut down and restart your computer but – which does what, and which should you use when?

The answer depends mostly on you the user.  Do you want to save energy?  Do you use your computer every day?   

With Windows you have three main shut-down options.  Shut-Down, Sleep and Hibernate.

Sleep mode is most efficient for both Macs and PCs. A primary advantage of using sleep mode is that you have easy access to your work when you “wake up” your computer, since you don’t have to reopen applications as you do when you boot up the machine from being completely powered down.  In terms of energy use, sleep mode does use some power, but not much, and no battery power (assuming your computer is plugged in). Remember that fully shutting down and booting up your computer uses power too.

The Hibernate function was intended primarily for laptop users (though available for Desktop Computers as well). This mode let you save much more power when not using your computer (as in saving battery). When you put the computer in Hibernate Mode, it stores the contents of your RAM (Services, clipboard etc.) to your hard-drive (hiberfile.sys) which on reboot is read back into the RAM.  This takes about a minute to be completed, but on the upside you do save more energy.

If your concern is to save energy, and you don’t mind the longer Boot Up time – then you should always use the “Shut Down” option. This will shut down every running service and application and wipe clean your RAM.  There are times when you need to completely shut down your computer, such as when installing new hardware or software. Remember – it is best to shut down completely in case of lightning storms or if you won’t be using your computer for several days or more.


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