4

Comparing Sleep, Hibernation, and Hybrid Sleep on Windows

Posted by Jim Tanous on March 18, 2013
Computer Power Button

Putting a computer into a low power mode while not in use can save energy, reduce noise (if you have a particularly loud device), and help increase the longevity of components. There are several different ways that a computer can enter a low power state, and while Macs automatically manage power options by default, Windows gives users control over which method to use. Here’s a look at each power saving option.

Sleep

Sleep turns off most computer components except for RAM. Active data is kept in RAM as a computer is used, but RAM is volatile, meaning that it cannot maintain data without power. This compares to hard drives and solid state drives, which are non-volatile and do not require constant power. In other words, if a user has a file open that has not been saved to a hard drive and exists only in RAM, that file will be lost if the computer loses power. Conversely, a file saved to a hard drive will not be lost in the event of a power failure.
Because sleep keeps active data stored in RAM, this means that as long as power from the battery or wall remains available, the computer can remain in a sleep state indefinitely while protecting user data that was active at the time of sleep. If power is lost at any time, however, data that was stored only in RAM will be lost.
Considering this risk, the benefit of sleep is that it allows a user to resume their computer almost instantly, as all the data is still in RAM and only power to the display and other components needs to be restored. As a result, sleep is primarily beneficial for desktop PC users, who have a relatively unlimited source of power from the wall.
Laptop users can also use sleep, but they risk losing their unsaved data if the battery runs out. Some laptop manufacturers have compensated for this risk by configuring the system to automatically enter hibernation mode (discussed next) if the battery nears empty.

Hibernate

Unlike sleep, which keeps active data stored in RAM, hibernate writes all active data to the hard drive and then powers off the components as if the computer were fully turned off. Hibernation uses almost no power but takes longer to start back up because data must be read from the hard drive back into RAM before the system will be usable. Depending on the amount of data in active RAM and the speed of the hard drive, this process can take as little as a few seconds all the way up to a minute or more.
The advantage over simply shutting down the computer and restarting, however, is that a user’s data is restored to the point at which they entered hibernation, allowing the user to pick up where they left off. As mentioned above, hibernation uses almost no energy and is therefore recommended for laptops as well as for energy-conscious desktop users. Just be prepared to wait a bit to resume working after deciding to wake up a hibernating system.

Hybrid Sleep

Introduced in 2007 as part of Windows Vista, hybrid sleep attempts to merge the benefits of both standard sleep and hibernation. When enabled, hybrid sleep writes active data to the hard drive (like hibernation), but also maintains low levels of power to RAM (like standard sleep). This allows a user to wake the computer quickly, but also protects user data with a copy on the hard drive in the event of a power failure.
Enable Hybrid Sleep Windows
Hybrid sleep is generally a feature available only on desktops (you may find it in some custom laptops using desktop-class components), and is enabled by going to Control Panel > Power Options > Edit Plan Settings > Change Advanced Power Settings > Sleep > Allow Hybrid Sleep. Once enabled, activating standard sleep will automatically trigger hybrid sleep and a copy of data in RAM will be written to the local hard drive.

Choosing Your Method

You’ll choose your low power method from the Power Menu in Windows. Standard sleep and hibernate will both be listed depending on your PC’s configuration. If you don’t see one of the options, go to Control Panel > Power Options > Choose What the Power Buttons Do and check the “Hibernate” or “Sleep” boxes under “Shutdown Settings.”
Enable Hibernation and Sleep Buttons Windows
If you want to use hybrid sleep, follow the steps listed in the hybrid sleep section of this article to enable it and then select “Sleep” from the Windows power menu.
Windows Power Options
Regardless of which option you choose, always be sure to save your data before leaving the computer. Even though options like hibernate and hybrid sleep will write your unsaved data to the hard drive, errors can still occur and the few seconds it takes to manually save data pale in comparison to the cost and time of data recovery.

4 thoughts on “Comparing Sleep, Hibernation, and Hybrid Sleep on Windows”

Ralph Perry says:
I have a question about the hybrid sleep state: If a program is scheduled to start when Windows is in the hybrid sleep state, will Windows “awaken” and run the program as scheduled, or will the program have to wait for another event to awaken Windows before it can start?
Reply
seanivo says:
My problem is to KEEP the computer asleep once it goes to sleep – I like the utility WinSleep (MollieSoft) since it will do that.
Reply
Alessandro Martinelli says:
if you’re talking abount avoiding computer going to hibernation after some time in sleep mode, you can simply to this in
control panel –>
power option –>
advanced power settings (for your plan) –>
sleep –>
hibernate after: set this value to Never.
Reply
God says:
What a fucking horrible explanation. Please get a fucking clue before you share your bulshit with the public.
Reply
Benyamin Limanto says:
If everday i choose to hibernate? is that good? i need comfirmation. i run on Win7 64 bit with Home Premium OEM and also when hibernating i close every programs… thx before…
Reply
Sam Meeks says:
It sounds like the only downside to hibernate is that it is slower to “start up” and be functional at the point where you left off. It saves all your active stuff to the hard drive so it cant be lost, even if your computer loses power. If you are okay with the amount of time it takes for your computer to be up and running then I’d say you’re okay. Sounds like you don’t really need to close everything before you put it in hibernate.
Reply
ADTC says:
You are defeating the purpose of hibernation by closing all programs. The intention of sleep/hibernate is that you can quickly put the computer in a low power state while you still have all your programs still open and running, and later wake it up and return to normal state so that you continue working from where you left off, without having to open your programs and documents again (because they were already open before hibernation). If you close all your programs, you might as well just shut down the computer!
Also hibernate is OK to do everyday (sleep is better), but I suggest restarting every week. As time passes, your current Windows session gets stale and bloated, especially if there are memory leaks. A restart will refresh the system with a new & fresh Windows session.
Reply
Rated Republican says:
If you use hibernate or sleep all the time, you should restart the computer at least once every day or two because the computer can start acting funky after a while after all of the changes you have made to it.
Reply

Leave a Reply to seanivo Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.