Sleep vs Hibernate – What’s the Difference in Windows?

Aside from turning off your PC, Windows gives you a couple of other options that can preserve power. The most widely used ones are Sleep and Hibernate. Both of these options are especially useful if you have a laptop, since they can ensure longer battery life without having to shut it down.

Each of these options come with some pros and cons. However, many people don’t even know what the difference is. Understanding them can help your PC or laptop save power, and save the time that you’d otherwise have to spend waiting for your device to start.

To help you understand these two options, let’s take a closer look at them.

Sleep Mode

Sleep mode happens after you haven’t used your PC for a certain amount of time (which can be set by the user). Essentially, it’s like pausing a movie. All of your apps and windows stay open, and your device uses its RAM memory to preserve the state that you left it in.

When you come back and move the mouse, everything is exactly the way you left it. Startup is usually very fast, and it doesn’t take more than a second or two to bring everything back. It’s really nothing more than just a Standby mode.

When Should You Use It?

Your PC will go into sleep mode automatically to save power. Windows set the time by default but you can change it or disable sleep mode altogether. It’s best to use it if you won’t be needing your device for a short period of time. So if you need to rush out of your office and grab a quick bite, Sleep Mode can be useful.

If you’re using a laptop and your battery is close to dying, the last waking state of your device gets saved to disk. This means that whenever you plug it back in, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off.

However, a desktop doesn’t have a battery option, so what happens if there’s a chance that you might lose your work? There’s a neat feature called Hybrid Sleep, which works similarly to regular Sleep, with a couple more features.

Hybrid Sleep

Hybrid Sleep lets your device use its RAM memory to store all the information and settings that might be lost in case of a threat. Another thing that it does is write information to disk and ensures that no information will be lost.

It allows a quick startup, and your work shouldn’t be lost. Hybrid Sleep is enabled on desktop devices by default, but that’s not the case with laptops. The reason for this is that laptops already have a failsafe. However, if you want to enable it, here’s what to do:

1. Go to Start > Settings > System

2. Click Power and Sleep

3. Go to Additional sower settings, and click Change plan settings > Change advanced power settings

4. Click the + next to both Sleep and Allow Hybrid Sleep

5. Click Setting, then the dropdown arrow, then On

6. Click Apply > OK.

You’ll then have Hybrid Sleep activated, and there will be no reason to worry about losing your work.


Hibernate allows your PC to save all the information to the hard drive, rather than RAM memory. When this happens, your PC can turn off completely, so it uses no energy. Once you turn it on again, it will still be the exact way you left it.

The startup process is much faster than turning on your PC after it’s been shut down. It still takes a bit more time than Sleep, but the difference isn’t that big (depending on the speed of your PC). It’s best to use Hibernate if you think you won’t be using your PC for a longer period of time and you don’t want to close your documents.

So if you’re power-conscious, or want to preserve your laptop’s battery life without turning it off, Hibernate is the best solution.

In any event, this is how it works. Your PC will go into sleep after a short period of time. If you don’t wake it up, it’ll go into hibernate after another period of time. You can set both sleep time and hibernate time manually – and you can also disable one or both.

Should You Shut Down Your PC?

Even though these features come in handy, you’ll still want to shut down your PC at times. This is when Windows updates automatically.

You can also simply restart it occasionally. It will allow it to clear memory and cache, though you can also do this in Command Prompt.

The Final Word

Now that you know how these features work, you can take full advantage of them.

Whatever you do, make sure to not leave your PC running for a long period of time. This might slow it down and even shorten the life of some components.

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