Hibernate, Sleep, or Shut Down. What Should I Use?

Should I hibernate, sleep, or shut down my computer? Whether you are concerned about efficiency, your device’s health, or energy consumption, this is something most of us have wondered before. Perhaps you have even consulted with multiple professionals and received mixed feedback on what is best. While each of these power-down options appears to shut off your computer, they all work differently. Because of this, it is important to first define, what each of these power-down options mean.

  • Shut down: This is the power-off state most of us are familiar with. When you shut down your computer, all your open programs close and the computer shuts down your operating system. This power-down option also uses an extremely small amount of power, making it a good choice for energy conservation. However, it is also frequently the least time efficient, as when you want to use your computer again, you will have to turn it on, go through the boot-up process, and wait for startup programs to load. Depending on your system, this can take only a few seconds, or last several minutes.
  • Sleep: In sleep mode, the computer enters a low-power state. The computer’s state is kept in memory, but other parts of the computer are shut down and won’t use any power. When you turn on the computer, it snaps back to life quickly—you won’t have to wait for it to boot up. Everything will be right where you left of, including running apps and open documents.
  • Hibernate: Your computer saves its current state to your hard drive. When you boot up your computer, your computer’s state will be saved, including all opened programs and data, so you can quickly access any work you’ve stepped away from. It takes longer to resume from hibernate than sleep, but hibernate uses much less power than sleep.

Now that we have defined the different power-down states, it’s time to lay out which option is best based upon your situation.

  • Shut down– This is the best choice if you will be infrequently using your computer or performing maintenance on it. Some examples of this are:
    1. If you’re using your computer on Monday and know you won’t need it again until Saturday.
    2. If you plan on traveling by plane but will not be using your device during travel.
    3. If you will be leaving your computer behind for a long period of time, such as a taking a vacation.
    4. Whenever you plan to remove power from your computer, such as taking out the battery.
  • Sleep– This choice allows your computer to start up much faster, and you’re instantly back where you left off. Use sleep when you’re going to be away from your PC for just a little while, such as:
    1. When you leave for lunch of a meeting.
    2. Overnight if you plan on using your computer first thing in the morning.
  • Hibernate– Hibernation is a good option when you know you won’t use your laptop for an extended period of time and you are unsure of when you’ll have the chance to charge it again. This is also a good option for desktop users concerned about power consumption as it doesn’t use as much as sleep mode.
    1. Overnight, if you plan on using your computer first thing in the morning.
    2. If you need to quickly access your work later but aren’t sure if or when you’ll have a charging outlet available to you.