Sunday, January 22, 2012

PC - Sleep vs Hibernate vs Shutdown (Windows 7 Power-Off Options)

I've been often asked on how I turn off my Windows 7 PC after use. For most of the time, I'd let it Hibernate. At the end of the day, I’d mostly opt for the Shutdown button. Windows 7 Sleep? I barely use it, though I've always set my PC to sleep after being inactive for 30 minutes. When I'm downloading big files, I'd skip on that option as it pauses or stops the process. The question is which option would I recommend?

IMHO, it depends on the user. Let me further dissect on each power-saving mode.


What exactly happens in a Window 7 Sleep state is that the computer saves your current session to memory and switches to a low-power mode with just enough voltage to power the RAM for preserving the stored session thus making Sleep the (only?) function that uses the most power of all power-off options. This option automatically locks your desktop (to avoid other people from accessing your session) and noticeably puts most hardware to a stop specially the computer screen. The session resumes when you "wake up" your computer.

Sleep vs Hibernate, Windows 7? Simple. If you're just going away from the keyboard for a short period (like taking a lunch, getting some sunlight, or breathing in some fresh air), Sleep mode is fairly suggested as it allows you to resume to your last session within seconds. If you’d be away for more than an hour, use the Hibernate function.


The Hibernate option plays between Shutdown and Sleep. Simply said, it shutdowns the PC to sleep - completely turning the computer off yet still saving the last session the user was working on. Upon execution, your PC saves the current session from the RAM to the hard drive (named hiberfile.sys) thus eliminating the need for power to keep the session running on memory. On reboot, the saved session from the hard drive is read back into the RAM and the computer resumes on your last session (services, clipboard, etc.). Restarting from hibernation usually takes a minute or less on most systems (faster than rebooting from a Shutdown). Most laptops operating on batteries are by default set to go into hibernation mode when they reach a certain low battery level (5% usually).

As I mentioned earlier, this mode is what I use the most. Sometimes, after a day's work, I'd decide to have my PC go into hibernation than shutting it down specially when I would have to resume working on the same session the next day. Other than that, I’d execute the Win 7 Shutdown command.


It's now safe to turn off your computer. Missed that line? Yep! The oldschool power-off function. Sadly, the truth that there’s no Windows 7 shutdown screen similar to the old versions kills the nostalgia. I won't deny the fact that shutting down your PC is still important as it shuts off all running services and wipes the RAM clean of any processes. In plain statement, Shutdown is Hibernate minus Sleep. More importantly, even if it takes a while for the computer to restart from this mode (slowest of all three options), it gives you a fresh and clean session to start on. Shutting down is also recommended after installing most programs and some updates.

How about you? Which would you prefer?

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