What Is The Difference Between Sleep And Hibernate On A Laptop?

If you have been a laptop user for any length of time, you have probably asked yourself the question, “what is the difference between sleep and hibernate on a laptop?” We will answer this question for you in full in this guide.

Often, laptops have four different power options that you can choose from, and your laptop may also have a fifth option. Typically, the options are:

  1. Shut down
  2. Restart
  3. Hibernate
  4. Sleep
  5. Hybrid sleep

We will explain in detail what all of these really mean. When you own and use a laptop, you need to be conscious of power consumption, mainly if you use the battery to power a lot. So, you need to use the best power option to choose when you are not using your laptop for a while.

People have different habits with laptop use. Some will leave their machines powered on 24 hours a day because they want to be ready for work immediately. We do not recommend this. Other people will completely shut down their laptops even if they just step away for a few minutes.

You can make the right choice by fully understanding these power modes and how they work. So, we will explain each one in simple terms here to decide which is best for any situation with your laptop.

Different Power Modes on Windows

Windows 10 power modes

1. Shut Down your Laptop

You are probably already familiar with shut down. When you shut down your laptop, you will close any running applications and completely close your operating system (e.g., Windows 10). Thus, shutting down your laptop will mean that it will consume virtually no power at all.

When you want to use your laptop again, you will need to use the power button to initiate the “boot-up” process for your laptop. This will take a little while, depending on the hardware in your laptop and the startup configuration you have for specific applications.

Many laptop users will want specific applications to start automatically when they boot up their laptop from a shutdown. For example, if you use Microsoft Outlook for your emails, you may have this in your start-up sequence. Some laptops will take a few seconds to boot up again from a shutdown, and others will take a few minutes.

2. Restart your Laptop

You likely know what a restart does as well. There is no real power saving with this power option, but sometimes it is necessary to restart to update your operating system or one of your applications.

A good example of this is the updating of your antivirus application. Quite often, you will need to restart your laptop for the latest updates to take effect. When you restart, your laptop will go through a complete power down and then boot-up sequence. It will usually take at least a couple of minutes to go through the restart process.

3. Hibernate Mode

When you choose the hibernate option, your operating system will save its current state to a file on your hard drive. This is basically a “memory dump” to a file. For example, all of the applications you have open on your laptop and the files you are using are stored in memory. Instead of keeping these in memory, hibernate writes them to a file.

Starting your laptop again from a hibernation state means that your operating system will locate the hibernation file and then use this to load all of your previous applications and files into memory. So, after a while, you will return to the same state as you had before hibernation.

Using hibernation will consume less power than sleep mode because you are not keeping everything in memory which requires more power. However, it will take longer for you to resume when you use hibernation as your laptop has to load up everything from a saved file. Nevertheless, your laptop will use about the same amount of power in the hibernation state as with a shutdown.

4. Sleep Mode

Placing your laptop in sleep mode will put it into a state of low power. This is because everything you have open before engaging in sleep mode will reside in your laptop’s memory, but other aspects of your laptop will shut down and not consume any power.

The good thing about sleep mode is that everything will resume much faster than with hibernation or a shutdown. But your laptop will be consuming a higher level of power because it needs to maintain what is in the memory. This is not a large amount of power, though.

5. Hybrid Sleep Mode

Most laptops will not have the hybrid sleep mode enabled as this is really designed for desktop computers. However, if your laptop has the hybrid sleep mode, the best way to explain it is to hibernate and sleep.

When using hybrid sleep mode, your operating system will save your current laptop state to a file on your hard drive as it does with hibernation mode. But it will also maintain a low level of power to your laptop’s memory, which will also contain the current state before using hybrid sleep mode.

It uses both modes as a safeguard. For example, if the power were maintained to your laptop’s memory, it would load up everything fast when you switch your machine back on, just as sleep mode will. But if there was a loss of power to your laptop memory, it can restore the previous state from the file saved to disk.

Most laptops do not have hybrid sleep mode because they have a battery to provide power all of the time. However, your battery could be critically low on charge, and this will mean that your memory loses power, and a resume will need to take place from the saved file, which happens in hibernation mode.

Difference Between Sleep And Hibernate

When should you use Sleep Mode with your Laptop?

If you are only going to be away from your laptop (or not use it) for a short amount of time, it is best to use sleep mode. Using the sleep mode with your laptop will save both battery power and mains power if you have it plugged in.

As soon as you need to use your laptop again, you will not have to wait a long time to fully resume the state you left it in when you put it into sleep mode. However, you need to remember that sleep mode does consume some power to keep the memory running, which means that it is not the best choice if you will not use your laptop for a long time.

Placing your laptop in sleep mode for very long periods is going to run your battery down eventually.

When should you use Hibernate Mode with your Laptop?

You consume less power than sleep mode when you use hibernation mode. Therefore, if you want to close down your laptop while you sleep, it is a lot better to use hibernate than sleep. But, of course, it will take longer for your laptop to resume where you left off as it has to load all of your applications and files into memory.

Nevertheless, it is better to use hibernation mode than to shut down your laptop while sleeping. When you shut down, you have to open up all of your applications and files again from scratch, which will take more time.

Please be aware that hibernation mode is not perfect, and sometimes you may experience problems with applications after hibernating. It is also worth noting that it is good to restart your laptop completely when using Windows as there is no restart action associated with hibernation.

Final Words

Now that you know all the power options for your laptop and how they work, you can make the right decision based on your circumstances. For example, if you are only going to be away for a few minutes up to a couple of hours, sleep mode is probably best. But if you will be away for longer than this, then choose to hibernate.

Chris Martin is a professional tech writer. He's been covering tech tutorials, hardware reviews, and more as a professional writer for over seven years now and it doesn't look like he'll be stopping anytime soon! In addition to writing about the latest gadgets on the market, he also covers topics such as how to set up your home network or troubleshoot any computer problems you may have.

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