Web Analytics

There are many ways to shut down and restart your computer, but – which does what, and which should you use when?

The answer depends mostly on you. Are you into saving energy or boot-up time? How often do you leave your computer and for how long?

There are three main shut-down options available in Windows: Shut-Down, Sleep and Hibernate (names may vary depending on the Windows version). In Vista and Windows 7, there is also a fourth option; Hybrid Sleep.

Let’s explore the topic.

Environmental friendly

If your concern is to save energy, and you don’t mind the longer Boot Up time – then you should always use the “Shut Down” option. This will shut down every running service and application and wipe clean your RAM. This option saves the most energy as the computer is not using any power at all when in this state. There might be some power consumption from the main-board as it is still connected to your outlet, but this is significantly little.

Hibernate Vs Sleep

The difference between the two is power-consumption – one use less power than the other.

Sleep Feature = Pause

Sleep is a power-saving state which keeps enough voltage across your RAM to retain the memory for when you “wake up” your computer again.  This mode use the most power of all the “Power-Off Modes” as the computer need to be able to keep your RAM alive. The Sleep Feature is recommended when you leave your computer for a short period (like going to lunch or step out for a few hours). Putting your computer into the sleep state is like pausing a DVD player—the computer immediately stops what it’s doing and is ready to start again when you want to resume working (usually within seconds).


The Hibernate function was intended primarily for laptop users (though available for Desktop Computers as well). This mode let you save much more power when not using your computer (as in saving battery). When you put the computer in Hibernate Mode, it stores the contents of your RAM (Services, clipboard etc.) to your hard-drive (hiberfile.sys) which on reboot is read back into the RAM (Read more about RAM) which takes about a minute to be completed, but on the upside you do save more energy.

Hybrid Sleep

Hybrid sleep is both Sleep and Hibernate, primarily intended for Desktop Computers. Hybrid Sleep keeps the RAM alive (as in Sleep Mode) and stores the Content of your RAM to your Hard-Drive (in case of a power failure). It also stores any open documents before putting your computer into a low-power state which allows for a quick Reboot later on. When hybrid sleep is turned on, putting your computer into sleep automatically puts your computer into hybrid sleep.

More guides you might like:

About Thomas

Computer geek from the age of 7, which amounts to 30 years of computer experience. From the early days (when every computer company had their own OS) of DOS, Windows 1.0 through Seven...

Free PC tips by email

Search Windows Guides


36 thoughts on “Hibernate vs. Sleep vs. Shut-Down”

  1. Stu says:

    Thanks for the explanation. Sleep vs Hibernation is one that normally stumps people.
    Are there any system requirements for any of these ‘power-modes’?

    1. Thomas says:

      There are no special requirements, other than having enough RAM and space on your hard-drive, but that is more of a performance issue rather than a Sleep/Hibernation issue.

  2. Alexandra Lawrenz says:

    Thanks for explaining what each of these options mean. I tend to fall asleep with my laptop on, which I’d prefer not to do. Do you know if there is a way to schedule your PC to go to sleep or hibernate at a certain time?

    1. Thomas says:

      yes there is.
      In Windows 7 you choose POWER OPTIONS in the Control Panel
      You can choose from the preset options, or choose your own settings from there.
      I’ll write an article on it

    2. Oliver says:

      Yes it would be a good idea to make an article. It helps alot. I went to bed and something was still downloading that had four hours to download so I set it to hibernate after 4 hours. Trust me it does help!

  3. Siegfried says:

    “If your concern is to save energy, and you don’t mind the longer Boot Up time – then you should always use the “Shut Down” option.”
    That statement is partly bull !
    I put my desktop every day in hibernate, because of several advantages, shorter shut down time, no need to close browsers, 1/3 shorter boot up time therefore more saved energy.
    I even installed for it a one click short cut on the quick launch bar in XP.

    1. Thomas says:

      Well, yes and no

      The article was not intended to start a debate on how much power you save by choosing one or the other. It was merely an input on the different options you have. That being said:

      If you leave a lightbulb on 24/7 because you like to save energy, you are fooling yourself.
      Study has shown that even though a light bulb peaks an extra milliwatt when you flick it on – the energy you save by turning it off (when not in the room) – will save you more energy.

      In one year, if you shut your machine off before bed each night, you’ll save an average of $90 worth of electricity. The Department of Energy recommends shutting off your monitor if you aren’t going to use it for more than 20 minutes, and the whole system if you’re not going to use it for more than two hours. The agency says time spent off extends your machine’s life.(http://www.thedailygreen.com/going-green/tips/energy-efficiency-turn-computer-off)

      “..it is far more economical to turn a light off rather than leaving it on.” http://mythbustersresults.com/episode69

      As I stated in the article: If you are to leave your computer for a short period of time, then Sleep or Hibernation would be the preferable choice.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You claim that Shut Down “saves the most energy.” It may seem counter-intuitive, but that’s not always true as a little math can show.

    PCs can take a long time to shut down, and a longer time to start up. Let’s say that before your lunch break, you Shut Down, and it takes your PC 60 seconds to shut down. That’s 60 seconds when your computer is drawing full power, but isn’t usable. When you return from lunch, it takes 2 minutes to start up. Again, it’s drawing full power, but can’t be used until the process is complete.

    So that’s 3 minutes of wasted power. A 600-watt power supply will consume 10 watts during those three minutes.

    But when my computer is asleep, it draws only 3 watts. I can let is sleep for 3 hours, and use up only 9 watts.

    So for periods less than 3 hours (in this example), you’d waste less electricity using sleep.

    1. Thomas says:

      I am compelled to agree with you.
      I do however say in the article that if you are to leave your computer for a short period of time, such as a lunch break, then the sleep option is the far better.
      But. If you are to leave your computer for the weekend, then you will save more power by shutting it off completely. The two or three minute boot time does not consume as much power as putting the computer to sleep for an entire weekend.

    2. David says:

      It’s a good article explaining the benefits of each method. Your argument is flawed because you misrepresented how your 600w power supply works, as well as what components are drawing how much power.
      A power supply will only draw what the components require. A 1200w power supply will draw from the wall the same as a 300w power supply with the same components. Bigger power supplies just allow for more powerful components. The only reason anyone would need more than a 450w power supply is if they need more power available for high end video card(s).
      The CPU is the only thing stressing during startup and shutdown, and any CPU made in the last decade uses very little power even at full load. The video uses the most power and isn’t working hard for startup and shutdown. (High end video uses heaps of power even at idle, so much cheaper to put those machines to sleep when not in use.) The motherboard uses a little power during sleep/hibernate to keep the memory and hard drive(s) powered.
      Hook up a power meter to your system and recalculate your results with real time data. I think you’ll find that all power saving features save roughly the same amount of energy – which isn’t that much unless you’re using higher end video cards. My system starts and shuts down in under 20 seconds each. Having said that, mine stays on 24/7 for messenger and email. My 600w PSU draws 60w from the wall at idle – or the equivalent of a 60w light bulb 24/7. I can live with that. :-)

  5. Vicki says:

    Thankyou so much for explaining what these options mean. I am completely baffled as to how the companies who manufacture and those who sell computers get away without supplying a comprehensive guide to the operating system installed on each computer. It should be required by law. Over the years I have spent many, many hours attempting to teach relatives, friends and their families and friends of friends how to use the basic functions of their computers. It is especially difficult with the elderly.

    1. Thomas says:

      Of course we could always use better and more comprehensive documentation.
      But, how many MEN do you know, to read the instructions before use or assembly :-) ?

  6. Herb fell says:

    It’s great that you explained what it is, but why wouldn’t you also explain how to do it? It would be nice to have all the info in one place instead of having to go search again.

    1. Thomas says:

      Thank you for your input.

      To choose between the different shutdown options, you need to click the little arrow to the right of the shutdown button found in the Start-Menu. This will allow you to choose between the different options.

      On some computers you need to activate one or the other depending on your type of computer. On Laptops or computers running on battery HIbernate is the default option, but sleep may also be activated and vice versa. (as mentioned in the article)

      Would you like an in depth article on how to do this ?

  7. Mycoolpalace1st says:

    this article is good but just one question “does a laptop overheat if putting it in sleep mode while carrying around in a laptop case for about an hour?” if so than should i hibernate it

    1. Rich says:

      I do this a lot and mine doesn’t overheat. I recommend you test after 10 mins to be sure it’s not getting too hot.

  8. Thomas says:

    Heat buildup over time is always the enemy of any hardware. if you are concerned about prolonging hardware lifespan, Power off is your best choice. Next to full power off, hibernate will be the least heat generating option.

    Using the Sleep function for a short period of time should not cause any considerable wear and tear

  9. Amanmehta108 says:

    thnks guys its a grate help to me thnks alot :)

  10. Rich says:

    Have you tried completely powering off the machine and turning it back on again? Have you contacted HP?

  11. Rich says:

    That sounds about right. For how long is it disconnected? Have you any kind of battery power source?

  12. Anonymous says:

    When a system is hibernated it uses no power. Hibernate and shutdown are essentially the same – the only difference is found after restart. 

    When hibernated, upon restart, the system resumes its previous work environment – say if you have your browser open and put your PC to hibernate, then upon restart, you find the same browser window open.

    But in case of shutdown, it is a complete close. After restart, you don’t get back any unsaved work.

    Hope, I made it clear.


  13. Rich says:

    Yes, the instructions to extend the amount of time it takes for the screen to go off are under step 5 here: http://www.mintywhite.com/windows-7/10-ways-improve-laptops-battery-life/

  14. Lavender says:

    I have Windows 7 but there is no Hybrid Sleep at all nor Hibernate !  There is Log Off, Lock, Restart and Sleep in the drop down menu.  Otherwise it is Shut Down.     Where do you think there is a Hybrid Sleep and Hibernate in Windows 7 please ?
    I want to keep the PC ‘open’ so I can use the iPad in bed – but don’t know which to use.
    Could the PC be hacked into if it is on all night, as well as all day ??!!!!

  15. Hans says:

    Thank you Thomas! I’ve always meant to find out the difference but never put it on the front burner…until now. 

    Also, thanks for the little bit about yourself…it brought back found memories of my son at the age of two on his grandfather’s 8086 IBM. Upon exiting he would always utter the words “F10 exit to DOS.” Always a smile :-))

  16. Slym says:

    Just wondering one thing…  do both hibernate and sleep both cause the NIC and/or wireless adapters to shut off, and thus lose their current Internet connection? 

    Logic tells me yes, but I haven’t found anywhere on the net that actually says that.  I’m asking because of users that are losing connection to a specific IP based software we run, and I’m suspecting it’s because they allow their laptops to hibernate with the program running.

    1. Rich says:

      Slym, yes, the TCP/IP connection will close upon sleep/hibernate. Depending on the program, it should re-establish this connection on PC wake/application refresh.

  17. Rich says:

    Hibernate is a good option but if you can deal with closing your applications every night and opening them again every morning, then a shutdown is just fine.

  18. Tjen_cb says:

    do you know why both PC and monitor still consume electricity after it is shut down? I have disabled the ‘Wake On Lan’. The electricity meter is showing 36 watts. When I turn off the switch on the wall outlet, the meter shows 0 Watts.

  19. Habibmohagheghi says:

    does hibernate mode consume battery energy? thanks.

    1. Rich says:

      Hibernate does not consume battery as memory is saved to disk and the computer is powered down.

  20. Jake Smegals says:

    Good info, thanks.
    I have a question about ‘sleep’ mode in Windows 7.
    Does this mode put undo stress on your modem/router, when coming out of sleep? Or is that an old wives tale?

    I must say I most often use sleep mode and once in awhile reboot the computer, which seems to trigger some programs to search for updates, unlike sleep mode.

    I didn’t know there was a Windows 1.0. I remember using DOS and Windows 3.1

    1. Rich says:


      Putting a computer to sleep does require some hard drive activity at wake but nothing that will strain your PC much. Sleep is good for your PC and your electric bill. A 12c / kWh, you could save approximately $80-105/year by sleeping your PC for 12-16 hours/day (assuming an average draw of 150W) as opposed to leaving it running 24/7.

  21. Rajaganesh says:

    Hi… How many hours shall i kept my laptop in hibernate mode?
    Is there any limited hours?
    Thanks in advance

  22. Bruno Ribeiro da Silva says:

    I always use HIBERNATE since it make the boot-up MUCH FASTER! It’s impossible to want to turn off….once hibernate is much more interesting. I see no reason for ‘shut down’, only ‘restart’ option when some new program or any update ask for…

  23. Chuck Johnston says:

    What about “Windows-Key/L” (Lock) as an alternative. It requires that you enter a password to continue, but restores your work space nearly instantaneously. I use it whenever I break for lunch.

  24. Mary says:

    This may be a silly question, once a week, I have my machines scheduled to scan/defrag etc. during the night, will my machines in Hybrid sleep or sleep still receive these scans?

Comments are closed.

Computer tips in your inbox
Sign up for the Windows Guides newsletter to get PC tips and access to free Windows books (More details)

Subscribe now
Popular Guides

See which sites have been visited on your PC (even if private browsing mode is used)

Create a Windows 7 System Repair Disc

Best Free Anti-malware

Hibernate vs. Sleep vs. Shut-Down

i3, i5, and i7; Dual, Quad, Hexa Core Processors. How to they Differ?

Intel's Ivy Bridge Processor: new Features

Windows Guides on Facebook