Hibernate, sleep, or shut down: what's best for your PC?

Lenovo Yoga 910
Lenovo Yoga 910

When not in use your Windows 10 PC will sit in one of three states until you need it again: hibernation, sleep, or shut off. Which one should you choose for your PC? Let's take a look at what each option does, why you might want to use it, and when the best time to use it is depending on your PC.

How to customize your power button options

The first thing you want to do to ensure all power options are available to you is to examine your PC's power button; it is located directly above the Start button.

You might notice that, for example, hibernate is missing when you click the Power button. Here's how to customize what options you have when you click the power button.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button. It looks like a gear and is located above the Power button.
  3. Click System.

  1. Click Power & sleep.
  2. Click Additional power settings.

  1. Click Choose what the power buttons do.
  2. Click Change settings that are currently unavailable.

  1. Click the checkbox next to Hibernate so that a checkmark appears. Do the same for Sleep if the box next to it is not checked.
  2. Click Save changes.

What is sleep mode?

Sleep is what most PCs will slip into when not in use for a set amount of time. Any windows open and their current state are saved in your PC's RAM so that when you open your laptop's lid or move your desktop's mouse, it's as if you never left. The time it takes to bring everything back to life takes only a second or two.

If your battery nears the point of death while in sleep mode, your PC will automatically save your place onto the hard drive and will resume whenever it is plugged back into power. On a desktop, where you don't have a battery option, something called hybrid sleep takes care of the threat of losing your work when in sleep mode.

Why does your PC go into sleep mode? It uses less power, which is important for laptops and tablets that run on batteries or for anyone concerned about their monthly bill.

Huawei Matebook

When to use sleep mode

Sleep mode is best suited for times when you won't be away from your PC for long. This means that you can grab lunch, run an errand, or even set the computer aside for the night knowing you'll be able to use it again in the morning.

Most people using laptops and tablets feel safe with sleep mode — your place will be resumed no matter what happens. If you put your PC into sleep mode and happen not to use if for a few days, the battery will simply deplete, your work will be saved, and the PC will shut down.

Desktop PCs are a bit different, as they don't have a battery to keep things running and to allow for a smooth shutdown if power is cut. You should be fine using sleep mode on a desktop PC unless there is a risk of a power outage — i.e. in an electrical storm — but hibernate mode is there and is a great option if you're worried about losing your work.

What is hybrid sleep?

Hybrid sleep mode comes enabled by default on desktop PCs. It allows the RAM in your computer to hold onto information for a quick startup — just like in sleep mode — but it also writes the same data to your hard drive for safekeeping in the event of a power failure.

On your laptop or tablet, hybrid sleep is disabled by default because you have a battery failsafe. If your battery no longer works and you have to keep your laptop plugged in at all times, you can enable hybrid sleep on any Windows 10 device. Here's how to do it.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button. It looks like a gear and is located above the Power button.

  1. Click System.
  2. Click Power & sleep.

  1. Click Additional power settings.
  2. Click Change plan settings next to the power plan you have enabled.

  1. Click Change advanced power settings.
  2. Click the + next to Sleep.

  1. Click the + next to Allow hybrid sleep.
  2. Click Setting.

  1. Click the dropdown arrow.
  2. Click On.

  1. Click Apply.
  2. Click OK.

You now have hybrid sleep mode enabled on your laptop or tablet and don't have to worry about losing work to accidental power outages.

What is hibernate mode?

Hibernate mode is almost the same thing as fully shutting down your PC, except it saves your place in Windows to resume the next time you turn it on. Instead of saving to your RAM like sleep mode, it saves straight to your hard drive so that there's no chance of losing anything if power is abruptly cut.

Power usage is nil when your PC is in hibernate mode, but you will experience startup times a bit longer than when coming from sleep mode. The time it takes is largely dependent on the hardware in your PC, including RAM and hard drive speeds.

When to use hibernate mode

Hibernate mode is a great option for laptop and tablet users who don't know where the next power outlet will be, as you won't see you battery deplete. It's also a good option for desktop users who are seriously worried about power consumption — sleep mode doesn't use much power, but it does use some.

So why not just shut your PC right down in these cases? First, starting up from hibernate mode will take less time than booting up from scratch. Second, anything you had open on your PC — like an important project with multiple windows — will be there as if you never left it.

When to shut down your PC

While the other power options will work for you most of the time, you will still have to shut down your PC from time to time.

  • Consider shutting down if you infrequently use your PC. For example, if you use it for a few hours on Monday and don't plan on using it again until Friday, there's no harm in turning it off.
  • Always shut down properly before removing power from your PC. Removing power includes things such as unplugging from a wall socket or by removing the battery.
  • Always shut down before leaving your PC behind for long stretches of time, like when taking a vacation.
  • Always shut down if you're planning to ship a laptop or tablet by post, or when placing it in the storage hold while travelling by plane or coach.

Power options for power users

Do you sleep, hibernate, or shut down? Let us know in the comments section!

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

Cale Hunt is formerly a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full-time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

  • I always shutdown my pc/laptop. Don't know why but i have habit to shutdown pc everyday.
  • Same. It's a habit from the Windows 95 days where I shutdown the computer whenever I was finished. For the most part, I'm finished with my PC when I turn it off. I use sleep (aka closing the lid) on my work laptop when I'm going to use it again in a couple hours, but I will turn it off at the end of the day because it works better with a fresh boot every morning. My Surface Pro 2 and desktop both boot so quickly that putting it on sleep mode is pointless.
  • Actually, with Windows 10 its not like that. The idea of a "fresh boot" has changed. A shut down and boot DOES NOT really do a fresh boot. If you have ever noticed the speeds or looked at the setting under power, you'll know. Windows has a fast boot option that explains the above.
    Instead doing a "restart" does a fresh boot. It clears away temporary issues. Resets the UP TIME, etc. Even the MSFT support site highlighted this for quite a long time.
  • I would add that you can disable the behavior you are referring to. It's called "Fast Startup" (I think it was called "Fast Boot" in Windows 8). It logs all users out and shuts down all applications that were opened, but the windows kernel and device drivers, etc. are then basically "hibernated". So its kind of a hybrid between shutdown and hibernate. You won't need to boot Windows, but it won't save exactly where you are either (since it logs you off and shuts down your apps). In any case, this can be disabled so that "shutdown" does an actual "shutdown." So I wouldn't say the concept has changed, its just a feature that was added and is generally set to on by default if the system supports it.
  • Yes, that's what I was referring to. Thanks ! I forgot to mention Fast boot. And its great that Windows 10 has this ON by default.
  • I prefer hibernate, but after returning from hibernation in the current Windows 10 build, the Activity Center stops working. Anyone else have this issue?
  • I prefer to put my laptop/PC to hibernate so that it saves battery and I can also resume from where I left it earlier. Also, in newer laptops, the hibernate is as fast as the sleep option.
  • Correct, thanks to SSDs. I installed SSD on my old desktop lately and now I use hibernate option on desktop instead of shutdown.
  • I always prefer to shutdown my laptop.
  • I always prefer to shutdown my laptop.
  • in the age of cheap SSD drivers.. turning off is the way to go for night and sleep for the day
  • *drives
  • I do not do any such important thing that I'll need everything to be as it is on my laptop everytime. I've never used sleep or hibernate since honestly i didn't know what exactly these do. But with this article I've known a lot and would like to give hibernate a try. I use my laptop only once for a few hours every two three days maximum so i just shut it off. Still I'll try this.
  • Showdown is the best option for me
  • With SSD's, it doesn't really matter. Shutdown = hibernate. Because resuming is so fast, that you'll not notice the difference. ( I'm referring to the speed alone. Not what the two options do).
  • You can't equate the two, they do completely different things. (Unless you mean their speed is equal, then I guess you're correct)
  • Yup, I'm referring to the speeds here. Most people like me do save the current work and shut down anyway. If you do the same and have an SSD, then its better to shut down.
    Also, does using the hibernate feature use a lot of storage of the SSD? Is it equal to the RAM amount. Like 8GB RAM = 8GB hibernation file?
  • Well, I think matus201's point is that there's more to each option aside from the boot times. Especially if your system boots more than one OS. You must perform a full shutdown (ie, Fast Startup must be disabled) if you want to be able to access the drive from the other OS (whether it be windows, linux, etc.). The same issue exists with Hibernate. Windows locks the operating drive so it can't be access. Also, some UEFI/BIOS settings may be disabled if you use Hibernate or Fast Startup due to similar issues. So, yes, if all you care about is boot time and you don't do anything out of the ordinary, Hibernate is probably OK. If you have apps that need to be restarted regularly, you'll probably opt for shutdown w/ Fast Startup enabled. If you have device drivers that aren't compatible with Fast Startup or use applications that rely on fresh boots, then you'll need shutdown w/ Fast Startup disabled.
  • Good point! The article should have mentioned all of this. :)
  • I just use shutdown. I never have anything open that I need to stay open, or that I can't just open up again when I turn the PC on.
  • I use my laptop very often so I rarely shut it down. Since I don't have SSD😢 I prefer sleep over hibernate and if the laptop isn't plugged in I use hibernation.
  • That's a logical choice and its a good practice! :)
  • shutdown also resets some files and variables, programs that need restart, etc... and nowadays booting up a pc doesn't take that long so..
  • Shutdown doesn't do that completely actually. A Restart does it. It you notice, restart takes more time than shutdown and boot manually.
  • No mention about fastboot option? Well if you turn on fastboot then shutdown and hibernate are almost the same things. If you dual boot your laptop then you must turn off fastboot. For me sleep is the way to go at home, and shutdown is the only option when I need to carry the laptop to work or class
  • Yup, that should have been mentioned in the article.
  • Fast Startup is on by default for most Windows systems that support it. Shutdown and hibernate are *almost* the same thing, except it doesn't keep your applications opened nor does it keep you logged in. That's the main difference between shutdown and hibernate. The mechanism behind them is the same, but the amount that is "saved" differs.
  • Shutdown my PC. Sleep well
  • Me fully shutdown too. Apps misbehave resuming from other modes
  • Then log off and sleep/hibernate at lockscreen
  • For me it varies. I work three days a week from home and my work laptop sits on a dock in my home office, so the only time it gets shut down is over the weekend or while I'm driving to and from the office. I don't use my personal laptop as much, so it gets shutdown after each use and put back in its bag.
  • Sleep is good...saves power for me ❤
  • At the office, all desktops and laptops were left on. So, they'd eventually go to sleep or hibernate overnight. Nobody wanted to wait for start-up and relaunches, etc. Then, we were burglarized. Now, we all have laptops which are fully backed-up, powered off and locked in a safe overnight. The pendulum swung from one side to the other.
  • Work all day, Shut Down for night.
  • Why is the option to hibernate unchecked by default in Win10? My kids had new laptops and I had to login as admin to enable hibernate. Weird.
  • I shut everything off at night.  My desktop has a SSD, and even my slow poke eMMC tablet can boot in about 20 seconds. I only use sleep on my tablet for when I'm moseying about the house.
  •   I usually shut it down. But I plan on keeping in sleep mode when I get a shield TV.  That will allow me to easily stream my games.   My PC only uses. 3 watts of power in sleep mode vs the Xbox one S which uses 10-12 watts in "instant on" mode. So, it's a lot less than an Xbox one s. 
  • I almost always use Hibernate when shutting down my computer unless I'm going to open it in which case I shut down. Usually it's just left on, though, because if it's turned off then I'm less likely to use it the next day. The main benefit for me for Hibernation is that it saves programs in memory including background processes thus booting and logging in faster.
  • In Windows 8 and above the Shutdown is not really a shutdown. Its something else. In task manager the CPU Up time keeps running until i restart it.
  • true, Win8 was faster than 10 though
  • I mostly use Sleep, but when issues start to inevitable arrive after 3-4 days of uptime, I restart it. When I am not testing build-update, I shutdown every night.
  • As has been pointed out by a couple other users, Fast Startup should have been covered by this article as well. The details of which can affect someone's usage of their machine. As Stun3i mentioned, it's incompatible with dual booted systems. It's also simply incompatible with certain devices or systems. If you have a custom-built rig, you'll need to figure out if all your devices are compatible prior to utilizing it. Moreover, as AbhiWindows10 mentioned, "fresh boots" aren't the same as they were pre-Windows 8 with this utilized. You're basically hibernating your Windows 10 after logging out. So even just in regards to diagnosing device issues, knowing about Fast Startup can help. If you're relying on a shutdown to fix your devices, you may end up being disappointed unless you're using the restart option *or* you have Fast Startup disabled.
  • It has problems with intel DH87MC board. If fast boot is enabled in the UEFI it breaks the fast startup on the os. I reported the issue to intel and they said that they are investigating the issue. And couple of months later i went to their support forum all their MOBO are in End of life status..
  • I love the sleep mode on laptops, been using it since Windows Vista when the boot up times were insane, with sleep mode it took few seconds, same now with newer Windows, although if you have a fast SSD it becomes less of an issue, but still saves few seconds and you can leave all your stuff open and running.
  • I put my laptop to sleep, and while it is sleeping I put it into hibernation then shut it down.
  • I'm not sure this is a recommended practice but I leave my home PC on 24/7. I reboot occassionly to perform updates but that's about it. My reasons are because I connect to it remotely from work/mobile quite often and have a Plex server running on it that my family accesses when I'm not home.So far, it's been running pretty great considering. Been about 2 yrs since I'm put it sleep or powered down over night. I don't pay for electricity hence my little concern about power usage.
  • I only leave my desktop PC on 24/7 on weekends. Task scheduler shutdown every night at 5 am and auto power on from BIOS every day at 2 pm. Windows hibernates my desktop pc when my UPS battery is low. On my tablets I use connected standby/modern standby when listening audio in bed, and shutdown my tablet when not in use. On my laptops I use sleep when away for a few hours, and shutdown when not in use.
  • There is no mention in the article for what is better for the hard drive. My desktop pc has SSD, I shut it down every night, and put it to sleep for my lunch break. Is it good to use sleep mode for short breaks with a SSD though?
  • The only concern I can think of off-hand that you'd worry about is that an SSD has limited writes in regards to its lifespan. If you're not doing anything that's super intensive in regards to writing to the drive over and over again, you'll most likely have nothing to worry about in regards to "using up" some of the drive's lifespan for hibernation or if sleep decides to backup to the drive instead of just RAM if power is cut out. I mean, the amount of data writes that a current SSD can take these days is quite high. So, unless you're writing a huge amount of session data to the drive repeatedly, i wouldn't worry too much about it.
  • This has recently proven to be inaccurate; even budget SSD's when stressed with re-writes have proven to last well north of 5-years of heavy usage. Seagate, a popular albeit considered budget in the OEM (Dell, HP, etc.) arena tested north of 8-years under heavy usage. Finally, consider SSD essentially as having more robust capacity in terms of heavy re-writes as any HDD.
  • I shutdown everything, every time.
  • If you're worried about clean booting, make sure you turn off Fast Startup (Fast Boot in Windows 8) as well. Otherwise your shutdown is actually hibernating Windows. Assuming you're on Windows 8 or higher.
  • sleep and hibernate upsets the function keys on my laptop so gave up using these always shut down and start up is faster from off than sleep and hibernate, how can that be? windows 8 was super fast from sleep/hibernate
  • I shut down my pc at night - phone too. all off, time for sleepy time, like me. goodnight.
  • I shut down out of habit, more often than not programs and networking issues seem to be more common when resuming from Sleep/Hibernate. Also, Microsoft needs to be a lot​ cleared about how they set "Fast startup" as on by default, it can cause some terrible headaches that seem to have no explanation and go away when that is disabled.
  • Use laptop all day. Shut down at night. After reading the comments, i'm going to disable Fast Startup too. Want a fresh start every time.