What’s the difference between Sleep and Hibernate?

This is really old but I still get questions regarding these two Windows state especially from first-time laptop owners. Do you know what’s the difference between Sleep and Hibernate mode? When to use Sleep, Hibernate or plain old Shutdown?

Sleep is a power-saving state which stores your current work state into memory and powers down the rest of your system’s components. It’s quick to enter into Sleep mode and quick to wake up from it (3 seconds). When it sleep mode, your laptop will consume a little amount of power from your battery to power the memory.

It’s mainly used if you’ll be taking a meal break, or if you’re going to a meeting and don’t want to carry your laptop with the lid open. Usually by default, when you close the lid of your laptop, it will enter into Sleep mode.


Hibernate is like a quick shutdown. What Windows does is save your open documents and programs on a hibernate file into your hard disk and powers your system off. It doesn’t consume power and will boot slightly faster than your typical Shutdown.

Most people replace Shutdown with Hibernate. If you’re going to store your machine for long periods of time, it’s better to put it in Hibernate rather than Sleep. Or Shutdown if you’re an old-fashioned PC user.

Now for some questions you may want to ask:

What happens if the battery runs out while in Sleep mode?

The short answer is, you’ll lose your unsaved work. However, most laptops we have right now have a failsafe for such instance. If your battery becomes critically low, your machine will wake from Sleep mode, saves your work and goes into Hibernate mode. Some machines have a pre-set timer that if it reaches past, say 3 hours, it will automatically go into Hibernate mode.

Why would I need to Shutdown if Hibernate is much better?

Usually, there’s no more need to shutdown your laptop. You would only want to shut it down if Windows is not cleaning itself up properly from Hibernate mode. But in that case, you would want to do a Restart instead. A drawback of Hibernate mode though is eventually, your disk fragments rather quickly but it can be resolved by de-fragmenting it.

Can I set my laptop to Sleep or Hibernate when I close the lid?

You sure can. Look for the Power Management settings in your Windows and you can see different options there. You can even allow it not to turn off when you close the lid in case you’re using your laptop to download torrents. You can also change the Power button to do a Sleep or Hibernate if you wish.

So how about you guys? Do you still shutdown your laptop?

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  • Eason

    I rarely shutdown my laptop, its always in sleep and hibernate mode. When I was a computer science student I would always go from one place to another, it was a hassle to shut down my laptop from class to class. So setting it to sleep was the most practical way, plus it boots up faster.

    The major con I see here is that the battery is active all of the time so, it a factor to really decrease the lifespan of the battery.

  • Me too, I rarely shutdown my Mac. I always let it go to sleep.

  • Messie

    Hmmmm… help on this please, there was a time I accidentally chose Sleep instead of shutdown on my desktop pc (running windows 7). When it “slept” i can’t find a way to wake it up since my keyboard does not have the wake-up key, neither does pressing any key or moving my mouse worked, so I was forced to shut it down forcefully by holding the power button for 5 secs. Is there a way to wake up a desktop pc without a wake up key?


    • hmm… try the “reset” key. that’s what i am doing on a windows xp on standby mode.

  • afaik, hibernate still consumes battery life..
    but it’s too little, to be noticeable.
    i don’t hibernate because i want to start working with a clean desktop.
    my applications saves which files i open anyway 🙂