Computer Power Management

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Always on, hibernate, sleep or shut down: What to do with your PC or laptop
when you are not using it

The dilemma is a daunting one. If you turn off your laptop or PC, you save electricity. If you leave it running, you save time in start up and shut down time.

Luckily, sleep and hibernate options combine the best of both worlds.
But which one is better? And should you completely abandon the shut down and the leave-on-overnight options?

Let’s consider pros and cons of each and every option:

Always on

PCs and laptops have come a long way since the 90s, and today’s models can be left on 24/7 without any harm to the machine. However, electricity considerations should be enough to wean you off this habit, except when you schedule backups or maintenance in the middle of the night. And even then, turn off the monitor.


Some users feel that the start-up and shutdown processes create extra wear and tear. Again, that might have been true of computers of yore, but today it is safe to switch on and off to your heart’s content, if you have all that time to spare.

And even if you are a total shutdown sceptic, it is advisable to still perform this function at least occasionally and thus let your machine reset itself. It is also necessary for OS updates, because most users have their machines set to automatically download updates, and then install them on shutdown.


Also known as standby, the sleep mode puts the computer into a low power state from which it can restart instantly. Many people use if when


they expect to be away from their computer for half an hour to an hour. But take care: your work will not be saved unless you do it manually before putting your machine to sleep.


When your computer is in standby or sleep, it continues to draw a little power. In hibernate mode, it's effectively off. Plus, with this option, you can leave several applications open and get back to them immediately on resuming work.

Hibernation uses some of the space on your hard disk drive (in order to store those open applications) and computer usually takes a little longer to wake up from hibernation than from sleep.

So, which way is the right way to go?

There is no right way, say experienced computer users, and point out that the right way is the one that works best for you and for your machine in specific circumstances.

For example, some users dislike hibernation because this mode takes up the valuable hard disk drive space. Others dislike sleep because they noticed that their laptop tends to heat up in this mode. Frequent travellers say one can safely put a hibernating laptop into a backpack and set off, but not a sleeping one, because their sleeping machine has been known to wake up too easily...

In general, most give preference to sleep or hibernation during the day and shutdown overnight. The best advice is to test with your machine, examine your own personal and professional needs, and do what works best for you and for your computer.

And should you set your PC or laptop to go into sleep or hibernation automatically if it is not used for a certain period of time?  The majority of users seem against self-sleep or self-hibernation (and that includes simply shutting the lid of your laptop), because results are less predictable and may mean, at least for some users, facing problems when trying to call the machine back to life.

However, it might be a good idea to set your laptop to go into hibernation automatically at a low battery level, for example five percent. That way, your work will be saved for as long as it takes you to get your machine to the nearest power outlet.


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