With the increased prevalence of fast solid-state hard drives, why do we still have system hibernation?

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader Moses wants to know why he should use hibernate on a desktop machine:

I’ve never quite understood the original purpose of the Hibernation power state in Windows. I understand how it works, what processes take place, and what happens when you boot back up from Hibernate, but I’ve never truly understood why it’s used.

With today’s technology, most notably with SSDs, RAM and CPUs becoming faster and faster, a cold boot on a clean/efficient Windows installation can be pretty fast (for some people, mere seconds from pushing the power button). Standby is even faster, sometimes instantaneous. Even SATA drives from 5-6 years ago can accomplish these fast boot times.

Hibernation seems pointless to me [on desktop computers] when modern technology is considered, but perhaps there are applications that I’m not considering.

What was the original purpose behind hibernation, and why do people still use it?

Quite a few people use hibernate, so what is Moses missing in the big picture?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Vignesh4304 writes:

Normally hibernate mode saves your computer’s memory, this includes for example open documents and running applications, to your hard disk and shuts down the computer, it uses zero power. Once the computer is powered back on, it will resume everything where you left off.

You can use this mode if you won’t be using the laptop/desktop for an extended period of time, and you don’t want to close your documents.

Simple Usage And Purpose: Save electric power and resuming of documents. In simple terms this comment serves nice e.g (i.e. you will sleep but your memories are still present).

Why it’s used:

Let me describe one sample scenario. Imagine your battery is low on power in your laptop, and you are working on important projects on your machine. You can switch to hibernate mode – it will result your documents being saved, and when you power on, the actual state of application gets restored. Its main usage is like an emergency shutdown with an auto-resume of your documents.

MagicAndre1981 highlights the reason we use hibernate everyday:

Because it saves the status of all running programs. I leave all my programs open and can resume working the next day very easily.

Doing a real boot would require to start all programs again, load all the same files into those programs, get to the same place that I was at before, and put all my windows in exactly the same place.

Hibernating saves a lot of work pulling these things back up again.

It’s not unusual to find computers around the office here that have been hibernated day in and day out for months without an actual full system shutdown and restart. It’s enormously convenient to freeze your work space at the exact moment you stopped working and to turn right around and resume there the next morning.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

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Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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