In this day and age, there’s no reason to shut down your computer, then sit through the boot-up process when you want to use it. Save yourself time by putting your computer to sleep or hibernating it instead.

Modern computers–whether they’re laptops, desktops, or tablets–are designed to be used in this way. This applies to Windows PCs, Macs, Linux systems, Chromebooks, and everything else.

Why Sleep and Hibernate Are Awesome

If you regularly use a computer, shutting down is extremely inconvenient. Before you shut down, you need to save your work. The next time you go to boot your computer, you’ll have to sit through the boot-up process, manually relaunch all the programs you were using, and reopen all the documents you were editing.

Sleep and hibernate, on the other hand, preserve your session. When you’re done using your computer, you can just close your laptop’s lid (or, on a desktop, choose the Sleep or Hibernate option). You don’t have to worry about closing your programs and saving your documents.

When you come back and press the power button, everything will be exactly as you left it. It’ll start back up within a second or two if you put it to sleep, or a bit longer than that if you hibernated it. All your open programs and documents will be in the same place, and you can immediately start doing whatever you need without sitting through a boot-up process, launching your programs, and opening your documents.

How Sleep and Hibernate Work

Sleep puts your computer into a very low-power mode, and saves its current state in its RAM. Your computer continues drawing a small amount of power to keep that RAM powered on. When you turn on your computer, it can immediately resume from where it left off in just a second or two.

Hibernate, on the other hand, saves your computer’s state to the hard drive, and shuts down completely. Your computer won’t draw any additional power, like it does with sleep. When you turn your computer back on, it will load the data from the disk into RAM and resume from where it left off. You’ll go right back to where you were with all your programs and documents open. It’ll take a bit longer to resume, but it won’t take as long as booting up if you had shut down your computer. How long it takes depends on the speed of your hard drive–if you have a speedy solid-state drive, it should be pretty quick.

In other words, Hibernate is literally the same as shutting down your computer–only with all your work saved exactly as you left it.

How to Sleep or Hibernate Your Computer

RELATED: How to Re-Enable Hibernation in Windows 8 and 10

New Windows computers are set to automatically sleep after a period of time, and then automatically hibernate after that. Laptops of all types are usually configured to sleep when you close the lid and wake up when you open it. You can customize how long your computer waits before sleeping, however. Head to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options > Change When the Computer Sleeps to change this setting.

The power button can put your computer to sleep when you press it, if you like. Head to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options > Choose What the Power Button Does to choose what happens when you press your computer’s power button.

You can also select Sleep or Hibernate from the Power menu. However, you must re-enable the Hibernate option on Windows 10 before it will appear there.

Don’t Worry About the Power Usage

The only real downside to using sleep is increased power usage. On a desktop, this is extremely low and will only add a few cents to your monthly electric bill, on average.

On a laptop, sleep will continue draining the battery bit by bit. But laptops are generally configured to automatically hibernate after a few hours, so they won’t just sit losing battery power forever. Sleep mode means you can pick up your laptop and use it much more quickly, which could actually save you battery power over sitting through a long boot process several times a day.

Either way, if you’re concerned about electricity usage, you can just hibernate your computer instead. Hibernation will use no more electricity than simply shutting it off.

Bugs Shouldn’t Be a Problem, Either

Some people might think Windows needs a daily reboot to function properly, but it shouldn’t. Sure, you might occasionally want to reboot Windows to solve problems–you’ll have to reboot after updating Windows and installing many hardware drivers anyway. But you don’t need to reflexively reboot every day. If your Windows PC needs a daily reboot, it has deeper problems you need to fix.

Older computers might have had trouble with sleep or hibernate in the past due to hardware driver issues. Modern computers shouldn’t have those issues. In fact, most are configured to automatically sleep and hibernate out of the box. Don’t worry about it unless you’re using a much older computer that you know has problems with sleep and hibernate.

Unfortunately for Linux users, Linux may have problems hibernating or even sleeping on some PCs, which is why hibernate is disabled by default on Ubuntu. But, assuming your hardware manufacturer supports the operating system you’re using on your computer, it should work fine.

Shutting down, for the most part, is a relic of the past. With sleep and hibernate, you get much more convenience, with little to no downside.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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