If you’re in the habit of completely shutting down your Windows PC on a regular basis, you might be inconveniencing yourself unnecessarily. Windows 10 and Windows 11 include more effective methods of saving power—and they also save you time. Here’s what to do instead.

If You Want to Save Power, Sleep or Hibernate Instead

Some people shut down their PC at the end of the day when they’re done using it. That’s understandable. If you’re not using your PC, it makes sense to want to save electricity, wear-and-tear, or reduce security risks.

But there’s a much better way. If you put your Windows PC into sleep mode instead, your PC will only use a tiny fraction of the power it consumes when awake, and it will also be ready to resume quickly when you need to use it again.

If you have a laptop, you can put it into sleep mode by closing the lid or pressing a sleep button on the keyboard.

To put a desktop PC into sleep mode, open Start and click the Power icon (which looks like a circle with a line through it). In Windows 10, the power icon will be on the left, in the sidebar. In Windows 11, you’ll find it in the lower-right corner of the Start menu. In the pop-up that appears, select “Sleep.”

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As an alternative, you can use the “hibernate” mode available on some PCs. Hibernate saves the current state of your PC (such as your working memory contents) to hard disk or SSD then power off. When you power your PC back on, Windows will load that saved data off the hard drive and resume your session exactly where you left off.

Some people might also want to shut down their PC to minimize the risk of getting hacked, or having their PC become a zombie used in DDOS attacks. It’s true: a Windows PC sitting idle while connected to the internet 24 hours a day is a security risk. But if your PC is asleep or in hibernation mode, remote hackers typically can’t access your PC, so it’s as good as being completely shut down without any of the inconvenience that comes along with it.

RELATED: How to Make Windows Hibernate More Often (Instead of Sleep)

Shutting Down Frequently Wastes Valuable Time

Finger pushing power button.
Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock.com

Speaking of inconvenience, every time you shut down your PC completely, you’re giving yourself a time penalty the next time you power it back on. That’s because your PC has to boot up, which means it needs to reload the operating system into memory from scratch, and that takes a while.

You’ll also possibly need to take time to re-launch all the applications you were using and load the data within them that you’ve been working on.

If you put your PC to sleep instead, everything—operating system, apps, work data—will be ready to go quickly when you wake your PC, and you’ll save yourself minutes of valuable time and hassle. Also, your sleeping PC can automatically wake to perform updates if necessary, and they’ll be completed in the morning by the time you’re ready to work.

When to Shut Down Anyway

Still, there are times when completely shutting down your PC is a good idea. For example, if you know you won’t be using your PC for a considerable length of time, such as a week, a month, or longer, it’s best to just shut it down.

(If you leave your desktop PC unused for months, consider also unplugging it from the wall to protect it from lightning strikes or other freak power events while you’re away.)

Another situation where shutting down completely can help is during troubleshooting. Sometimes it helps to completely power down the PC and leave it off for about 30 seconds, letting the circuitry completely power down. When you turn it back on, Windows will be forced to restart all your running applications, giving you a fresh start.

Tip: To properly troubleshoot, be sure to restart your PC rather than shutting it down and turning it back on. When you just shut down a PC running a modern version of Windows, “Fast Startup” mode puts the Windows kernel into hibernation so it can boot faster. Restarting a PC bypasses Fast Startup, forcing it to reinitialize the kernel. This can fix problems where the Windows kernel or hardware drivers are stuck in a bad state.

But in general, if you use your PC every day without issues, you’re better off using sleep instead when you want to let your machine rest. Good luck!

RELATED: Why Does Rebooting a Computer Fix So Many Problems?

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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