How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: Do You Shutdown, Hibernate, or Put Your Computer to Sleep When Not Using It? [Poll]

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Each person has their own way of dealing with their computers when not using them. This week we want to know what you do with your computer when not using it.


Photo by Sarah G.

The option you choose will most likely depend on how long you will not be using your computer. It could also depend on whether you are using a desktop PC or a laptop.

Going to be gone for just a short while? Sleep/Standby mode works really well and restores almost instantly. If you are going to be away from the laptop for a while, Hibernate is probably the better choice—or you can just turn your PC off entirely, or leave it on. Everyone has their own style and this week we want to know what yours is. Let us know in the comments!

[polldaddy poll=”3698544″]

Now that you have finished with the poll we hope that you will enjoy looking through some of our articles on this week’s topic.

Hibernation Mode

Sleep/Standby Mode

Akemi Iwaya is a devoted Mozilla Firefox user who enjoys working with multiple browsers and occasionally dabbling with Linux. She also loves reading fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as playing "old school" role-playing games. You can visit her on Twitter and .

  • Published 09/29/10

Comments (53)

  1. Nike

    I usually start my desktop PC as soon as i get home from school. When i don’t use it, i just lock it because i can’t stand having to wait for it to load until it’s ready. Same thing on my laptop, but i never really leave it for very long as i only use it at school.

  2. dirty and bad

    Leave it open, there are torrents running!

  3. Matthew

    If I know I’m coming back to it in about 15 minutes or less, I’ll usually put it to sleep. Anything beyond that, I’ll shut it down.

  4. ironic

    I shut down whenever I can, but most of the time there are programs in the middle of doing something which I don’t want to start over next time. Therefore – hibernate.

  5. Green Star

    I shutdown if I am not using it atleast for next an hour. I use Ubuntu for my OS. Firefox/Chrome can save my web session and reopen at my next start. And my Ubuntu can boot in 31sec, so it is not took long to wait.

  6. Lady Fitzgerald

    This poll is skewed because many people have more than one computer. I leave my desktop running 24/7 and only reboot every few days. I’m on and off of it during the day and I have occasional processes running for a while at night. I do have it set to put the monitor to sleep after a lack of screen activity for 20 minutes.

    My little netbook, however, I turn off after using it. I use the netbook primarily when I’m out of town although it could see some heavy use at home if I have problems with the desktop. Even then, I would shut it down after using to avoid cooking it internally.

  7. Wayne

    When it comes to my work laptop (Win 7 Pro), I shut down when I leave to office. It transitions more smoothly to my home network and on to corporate VPN if it’s booted up fresh.

  8. Zach

    I only have a laptop, so when I’m not using it, I shut it down. I never know how long I’m going to be away from it, so I just find that option easier.

  9. Vertimyst

    I leave my computer running most of the time. I also download stuff often, but my other options – shutdown and suspend – aren’t very attractive because I don’t want to have to re-open my apps after starting my computer, and my wireless card (I have no ethernet connection available where my PC is) doesn’t work after suspending.

  10. Grant

    That would assume that there is a time when I am not using it… If that time ever comes, I will probably shut it down.

  11. _NathanBaxter_

    I shut my desktop down. My Android phone (which is better than the PC I had a decade ago) I naturally leave on 24/7.

    (Yeah, I know it’s about PC’s…but my phone practically IS a PC :D )

  12. Ray Rhodes

    I hibernate mine because I’m usually gone and back in 2-4 hour increments.

  13. infmom

    Like others, it depends on how long I’ll be away from it and which computer I’m using. If it’s going to be more than half an hour I’ll shut the PC down, but I sleep the Mac Mini. Every little bit of power saving helps.

  14. Kalle

    I start my computer when I come home from school and I hibernate it when I go to sleep

  15. BK

    I shut down my desktop machine when I’m done with it; the broken laptop I use as an HTPC, I put to sleep, mostly because the power switch is inaccessible under the closed lid.

  16. Curtis Edenfield

    I use Ubuntu 10.04 so hibernation is as easy as closing the lid, then it’s as easy as opening an logging back on. The only time I have rebooted my laptop is after a major update. My sever is Ubuntu too an it never shuts down.

  17. VannMann

    I never shut down, reboot only.

  18. PendragonUK

    Them torrents aren’t going to share themselves…

    However I have been thinking about building a low power torrent box so I can power down this beast. A desktop built for gaming isn’t best suited to 24/7 running. My electric bill is huge!

  19. KB Prez

    Before I started thinking “green”, I’d just leave it on. Now I shutdown. Makes me feel better.

  20. Merlin

    It depends…
    My desktop I mostly shut down but my laptop I put in hybernation.
    I also have a virtual machine which I put in hybernation so it’s started very fast when I need it (every working day).

  21. John Paul

    When I’m going to be away for an extended period of time (24+ hours), I shut down my system, including the UPS and monitor, otherwise, I just leave the system running 24/7.

    After all, that’s what computers were made for, to run all the time!

  22. Zain

    Hibernate.. always!
    I can’t remember last time I pressed that shut down button.

  23. Enes

    I always shut it down, because it take’s only 1 minute to boot.

  24. Seasider

    I close the laptop lid. Sometimes it will sleep, sometimes I suspect it is doing a bit of web surfing of its own. Perhaps it, and millions of others, are planing for judgement day and the annihilation of the human race.

  25. Rob

    I just lock my computers and leave them running coz I tend to remote into them from most anywhere for work, I really can’t have them non-accessible.

  26. James

    I leave my main desktop machine running 24/7. Only time I shut it down is when, like tonight, I need to install/remove/fix some hardware inside the case. And, of course, this being Windows, the only time I reboot is for Windows Update; if a program installer asks me to reboot, I wait until the next batch of Windows updates rolls around to do it, seems a bit pointless rebooting for the smallest thing. On systems I don’t care about, like my old desktop, or my netbook, they just sit there, not being updated, doing small tasks for me, usually server-related stuff, in the background. My netbook, for instance, went 185 days without a reboot, and that’s running XP Pro SP3! Only reason it got rebooted, well, shut down in this case, was, wait for it, I was drunk, the fan noise from it was keeping me up so I just hit shutdown without thinking.

  27. Brian

    I put my notebook into standby when I’m transporting it. Other than that, my Linux desktop and Windoze notebook and netbook are running most of the time as they’re all running calculations for the World Community Grid.

  28. Jon

    A lot of people have a misconception of the actual power draw of a PC. They are also unaware of how smart the power draw is at idle compared to gaming. Most computers barely use as much as a light bulb when turned on and left idle.

  29. Gumbootboy

    I leave it on, with the hard drive set to never turn off, so the torrents seed/download. But I have the screen turn off after a minute of no use.

  30. GoodBytes

    I used to leave my computer ON 24/7, because XP (before Vista came out) never liked too many sleeps, and hibernation, where it would cause a problem after x amount of time you do. Either it failed to perform the task, or unable to wake up/resume successfully. Yes, I had the latest updates, latest BIOS and latest drivers, and yes I pass through all the diagnostic.. remember that my porblem occurs after a certain amount of time you do it. The first and second time is always a success.

    Since Vista, and now Win7, sleep feature works flawlessly, so I put my laptop and desktop to sleep when I am away, and set my computer to do this automatically after 30min in the case I forget. For my desktop, if there is a case where I need my computer ON all night (ie: defrag or something), then I set my computer to high performance, where I set it (I think it’s default), to never sleep.

  31. Doug

    Hibernate, boots up faster and less problems with drivers as they are already loaded.

  32. JasonCook599

    I will always hibernate my Aspire One netbook when I’m not using it. I do this as Dropbox takes a while to start.

    I always leave my desktop computer running for tools like SSH, VNC, VPN, etc.

    I will usually only restart these computer for a kernel upgrade.

  33. Brandon Howard

    I shut mine down. I use a Toshiba laptop most of the day,I shut it down at night and restart it the next morning.

  34. Freeman

    For me, it depends. When I downloaded something like torrents, I just leave my computer open until it’s done and that’s the time I have to shutdown my computer to conserve energy.

  35. ceej

    I use Vista. I HAVE to Shut Down or it will run slow as molasses in winter when I wake it up from Sleep or Hibernate. Vista sucks.

  36. Wizard

    It’s amazing to me how many people still shut down their PCs. Hibernation is the same thing as turning the PC off, except that it saves saves everything in memory to disk before powering down. When you wake the computer up, it puts all of that data right back into memory and your screen is exactly as you left it. With hibernation, you are ready to go in 5 seconds instead of 60+ seconds for a full boot. With the stability of Windows 7, I only have to reboot once every couple of weeks.

  37. grayhoose

    run Boinc 24/7 @80% w/Vista, run maintenance on sunday and update on tuesday.

  38. Kevin

    Why spin the drives down? Its takes more power to spin them up and down just leave them spinning?

  39. Jr.

    I put sleep at day and shut down at night. I could select just one! =(

  40. Ushindi

    I just do like Sarah G. and stick my hand into the screen…

  41. knightspawn5

    I usally turn it off, if Im just going to be away for a few minutes I put it to sleep.

  42. Devon

    Most of the time, my computer is on. The only time I really put it in sleep is when I’m at school or in bed.
    During the summer the thing will run for weeks on end because I’m always around to tend to it.

  43. no3gods

    I leave it running so it can crunch numbers for Folding@Home.

  44. Demonkunga

    I don’t understand people sometimes. There are people here who are putting their computer to sleep, just to be away from it for 2-20 minutes. That’s such a waste. Just leave it on and lock it if you must.

    As for the people who are shutting down every night. I’d really recommend you hibernate instead, if you have that option.

    I personally just put my computer to sleep/standby when I go to bed. Otherwise, it’s always on (unless I’m downloading stuff). Computers are meant to be running 24/7.

  45. Derf24

    I’m a confirmed hibernation fan and that includes the same route from the UPS after 8 minutes of powerline failure.

  46. Journeyman

    Not infrequently I will either be paged or need quick access. I keep my PC in sleep mode as it gives me almost instant-on access when needed. For me this is critical.

  47. PatrickB

    Always on, but
    blank, locking screensaver in 5;
    power down monitor on 20;
    Power down hard drive in 60;

  48. Rob

    I shut mine down because if I always leave it on for awhile my google chrome browsers starts acting funny, like not being able to display those little boxes you have to check on the internet when you are buying something or logging into something and agreeing with the terms of service the boxes won’t appear until I reboot it. so I just turn it off after about 6 hours of use

  49. ArkAngel.09

    i hav a custom machine….i made her wid ma own hands. D performance dis baby has running on win 7 Ultimate is d best out dere (dats wat i’ve experienced comparin her to other branded n custom machines).so me being a computer professional, a hardcore gamer,nd a download freak makes sense dat my pc is always on….24/7
    but ya…after updates i need to restart her !
    n as ”Demonkunga” said….Computers are meant to be running 24/7…..dis is wat i belived in… always

  50. Fujii

    Since I’ve been using truecrypt to encrypt my hdd’s (including the one windows is running from) I have a Problem with standby and hibernate and a few weeks ago my PC became something like a Fileserver for the homenetwork, so I just turn off the hdd and monitor after 15 minutes so if i forget to turn it off when i go somewhere if i know that i leave for more that a few minutes i turn of the Monitor and it locks itself after 3 minutes and I turn it off completely when i go to bed, even when downloading stuff, my PC wastes about 120watt just for downloading something, i decided for myself that i’m not willed to pay money for something i can do while i’m gaming, surfing, studying or watching videos.

  51. Max

    There’s a lot of misunderstanding about hibernating a computer and many think that power is required to keep state. This is of course not true because the computers state is written to hard disk before hibernation kills the power. You can unplug a computer or take the power and battery away from a laptop and it won’t lose data stored at hibernation.
    Keeping a computer in hibernation longer than a week may alarm applications that wake up to find the date has changed.

  52. Ahmad

    Hi this is Ahmad here. Before making any comment I would like to ask if do you know, that to Hibernate the computers is the fastest, safest, and most effective way to reduce your computer’s electrical consumption when you aren’t using it; and it reduces power consumption as much as turning it off. It is estimated that if all FS computers and monitors were hibernated during off hours it would save the FS $5 million annually in electric bills and reduce CO2 emissions by 44,000 tons. I love my Green Planet therefore I always Hibernate my computer.

  53. Mark

    I love hibernating my system, but still unable to understand that what power level should i keep, when setting my computer to hibernate. Should I keep it on minimum or maximum level?

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