Sleep and Hibernate in Windows 7: The Great Debate

And now, another instructive encounter with a Windows feature!

Today I'm moderating one of the most eye-opening debates of the decade, between a pair of venerable Windows 7 features: Sleep and Hibernate. Let's listen in.

JG: Candidates, you each have a few seconds to respond to questions, and your opponent will be allowed a brief rebuttal, after which you can respond.

*audience titters*

JG: The first question is for you, Sleep. It's been said that you and Hibernate aren't really all that different. Do you agree?

SLEEP: Let me just say how pleased I am that users have real choices here. Yes, we're both about helping computers and their users conserve power, but we're fundamentally different. I stand for readiness, which is crucial in a busy world. When I'm at work, all open documents and programs stay in memory. I slow power consumption to a trickle by shutting down most functions, but starting back up is nearly instant. Guess I'm a light sleeper.

JG: Hibernate, your rebuttal, please.

HIBERNATE: Yes, we really are different, but only I offer true restraint and sustainability. A computer in hibernate mode consumes virtually no power at all, because all the open documents and programs have been saved to the hard drive, and I can power down the system's memory. This far superior power savings is particularly good for laptops that are going to be unused for a while. In fact, I'm so essential that I take over when a laptop has been left in sleep mode for a very long time and finally runs out of juice.

JG: And now, Sleep, you may respond.

*ever-so-brief pause*

SLEEP: Yes, here I am. See, no waiting around here. By the way, I have a cousin, Hybrid Sleep, who hangs out on a lot of desktops. She saves everything to disk and keeps it in memory too, so she's ready for fast action but also does fine after power failures.

JG: Your time is up. Now the next question is for Hibernate: Both you and your opponent can usually be found loitering on the Start menu, by clicking the arrow next to the Shut down button—and that's how people can put you to work.

Sleep and Hibernate on the Start menu

But surely, there are other options you could discuss.

*short wait*

HIBERNATE: Resuming Windows. I mean, er, yes. Both of us can begin doing our thing automatically, too—say, after a certain period of inactivity. The timing is adjustable, and it's even possible to tell us "never"! This is done by changing options on a Power plan, as explained in this FAQ.

Power Options settings

JG: Sleep, your rebuttal?

SLEEP: Frankly, those just sound like talking points to me.

HIBERNATE: Oh, quit flip-flopping.

SLEEP: I've got video of you accepting a bribe!

HIBERNATE: Well, at least I didn't get my cousin a sweetheart job!

SLEEP: Well, you—

JG: And that's all the time we have. Sounds like you both have your place; maybe you should consider running on the same ticket. Thanks to our audience.

Join me again soon for our next Feature encounter, when we catch up with Taskbar over salad and sodas at a local eatery.


Comments (20)

  1. Sten Beranek says:

    Using hibernate on my laptop and sleep on PC , cuz of battery saving 🙂

  2. Irlan Robson says:

    Alright, but the most of times i shutdown my computer …

  3. CreepinJesus says:

    In a strange way, I found this pretty funny!  But, you'll be pleased to hear it was also very helpful 🙂

  4. Ceb says:

    Hibernate uses NO power, not "virtually" no power. The machine is completely powered off.

  5. K.Kong says:

    Ever since my first notebook in Nov 1996, my computer has been on Sleep, at different times called Standby.  I have changed notebooks 11 times, but my computer is still on Sleep whenever I am moving or when the computer is not in use (eg at night when I sleep).  Yeah, I have powered down, to change memory, clean the computer, etc, but I have not shut down the computer because I don't need to use it.

    In other words, I have not switch off my computer for 14 + years.  Anyone can beat that?

  6. Me says:

    HAHA, very nicely put together artikle and I liked the humorous angle.

    Well done.

  7. Eric says:

    Pretty cool, lol, although for me hibernate wins because if you're dual booting you can hibernate, boot into the other OS, then hibernate that OS and go back to the first one with the same session.

  8. Giley says:

    So basically Sleep is ok if you are flitting between places close by where you want to have almost instant access to you open programs as quickly as possible and Hibernate is when you you will have to boot up quickly but it saves battery power which is useful if you are on a journey of a couple of hours or more.

    I use Hibernate a lot.

  9. Firingline Side Chat says:

    Hibernate: The word on the street is that you cause far more crashes, freezes and instability than sleep. Do you have a response? … Hello? … Hibernate? Oh my god! Someone call a technician!!!

  10. Rubén Hinojosa says:

    SLEEP breakes down my internet connection when come back. HIBERNATE keeps the internet connection up and live, and everything goes fine after resuming. So, I prefer HIBERNATE because SLEEP does not work properly. Is that a bug or a feature?

  11. Neal says:

    So childish. What was the point of that.

  12. Dave says:

    What is all this utter nonsense! What a load of drivel.

  13. Terrance says:

    There should be more tech articles written in such an entertaining format. Thx for changing it up.

  14. Shawn Mclean says:

    This is what codeproject newsletters are sending me nowadays? 😐

  15. Jack says:

    came here with a lot of enthusiasm n curiousity.. dead topic.. not worth reading

  16. Linus Dork says:

    Linux has a superior feature: it just breaks your "green" hard drives. Down with nature!

  17. mike says:

    Is this an early exercpt from "Head First Windows 7" ?

  18. michal says:

    I hoped you'd touch on stability issues.  I haven't tried hibernate with Win7 but on my XP I used to have stability problems after waking from hibernation.  When waking from sleep, the problems are much less frequent but they still do sometimes occur…


  19. Dan_IT says:

    Question about this.  On one of my laptops in college about 4 years ago I used sleep.  Then one day the hard drive stopped working and I went to get help at the support center.  The support center guy said that using sleep was bad if you moved around a lot or put the laptop in your bag and walked around with it.  He said it was because the read/write head was still on the hard drive platter and could scratch it.  He said to use hibernate.  Is there any truth to this or have they fixed that problem in newer versions?

  20. Roman Hnatiuk says:

    Ceb> Hibernate uses NO power, not "virtually" no power. The machine is completely powered off.

    That is not true. As long as the machine is plugged into the power outlet, it is ALWAYS consuming some energy, even when "completely powered off". This is true for both desktops and laptops, and, in fact, it is true for most consumer electronics devices like TVs, set-top boxes, cell phone chargers, etc. The amount of energy consumed is normally pretty small – max a few watts in case of PC, but nevertheless. Sleep is consuming marginally more than hibernate does because of its memory refresh cycles.

Skip to main content