Almost all the computers have hibernate and sleep settings. Most of you have at so many times come across these two terms mainly from your computer settings. Some of you have tried using them, perhaps changing their default setup.

The problem is that most people don’t know the actual difference between hibernation and sleep mode of a computer. Even the tech nerds out there still confuse these two terms.

In this article, I will be showing you what each of these modes do, the advantages of each and the distinct differences.

What is hibernation mode?

With hibernation, the computer is completely switched off, while the machine state is stored in the non-volatile memory, in most cases the hard disk.

When the computer is switched back on, all the previously open programs and documents are restored to their last state.

During hibernation, the computer does not use any kind of power and the machine is restored whether or not the computer had battery power (or a power source connected).

Note: Hibernation and sleep are only supported if the computer’s hardware and drivers are ACPI. (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface provides the operating system ability to configure hardware components into power management)

What is sleep mode?

Sleep mode is a state where the computer is put to a low power mode, where the system uses extremely less power to maintain the contents of the Random Access Memory(RAM).

Every hardware component of the system is turned off apart of the RAM where the machine state is stored unlike in hibernation where the machine state is stored in the hard disk.

This means that the computer needs some power to maintain the machine state and to wake up from sleep. Therefore, in case the computer remains with no power to maintain the RAM state, the machine saved state is lost.

Note: Sleep mode is similar to standby mode

How to hibernate a computer?

For most of the computers, it’s as easy as clicking on the power icon from the start menu and then clicking on the hibernate option.

In case the hibernate option is not there, it’s possible that hibernation is disabled.

Turn on hibernation in the following steps;

  • Search for command prompt in the start menu
  • Right click on it and run as administrator.
  • Type “powercfg.exe /hibernate on” and press enter. (The same procedure can be used to disable hibernation)
  • This will enable hibernation but you won’t be able to notice the change from the command prompt so you will have to set the computer to hibernate after some time, when the power button is clicked or when the laptop lid is closed.

How to schedule hibernation.

Search for control panel in the start menu and open it.

Click on hardware and sound from the control panel.

hardware and sound settings

Click on Power Options.

Power Options settings

click on change plan settings for a selected power plan

At the bottom, click on change advanced power settings

Look for Sleep option and expand it to see the hibernate option and then edit the hibernation time to your preferences.

Hibernate settings

Next look for power buttons and lid from the same settings and edit the settings to your preferences.

Advantages of hibernation

  1. Can be used to save the machine state in case of an unexpected shutdown for example during critical battery conditions.
  2. Does not require any kind of power to maintain the machine state.

Disadvantages of hibernation.

The restoration is not as instant as for the sleep mode. The machine takes some time to restore the previous state.

How to sleep a computer

Most computers are by default set to sleep after a certain period of time to reduce power consumption.

It’s as easy as clicking on the power icon from the start menu and then clicking on the sleep option.

How to schedule the computer to sleep

  1. Search for the control panel in the start menu and open it.
  2. Open Hardware and sound from the control panel menu and then click on Power Options
  3. Click on change plan settings for a power plan currently selected
  4. Enter the period of time after which you want to sleep the computer and save the settings.
Sleep settings

How to disable sleep mode

Follow the same steps as for scheduling a computer to sleep as described above. Under the Put computer to sleep, select Never.

Advantages of sleep mode

  1. It used to reduce power consumption of a computer in case of idle conditions.
  2. Restoring the machine state is instant. This is because machine state is maintained in the RAM.

Disadvantages of sleep mode

It requires power to maintain the machine state. Sleep mode may not be the perfect choice for longer hours in case a laptop is on battery power.

Difference between hibernation and sleep modes

HibernationSleep
The effect to the computer is similar to shut down as the system is completely switched offThe computer is not completely switched off.
The machine state is stored on non-volatile memory, in most cases on the hard disk.The computer needs some bit of power to maintain the contents of RAM
The machine state is stored on non volatile memory, in most cases on the hard disk.The machine state is stored in the RAM
Restoring the machine state from hibernation takes some time as the contents have to be moved from the hard disk to the RAMRestoring the machine state from sleep mode is instant since the state contents are already in RAM

Conclusion

There is an advanced power management mode which is called the Hybrid sleep mode which combines the advantages of both the sleep and hibernation modes.

In this mode, the computer stores the machine state in hard disk but it is not completely switched off therefore the computer wakes up instatly. It is mostly common with desktop computers.

How to enable the hybrid sleep mode.

  1. While changing power plan settings of a particular power plan, click on change advanced power settings.
  2. Expand Sleep from the list and click on hybrid sleep.
  3. Edit the hybrid sleep settings to your preferences.
Hybrid sleep settings

Enock Lubowa
A technologist who writes for both the geeks and non-geeks. I am an entrepreneur and software developer with a Computer Science background. Discuss complicated stuff with me via my social handles below.