Sleep vs. Hibernate—What’s the Difference in Windows?

Aside from turning off your PC, Windows gives you a couple of other options to preserve power. The most widely used options are Sleep and Hibernate. Both power features are advantageous if you have a laptop, mostly since they ensure longer battery life without completely shutting the PC down. The two options also preserve your open windows and services, which then get reloaded upon bootup.

Sleep vs. Hibernate—What's the Difference in Windows?

Regardless of benefits, Sleep and Hibernate come with both pros and cons. Understanding the differences helps your PC or laptop save power effectively and save time you’d otherwise spend waiting for your device to start.

This article explains the difference between Sleep and Hibernate to help you determine which option is best for your needs under specific circumstances. Let’s take a closer look.

What is Windows Sleep Mode?

Sleep mode happens after you haven’t used your PC for a certain amount of time, but the user can also choose it manually. Essentially, it’s like pausing a movie. All of your apps and windows stay open, and your device uses its random-access memory (RAM) to preserve the PC’s active state.

When you come back and move or click the mouse or press a key like the Spacebar, the previous state is how you left it. A startup is usually very fast, and it doesn’t take more than a second or two to bring everything back. It’s nothing more than just a Standby mode.

When Should You Use Windows Sleep Mode?

Your PC goes into sleep mode automatically to save power. Windows 10 (and XP, 7, 8, and 8.1) set sleep time activation by default, but you can change the setting or disable sleep mode altogether. It’s best to use it if you won’t be needing your device for a short period. So, if you need to rush out of your office and grab a quick bite, Sleep Mode can be useful. It offers a faster launch than a restart, so you can get back to using it in no time.

What is Windows Hibernate?

If you’re using a laptop and your battery is close to dying, your device’s last waking state gets saved to disk, usually through the Hibernate power scheme. This process means that whenever you plug it back in, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off.

Desktop PCs don’t have a battery option like laptops, so Hibernate is often activated after a specific sleep time. The purpose of going from Sleep Mode to Hibernate Mode is to preserve battery life, but for a Desktop PC, it gets used to save energy.

When Should You Use Windows Hibernate?

Hibernation is the right choice if you plan to leave the PC or laptop off for a longer duration during the day. It is generally best to shut down the PC or laptop for more extended periods and start fresh.

The Windows Hibernate power state cuts all power to the PC or laptop, but it also uses a save state to resume all open windows and services upon power-up.

Hibernate is a great option, but it takes longer to load, especially since it has to resume all previous activities. If you’ve got time to wait, Hibernation is a perfect choice.

What is Windows Hybrid Sleep?

There’s a neat feature called Hybrid Sleep, which works similarly to regular Sleep, with a couple more caveats. Hybrid Sleep is a combination of both Sleep and Hibernate power states. The feature preserves existing windows and processes in the RAM while also saving it to the hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD). Your PC goes to sleep after it captures the current session to RAM. Once that step gets completed, Windows duplicates the data to the HDD or SSD.

The option was designed for Desktop PCs. However, you CAN activate Hybrid Sleep on a laptop if desired. Just be careful when using hybrid mode on portable devices—read further to find out why.

Windows Hybrid Sleep provides two levels of protection that ensure a reliable restore of your previous session.

There is no Hybrid Sleep option in the Shutdown menu of any device. Still, it automatically activates following a sleep cycle for a certain amount of time, assuming the option is enabled in the power settings.

When Should You Use Windows Hybrid Sleep?

By combing the Sleep and Hibernate functions using Hybrid Sleep, you get two backups of your system’s current state. Unfortunately, power outage recovery only works if the PC was already asleep and successfully finished the HDD/SSD writing process. Otherwise, there isn’t enough time to save data to the HDD. On the flip side, If the RAM gets corrupt because the PC lost power, your system can load the data using the HDD or SSD cached data established during the sleep cycle.

Windows Hybrid Sleep also allows for a quick startup compared to Hibernate since it can utilize the RAM data to restore the previous session.

How to Activate Windows Hybrid Sleep

Hybrid sleep is automatically activated on desktop PCs. As previously mentioned, laptops have Hybrid Sleep disabled by default. It is important to note that Hybrid Sleep is not available if Hibernate is not added first. In other words, you won’t see the option without the hibernate setting being actively available.

If your PC or laptop does not have Hybrid Sleep turned on, you can set it up by performing the steps below. Remember that hybrid sleep is disabled in laptops for safety.

Enable Hybrid Mode on Windows 10 PC

  1. Go to “Start > Settings > System.”
  2. Click on “Power & sleep.”
  3. Go to “Additional power settings” (found in the “Related Settings” section) in the right pane.
  4. Click “Change plan settings > Change advanced power settings.”
  5. Click the “+” next to “Sleep” and then next to “Allow Hybrid Sleep.” Choose “On” from the dropdown menu for battery and plugged-in options. Click “OK” then “Apply” to activate the hybrid sleep state.

Enable Hybrid Mode on Laptops

Laptops generally use a different power scheme to preserve active windows and processes when not in use. The portable devices use Sleep when inactive, and then they may activate Hibernate to conserve the battery. Hybrid Sleep is disabled because of the time it takes to save the session to an HDD or SSD.

Closing the lid puts the laptop to sleep, and if the hybrid option is active, it caches the current session to disk while you move the portable device around to store it and while shaking it up in your backpack or case. That’s not a very good combination for an HDD!

While an SSD does not have moving parts like an HDD, it does wear it out sooner due to increased input/output signals (data transactions). If you plan on leaving your laptop at the desk, Hybrid Sleep is beneficial for HDDs, especially when you get back on to work or finish a task.

To enable Hybrid Sleep on your laptop, follow the directions for Desktop PCs, but be sure that Hibernate is active as an option, or else you won’t see it.

You’ll then have Hybrid Sleep activated, and there will be no reason to worry about losing your work, except for a power outage while the computer was actually in use.

How to Change the Sleep Settings in Windows

For many, the default sleep settings in Windows, aren’t ideal for them. Here’s how to change it.

  1. As shown above, go to Settings > Power & sleep. Windows Settings - Power and sleep
  2. Then, click on the Sleep dropdown menu and select your desired time.
    • If using a laptop, then you’ll have the option to change the sleep settings for battery power and while charging. Windows Sleep Settings

If you want to save power, then adjusting your sleep settings is a must.

How to Change the Screen Settings in Windows

Given its relation to power plan settings, let’s cover adjusting the screen sleep settings in Windows. These settings are responsible for your screen going black after so long a period of inactivity.

  1. Again, go to Settings > Power & sleep, if you aren’t already there in another window. Windows Settings - Power and sleep
  2. Now, select the Screen dropdown menu and adjust the time to what suits you.
    • Again, if using a laptop, you’ll have the options for battery power and for when its plugged in. Windows Screen Settings

Having your screen go blank on you can be disconcerting, at least now you’ll know it’s on purpose and when it’s going to happen.

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