Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Hibernate is a convenient way to turn off a machine without shutting down all applications for a quick restart later.

I have XP on my laptop. Hibernate is enabled with option enabled to Hibernate when I close lid. Is there any downside to using this routinely to power down or should I Shut Down or Restart periodically?

From your description of Shut Down it seems that "all" that happens is that Windows closes down everything (which I want up and running anyway when I start) without any other maintenance tasks which may be essential for "good health". Correct?

This is one of those theory versus practice situations.

In theory, you should be able to use hibernate all the time. In fact, I know some people who pretty much do.

In practice, however, things aren't always quite that easy.

The theory behind hibernate is actually wonderfully simple. To oversimplify, (of course), when you hibernate the machine writes a complete image of its system RAM to the hard disk and turns itself completely off. There are two advantages to this:

  • It's off. It's using no power.

  • Turning it back on is faster than a full reboot.

That last point is the big appeal. It's accomplished because (once again, oversimplifying) the computer simply reloads the RAM image, and resumes from where you left off.

It actually is close to being that simple, and in theory it should always just work.

"... there's nothing wrong with always using hibernation as much as you like, unless you find that it doesn't work ..."

However, theory and practice don't always coincide.

There are actually several flies in the hibernate ointment. While it's definitely been getting better over time, you can still have problems.

The ability to hibernate, and standby for that matter, relies in part on support from the computer's BIOS. The problem is that some BIOS's aren't quite up to snuff when it comes to hibernate. This is, fortunately, one of the areas of greatest improvement in recent years, and is typically an issue only in older machines. Even then, it's not uncommon that a BIOS update can resolve many of the issues.

More common are issues with drivers for the various hardware that might be attached to your computer.

Let's take a common sticking point: wireless networking.

Just before you hibernate you'll likely have a working wireless connection. That connection is, of course, terminated when your machine goes into hibernation.

When you wake up or resume from hibernate that wireless connection needs to be restored from being completely powered off to whatever state it was in before hibernation. Normally, when the device is powered in it can assume that it's in a boot situation and can simply start from scratch. Unfortunately, resuming from a hibernate isn't "from scratch". The wireless connection must, if at all possible, act as if nothing happened. In addition, your computer might wake up from hibernate in a completely different location - in which case the wireless driver needs to act as if, well, something happened; something that's not quite a reboot, but certainly ... something.

It gets complicated.

And, in fact, almost every driver for every device connected to your computer somehow needs to deal with all this in ways that are specific to each device. Some, like perhaps a monitor or screen, need very little thought. Others, like network connections that need to act like nothing happened, except that the world they're connected to could be completely different, take a little, or a lot more work.

Which means that every driver is a potential point of failure for a clean resume from hibernation.

This, too, has been getting better over time, but we're certainly not living in a perfect world.

So the first answer to your question is simply this: there's nothing wrong with always using hibernation as much as you like, unless you find that it doesn't work, or that problems result. If it works, it's nifty and faster and as you said, more convenient than opening up all those applications each time you turn on the machine.

The second answer really boils down to how long you can leave Windows running continuously without a problem. Once again in theory, forever. And once again in practice: not so much. This is particularly due to applications that don't release resources the way they should - occasionally even applications that are part of Windows itself - you simply need to reboot to clean things out. How often depends on many, many things including the hardware and software installed and how you use the machine. As one data point, I'll typically leave my relatively active desktop computer running for weeks at a time.

Usually until a Windows Update comes along that requires a reboot and resolves the question for me.

If that update-related reboot doesn't come along you may find that, once in a while, you'll want to reboot .. just because.

Article C3726 - May 8, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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17 Comments
Mark Jacobs
May 8, 2009 10:23 AM

Hibernate works great on my Asus eee 1000h. I rarely power down. Well, once every week or 2 I do just to clean things up. I may not need to but it seems like it might just free up resources.

My Toshiba Satellite A100 doesn't handle hibernation. It hibernates when I shut the lid but when it wakes up it goes right back to sleep like the groundhog when it sees its shadow. If anyone knows a fix for this I would appreciate it.

Danny
May 9, 2009 8:23 AM

Would these issues in hibernate also be a concern for Standby mode in XP and Sleep in Vista?

Standby does not write RAM to, or reload it from memory. Standby uses a small amount of power to keep RAM loaded. With that in mind, Standby will eventually either hibernate or shut down as the battery drains.

That said, in concept the rest of the issues remain the same, except that it's been my experience that Standby is more problematic with driver and other issues than Hibernate. If it works, great.
- Leo
08-May-2009

Tracy
May 12, 2009 10:46 AM

Yes I use hibernate most of the time, (reboot maybe once a week.. not sure if it's my imagination but I think it might get slower and as the other poster said above to 'clean things up') .. however I did want to mention that yes, right about the drivers because one time I came out of either hibernation or standby, can't remember, and my mouse - when I moved back and forth the pointer went up and down, and when I moved my mouse up and down, my pointer went back and forth! woah! I restarted the computer and all was fine.. but THAT was weird!

duane
May 12, 2009 11:04 AM

I've noticed that the date in the calendar of Microsoft Works doesn't keep the correct date if you hibernate overnight. Very minor indeed.

SunHiker
May 12, 2009 3:55 PM

Both my one-year-old laptop and my brand-new desktop will choose to come out of hibernation at their own whim. I suspect it happens when one of the apps I leave open tries to poll the Internet connection periodically; does that make sense? So, I've made a point of closing both my email client and my browser before I hibernate, and so far, so good.

Lee
May 12, 2009 6:36 PM

Good article Leo. I'm a long time reader, first time commenter; your site is great!

I was sleeping my desktop for a long time, shutting down over the weekends and sleeping it mainly through the week. Then one day I came back from sleep mode and nothing on my desktop worked! The icons where all there but everything I clicked on just came up with an error message. I had to revert to a restore point to fix it, but now I'm too scared to use sleep mode anymore. It's still tempting because I loved leaving things open and coming back to exactly where I was, but the trust is gone now. :(

newprouser
May 13, 2009 10:00 PM

Another problem with hibernate is that over time, garbage data gets stored in system memory due to certain faults in computer programs(memory leaks etc). Over a period of time this causes the system to slow down.
So as long as a system is restarted once in a while , its good to hibernate.

Dennis
May 14, 2009 3:06 AM

A point about updating the BIOS. My netbook's battery(well looked after) is cutting out when 20% power remaining and should go into hibernation but doesn't - needs a reboot. Tech support suggests a Bios update to fix this but warns this could damage the BIOS resulting in a useless compter and the company will take no resposibilty.
As I don't want to risk this I'm not updating - I'll just live with this glitch.

shahnawaz
May 15, 2009 9:43 PM

I just have been a new member of yours.but i assure you i'll always there.I very much liked your solutions.It is helpiing me a lot.thanks for always being there

Bill MacMillan
May 19, 2009 6:28 PM

Ihave XP on one computer and Vista on another. I use hibernate on XP and sleep on Vista. What is the difference? Is sleep the same as standby, and if so how do I hibernate on Vista?

Paul Walker
June 26, 2009 12:54 PM

Like SunHiker, my machine sometimes comes out of hibernation on its own. I once thought that it was an intruder, but never observed any bad virus, Trojan or what have you. So at the last thing in the evening, I turn the surge protector switch off.

George Blair
October 28, 2010 7:01 AM

My computer has a problem for about roughly 30 mins every time I start it up-after coming out of being shut-down overnight.
After this period of cursor sticking and jamming-it starts working properly for the rest of the day(usually).What is the reason for this -it is a Windows Vista and is this the problem?

Sounds to me like your anti-malware or backup programs are kicking in when the machine comes back to life, and are slowing down the machine while they operate. Once complete, things are back to normal. You might check into the scheduling you've set up for either or all of them.
Leo
28-Oct-2010

Bob
August 9, 2011 8:22 AM

Is it easy to enable hibernation in Vista?
My notebook (running 7) hibernates quite happily, but my desktop (running Vista) doesn't give me the option.

Hibernation is really meant mostly for portable computers. It can be enabled in desktop computers whose BIOS's support it, but not all.
Leo
10-Aug-2011

dr. Sana Rukas
February 18, 2012 12:27 PM

Hello Leo,

i think your idea to use hibernate all the time isn't good! And I'll explain why that's not good idea, every motherboard, doesn't matter desktop or laptop configuration always stay energized even PC/laptop we "shut down it with hibernate", always there stay a little bit electricity 1-2w, +5V from main source of electricty on backside of our PC housing or from battery on notebook, and there can happen electro shock of our HDD, if we drop or bump PC housing , laptop, and damage our HDD, or some thunder shoch, etc.

That's reason why isn't ok always to leave PC/laptop hibernated!

Greetings!

I think you're confusing standby with hibernate. Hibernate truly turns the computer OFF. (And for the record I do not recommend using it all the time.)
Leo
19-Feb-2012

dr. Sana Rukas
February 23, 2012 5:18 PM

No, this is not true, you are wrong, and i'm not confusing stand by and hibernate, i'm in IT 13 years, and i know well hardware and software, so you as an experienced user, would know that the electricity remains active on the motherboard, from the main outlet from the wall, ie the cable that is included in the PSU casing! Evidence that the electricity is still a small amount of active, low voltage, but enough to damage the HDD is a green light on the motherboard, which is always power on until power cable is plugged to electrical outlet wall, and still receiving power, right off the computer, ie in the absence of electricity did not do hibernate, but = removing the power cord from the electrical outlet to the main electric entrance of the PC case!

Read a little bit more for this materia, any you'll see that hibernate doesn't mean total power off, total power off = removing power cable ;) !

Greetings!

dr. Sana Rukas

Turning the computer off and going into hibernate are the same thing from the hardware's point of view. You'll see that little green LED if you turn your computer off too. Yes, pulling the power cable removes that - for both hibernate and power-off.
Leo
24-Feb-2012
dr. Sana Rukas
March 1, 2012 2:00 AM

What i said before, then what you repeat my words :) ! Shut down pc - hibernate is same, i told that before, but totally power off in right meaning of this phrase = removing cable from wall electricity outlet, or power of button on our elcetricity cable, most of moder electrictiy cable with 2-3 slots, has button for totally power off ;) , that's really power off, cause shut down - software, and hibernate, don't power off totally, cause electricity is still on motherboard ;) ... However, i use always hibernate, but when i plan to leave my house on longer period, i totally power off electrcitiy on main electricity cable to avoid some problems with thunder, etc. And one thing for other people to know, hibernate isn't good to use for SSD, cause everytime OS is back, it has to write on SSD, etc. , we know SSD has limited number of writing, and it make less number of writing, if we often hibernate, and then power on our PC, notebook...

Greetings!

dr. Sana Rukas

Mark J
March 1, 2012 9:56 AM

@dr Rukas
If you hibernate your compute,r you will be able to remove the power cords and completely disconnect the computer, but your computer will still remain hibernation ready to be awakened when you plug it in and turn it on.

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