Jan Leow's Press Blog

Sleep vs. Hibernate vs. Shutdown in Windows Vista

I have always wondered what the sleep vs. hibernate vs. the shutdown mode in Windows Vista meant. The last time I used the sleep mode it frozed my PC and it wouldn’t shutdown or startup properly. So while visiting a relative in Kuantan with nothing else much to do, I decided to explore the above three shutdown mode with my Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop.

Browsing through the help files provided with Windows, it took me awhile to understand the intricacies of each setting. Especially the difference between sleep vs. that of hibernate. They are almost similar in function in that you could continue using Windows from where you left off after you have suspended it. There was even a hybrid sleep version, which took me some time to comprehend. After testing each mode on my laptop I now understood how to use each one effectively. It was quite easy to use once you understood what each of the mode meant.


Windows Vista Shutdown optionsEverybody knows what Shutdown is, so I won’t elaborate it so much. Though it is the easiest mode to use and understand, according to good old Microsoft, it was not the best option to use; instead they whole heartedly recommend using the Sleep mode. They reasoned that you will waste too much time waiting for the computer to shutdown because Windows need to close all application before switching off, and booting up takes up time because you need to wait for each application and services to startup.


So they suggested using the Sleep mode instead. The sleep mode doesn’t really shutdown your PC, it just stores whatever open application into the RAM memory and reduces all the computer component to a low power mode. The computer is not shutdown but in a suspended animation mode. That is to say it is not brain dead because the CPU and everything else is just fast asleep, drawing very little power just enough to keep the memory alive (because all your open application is stored there). When you press the power on button, the PC comes on alive almost instantaneously. On laptops, when the situation came to a point where the battery power becomes critically low, it will then relocate the RAM content onto the hard disk and powers off the system.

I however, wouldn’t suggest this sleep mode. If like most people, we would prefer to power down the desktop computer and switch off the main switch. Without power, anything that was stored in the RAM memory would be erased. And what if you have a power failure or perhaps accidentally switch off your main switch to your desktop computer? If you have any open application and WIP documents, that would be oops, oh no! All gone! In addition, on a laptop, it still draws power, which meant that your battery will still drain though ever so slightly according to the help file. Nope, I tried that once and boy was there a lot of power drain.


As for the Hibernate mode, I would say this would be the better option if you wish to continue from where you left off earlier. In this hibernation mode, the current state of your computer plus any of your open applications will be stored on the hard disk. Once all the information was written into the hard disk the PC will switch off. When you switch on your computer, the information will be pulled out from your hard disk and restored to the state which you left it before.

Good point about this is you don’t have to worry if you or somebody pulled out the plug because the computer was already switched off. And you could continue where you have left off though on firing up your PC, it would not be as instantaneous as the Sleep mode, but would still be faster than a normal boot up.


As for the Hybrid mode, as per the name suggest, it is a combination of Sleep and Hibernate mode. In this Hybrid setting, the current state of your computer is both stored in the RAM memory and Hard disk. The idea was that in case the power was cutoff the current state of the computer was still safely stored in the hard disk. You could still boot up and continue from where you left off even if the power was cut off. And with the feature of sleep mode, switching on the computer would give you the near instantaneous continuation from where you left off (on the condition that you didn’t take away its power supply). The bad point was your computer was still running and drawing power and thus on a laptop it will slowly drain the battery and of course on a normal desktop, the power would still has to be supplied thus you still have to pay for the electric bill. Hybrid mode though, is available only for some system only (I didn’t see this option available on my desktop but found it in my Dell laptop).

Of course, it is entirely up to you to decide which mode will suit you best. I think for myself, the best choice would be hibernate mode because it did not draw power and also because I would not be using my computer for an extended period of time in between usage; and of course the full proper shutdown with every application closed properly, which was what I had been using all the time.

Another point to note when your PC go into sleep or hybrid mode, there is a tendency for the LAN connection to break after waking up the computer leaving you without an internet/intranet connection. Apparently the network IP would need to reset or you won’t be able to get a connection. And the only way to do that is to do a reboot. So what is the point to go into sleep/hybrid mode when you still need to reboot to get your connection?

Modifying the power settings

Windows shutdown settingsSetting each mode is easy, just go to control panel.

  1. Click the Power Option icon.
  2. In the Select a Power Plan, just click the “Change plan settings” on your current preferred plans selection.
  3. Click the “Change advance power settings” link
  4. Look for the “Power buttons and lid” in the menu list modify away to whichever is your preferred settings to your heart content

Modifying the “Start Menu power button” will also change the power down button icon function. For example if you prefer the button to shut down instead of going to sleep, just change the setting to shutdown. Beats opening the extended menu and then finding the appropriate shutdown button. Saves yourself two steps to shutdown your computer, eh? Especially in this time and age of the rat race where everything has to be done fast-fast!

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7 thoughts on “Sleep vs. Hibernate vs. Shutdown in Windows Vista”

  1. Hyvrid Mode isnt normally available on desktops as it was designed more with laptops in mind. I believe that Hybrid Mode is available on some Dell higher end desktops, but on most other desktops and most desktops of other makes the mode is simply sleep mode.

    It is also worth while to note that if you are trying to use Hybrid Mode on either a compatable desktop or your laptop then you may have to enable hibernation by doing the following

    1: Click on your start menu button and in the search box type cmd and then right click the cmd and left click run as admin
    2: type in the following to the cmd line powercfg -h on
    3: Press your Enter or Return Button
    4: Close the cmd

    You should now have enabled hibernation on your computer (if it was not already enabled) and you will need hibernation enabled before you can use the sleep feature of Hybrid Mode. You can test this by pressing the sleep button on your keyboad (if you have a multimedia keyboard) — (your sleep button should look like either a half moon or a half moon with a little star above right.) If you dont have a multimedia keyboard then you can still test your settings by doing the following

    1: Open your start menu
    2: Locate the arrow that should be next to the lock sign on the sleep/lock menu bar at teh bottom right of your start menu screen
    3: If you see the sleep comman in the extended menu (accessed via clicking on the arrow as described above) then your computer should now be able to sleep using Hybrid Mode. You can check this by clicking the before mentioned sleep command

    You can also put check that hibernation has been enbaled on your computer by doing the following

    1: Open your start menu
    2: Locate the first button on your sleep/lock menu (located at the bottom right of your start menu)
    3: Click the before mentioned button

    If you have tried any method mentioned above and your computer goes into sleep then congratulations. If none of these methods work then I would like to apologise but without seeing your computer I would not be able to give any further desription

    All the above is descibed in general for every computer and may not work on your indervidual computer system or laptop system and I accept no responsiblity for eithe this or any errors that arise by you following any of the steps that I have outlined above.


  2. hybrid was actually designed for desktops in case the power goes down while the computer is suspened so you don’t lose all your information….. laptops have effectively their own ups built in and so do not need this system.

  3. i’m using windows vista on my laptop. i’ve set my laptop to close lid to hibernate and it work but after that i open the lid windows say did not shut down properly (restart) could you tell me how can i fix this?
    (windows won’t resume)

  4. my computer running vista 64 bit will now not return from sleep or hibernate. It did for a yr but now it does not. No idea why. I have updated all the latest stuff from microsoft. anyway.. hope someone may know why this is



  5. Thanks for such an easy to understand explanation. This is exactly the information I wanted to know. It has certainly helped. 🙂

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