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Laptops - Shutdown or Hibernate?

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 5/26/2009

Laptop power settings are a crucial part of maintaining peak performance. Here we analyze whether or not you should shutdown or hibernate your Laptop? Offering a new perspectives on the issue of power management.

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    Shutdown vs Hibernate

    There are a few questions in computers that people will always debate – Microsoft vs. Apple, Solid-State vs. Hard Drive, and Shutdown vs. Hibernation. Because the other two are a sure-fire way to start a flame war, let’s focus on the last one – should you shut down that Vista PC or put it into hibernate?

    Hibernate it!

    I figure there are good points to both sides of the argument, so let me present the less popular option first.

    First of all, hibernation isn’t a true shutdown of the PC – essentially, much like a lower-power version of “Sleep”, your PC enters a mode where it doesn’t erase the RAM, like it does when you shut it down. What happens is that your PC saves your work, and what was open at the time it was put to hibernate.

    In essence, you skip having to wait for boot-up and the associated pains of every program loading – rather, when returning from hibernation, your PC is up and ready to go.

    On the downside, hibernation is something useful only when you have the PC plugged into the wall continually. For a laptop, hibernation is something that I only use when I have no other options in order to not lose work.

    The major downside to hibernation is that it consumes your battery and reduces the battery life. Overusing the feature won’t quickly eat away at your battery, but do it every day of the week and you’ll soon discover your PC isn’t quite pulling the amount of time it could before.

    Shut it Down!

    Shutting down your computer is something that was best immortalized in Cartoon Network’s old ReBoot series. It’s a therapeutic experience for your PC because it allows most time-related problems to go away. While hibernation still consumes battery and performance, a complete shutdown gives your computer time to lower its core temperature as well as time to allow the RAM and other components to cool down – the cooler the components, the better.

    There is no doubt in my mind that shutting down a PC is a better option than hibernation. However, there are still some issues to contend with.

    Once you shutdown, you lose anything you had open – so be prepared to have to remember where you were in your work and which windows were open.

    While hibernation keeps all your settings and open windows intact, shutting down the PC will rid you of all that – while all your program settings are kept, keep in mind that if your PC crashes and shuts itself down, anything you were working on will be lost as a consequence.

    So, which should I do?

    If you’re in a critical working time of the week, hibernate the computer, but try to only do so rarely. Hibernating after you finish a day’s work is something that is very helpful to maintaining your sanity and great work ethic.

    If you’re working and it’s more laid back, just go ahead and save all your work and shut down your PC – especially with Vista, the main issue with excessive hibernation is that the PC grows sluggish and non-responsive after a while. The best thing to do at that point is to shut it off and allow it some “reflection time” to cool off the processor and save you energy.

    For more on power management settings in Vista read - Is Using Vista’s Hybrid Sleep Good for My Notebook?