Sent: Friday, January 29, 2007 7:52 AM
Subject: laptop question
Is it ok to close the computer while it's still running, and
open it later to resume from hibernation mode? Or is it
better to turn the power off and then power up again later?
Well, Gerry, you‘re really asking about the differences
between Standby, Hibernate, Turn Off and Restart operations
in Windows. There are some details that are different for
laptops and desktops, and some that are the same.
First, let's give a simple answer to your question.
I prefer to just close my laptop lid when I won‘t be using
it for a short while – you don‘t have to go through the
whole shutdown / reboot cycle, and in general there are no
detrimental side effects.
Let's go into the four operations in more detail.
Figure 1 – Turn Off: Shuts down Windows so you can safely
turn off the computer.
Windows and most operating systems in general get clogged up
over time with gunk while they are operating. The RAM gets
loaded up with programs and many temporary files get opened.
Shutting down and doing a full reboot gives you a clean
start. So you might enjoy a full reboot every once in a
I often have a lot of programs open at once and don‘t
want to restart them all every day, so I reboot about once a
week. Other people may prefer to do it perhaps every day,
maybe when you leave your computer at the end of the day.
It's up to you. If you notice positive side effects from
doing a full reboot, then do it more frequently; if not, no
need to bother.
How to Turn Off / Shutdown
Start -> Turn Off Computer -> Turn Off
Start -> Turn Off Computer -> “U”
You may have heard for a long time that on a desktop
computer, you should not simply turn the power off – that
could cause loss of data and even make Windows unstable. The
best method for shutting down your computer on a laptop or
desktop is always Start -> Turn Off Computer -> Turn Off.
It‘s possible your computer will go into Standby mode if you
hit the power button – if that's the case, then it‘s
perfectly fine. (See the discussion on Standby mode below.)
But you shouldn‘t simply turn off the power from a wall
switch or from the switch on a power strip, for example.
Figure 2 – Restart: Shuts down Windows and then starts
Restart simply means to do a full shutdown and then
immediately reboot. If your computer is behaving strangely,
you may wish to do a restart cycle in the middle of the day.
It's roughly the same as Turn Off, followed by a power-on.
How to Restart
Start -> Turn Off Computer -> Restart
Start -> Turn Off Computer -> “R”
Figure 3 – Standby: Puts your computer in a low-power state
so that you can quickly resume your Windows session.
Standby is a light “sleep” mode you can put your computer
in. When you resume from Standby mode, you'll be exactly
where you left off – all your work will still be on the
To be safe, I usually save all my files before
entering Standby mode, just in case the computer doesn't
wake up correctly later. Indeed, while in Standby mode, your
computer needs power to maintain its state. So for a laptop
or desktop, if you're plugged in to wall power, then you're
fine, but if you have a power failure, you may lose the
Standby mode and any unsaved work. (Plus, you're consuming
slightly more electricity while in Standby mode than while
in either Hibernate or Turn Off mode.)
On a laptop, if
you're not plugged in to the wall and you go into Standby
mode, your laptop battery is being used and therefore there
is a certain limited time you can stay in Standby mode
before your battery is completely drained and the computer
loses it's state. Then you'll be potentially losing work and
doing a full reboot. So you can see Standby mode should be
considered a temporary state you should place your computer
in, when you expect to be coming back to it within a few
Many laptops however will automatically transition into the
more stable Hibernate mode after remaining in Standby mode
for a specified period of time (perhaps an hour). These
settings can be adjusted using Control Panel -> Power
Certain laptops will occasionally have trouble resuming from
standby state – my new one for example. If I put my new one
in standby (by closing the lid), when I wake it up, I have a
black screen. The computer's running, but the screen doesn‘t
wake up. I do not have that problem if I hibernate it, so I
always use Hibernate instead. Often the laptop manufacturer
or video card manufacturer may have a driver update to fix
such a problem.
How to Standby
Start -> Turn Off Computer -> Standby
Start -> Turn Off Computer -> “S”
This is often what happens when you just close the lid on a laptop
or hit the power button on a desktop. Most modern desktops
go into Standby when you hit the power button. If you try
yours, and instead your computer just shuts right off
without flashing a quick message about entering Standby
mode, then you shouldn't use this method. Additionally, most
newer desktops and some laptops have a button on the
keyboard that puts your computer into Standby mode. Check
your machine's documentation.
Figure 4 – Hibernate: Saves your current desktop state to
your hard disk so that you can resume where you left off, then shuts
down your computer.
When a computer is Hibernating, it's the same as off, from a
power consumption point of view. Your computer's memory is
actually flushed out to disk just before powering off and
stays there until you turn the computer back on. When the
computer comes back on, it's exactly the way you left it. A
computer can stay in hibernation mode for a much longer
period of time than standby mode when unplugged, and it uses
less electricity. It takes slightly longer to resume from
Hibernation than from Standby. However, it's more secure
because everything‘s written out to disk, and you're not
dependent on a good power source while in Hibernation, as
you are with standby.
Whenever taking my computer somewhere
or when not using it for more than a few hours, I opt for
putting it into Hibernate mode rather than Standby mode,
because it's more like being off. Standby is more of a half-sleeping “zombie” state.
How to Hibernate
Start -> Turn Off Computer -> Shift -> Hibernate (notice you
don‘t see the Hibernate option unless you hold down the
Start -> Turn Off Computer -> “H”
Gerry, thanks for asking for clarification on the
issue of Windows Power Management! Happy Computing!