What Does Hibernating Do To Your Computer’s Performance?

Back in the days when computers were still running on 2 GB hard disks, the general way you would turn off a computer and save its current state without shutting it down completely was called “standby.” Now, computers have newer, more creative little nicknames for this mode, each with their own functions that differ from the original “standby” mode (and sometimes don’t). Among these is hibernation. What does it do? How does it help you? And, most importantly, how does it affect your computer’s performance? Hibernation is a concept understood poorly understood by most day-to-day computer users, and when presented with more options, they do not know what exactly to choose.

What Exactly Does Hibernation Do?

When you shut down the computer (in other words, you click “Shut down,” not “Sleep” or “Hibernate”), it closes all your programs, stops system services, stops the operating system, and then cuts off power to the computer. When you boot up again, your computer starts up a clean slate and only runs programs that were supposed to run on startup. Hibernate, an option that exists on battery-reliant Windows systems, is an alternative to “sleep.” So, we must first find out what “sleep” is.

French-bulldog-puppy-sleeping

If you put your computer in “Sleep” mode, the computer just cuts power to all hardware except RAM, much like “standby” did in all versions of Windows from 98 to Server 2003 (this includes XP, for consumers). Why does it refuse to cut power to RAM? That’s because your RAM contains all the program data from applications you were running before you put the computer to sleep. Obviously, this means you have to maintain a constant supply of power to your computer, which is why this is preferable for desktop systems that supply power from wall outlets.

Hibernation is an alternative that allows you to store all the content from RAM on your hard drive. Instead of continuously supplying power to RAM, Windows flushes everything you have in RAM onto your hard drive and then shuts off the computer. Since your hard disk writes data magnetically, it doesn’t need a continuous power supply (yippee!) – something that makes hibernation a valid alternative for battery-operated devices. When you turn on your computer again, it will restore all that data it just wrote back into RAM and remove it from the hard drive. You’ll see all your open programs again just like you did with sleep mode.

So, How Does Hibernation Impact Computer Performance?

Overall, your computer will be just as fast (or slow) as it was when you put it to hibernate. The difference is in the booting process. Hard drives (and even solid state drives) are much slower than RAM. Since “Sleep” mode preserves the RAM “as-is,” it often starts up much faster than hibernation. Hibernating computers must take the effort to read magnetic data from their hard drives and then write these values into RAM, making the whole process very tedious.

hibernate performance - hard drive magnet

When Is Hibernation Most Beneficial?

Even though hibernation is a slowpoke, it’s significantly useful in cases in which you do not plan to supply your laptop with power from your outlet. Putting the computer to sleep will eventually drain the battery much faster than hibernation does. The reasons should be obvious by now. So, if you’re leaving the laptop on battery power, put it to hibernate!

Want More Info?

If you’re in desperate need of more information and can’t find anything on search engines, ask a question in the comments section. I lurk around and answer questions pretty quickly!

Image credit: French bulldog puppy sleeping with teddy bear by BigStockPhoto

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16 comments

  1. So, recovering from ‘hibernation’ takes more time than recovering from the ‘sleep’ or ‘standby.’ But you didn’t answer your own question “What Does Hibernating Do To Your Computer’s Performance?” Does the computer operate differently after ‘hibernation?’

    Also, my old WinXP desktop, which does not have a battery backup, has a ‘standby’ mode. Has this been removed from Win8?

    1. Win8 has Sleep, which is a replacement for Standby.

      And the question was answered in “So, How Does Hibernation Impact Computer Performance?” in this article.

      Simply put: Hibernation dumps everything you have open into a special place in your hard drive. Since the hard drive is slower than RAM memory, it will have an impact on shutoff and startup times. The rest of your computer’s performance (“runtime” performance) is not affected whatsoever.

      So, in short: On hibernation: slower startup/shutoff times, but no other impact on performance. It also saves more battery when you leave your laptop unplugged.

      Sleep consumes more power, but starts up and shuts off lightning fast.

      All the best! :)

    2. Your PC has the exact performance as it had just before you put it in hibernate. So if it was slow before you put it in hibernate because you’re running loads of programs it will be just as slow when you revive it.
      If you want to get rid of unnecessary used memory you need to reboot

  2. I play some browser base games and my chrome browser used to save those game’s cookies. When I shutdown properly my computer, there is no problem with my cookies. It is all okay. But I put my computer in hibernate state, and it’s going shutdown when battery drains, etc. When I reboot my computer, I lost all my game’s cookies. My browser is starting again to download those again. It is so annoying. I don’t know what is going on. Is that some windows’s bug?

    1. Can you tell me what version of Windows you are using?

  3. As the SSD (Solid State Disks) have a limited write access to it running Hibernate often will shorten the life of the disk. just before Hibernate the disk is accessed for writing the RAM to disk On revival the disk is accessed to restore the RAM and then to clean the saved RAM from the drive. this is again one write action because the deletion of data also needs a write action to the disk

    So if you are one of those running around in the office with your laptop closed and in hibernate think to go over to sleep for most of the time to prevent unnecessary write actions to the disk.

    1. Interesting! Thanks for sharing! I forgot about the fact a lot of laptops may be using ssds.

  4. My Win7 desktop PC doesn’t have the hibernate mode that I used to always use with my old XP machine. With the new one, when I put it into Sleep mode, it goes to sleep, then very consistently wakes up in just seconds.

    Any suggestions?

    1. I can’t be much help because I forgot how I did it, but you are probably waking up because of a setting in your bios. Mine was set to wake on a poll from the network. On my bios it had to be set to not to wake. Also in that same area I had to set it to option 3 which got rid of Sleep and instead turned it into hibernate. That was with a Biostar Motherboard. I hope it is of some help.

    2. Make sure you unplug any USB device before putting PC to sleep as I have experienced before some of the USB devices prevent the PC from going to sleep mode.

  5. This has nothing to do with sleep or hibronate. I am having trouble with a name coming up when I check into my Wild Blue account to see if I am on line. The name comes up and there is a check mark which is checked and says”automaticly log in. I click it off and it comes right back on. How do I delete it.?

  6. I would have to disagree on one thing. Let’s say you have, for argument sake, a Windows 7 computer (mine takes a long time to boot up, for whatever reason). To start up from Hibernation can be a lot faster and everything is ready to go including the programs you were working on and they are in the same place you left them.

    Windows 8 seems a lot faster on boot up but it still may be useful to have the programs loaded and in the same place as you left them.

    Also, to answer another persons comment. Once your system has read the information from the disk and started up your computer there is absolutely no reason that it should operate any faster or slower from that point because it no longer has to look at that information on the disk that it used to start up.

  7. I’m agreed with Tom

  8. “Hibernate, an option that exists on battery-reliant Windows systems”
    Both WinME and WinXP desktop versions I’ve used have Hibernate.

    I use hibernate as an alternative to turning the computer off since it’s faster than booting it. Even with a wall outlet it saves power.

    1. I forgot to mention that. Windows Vista and 7 don’t seem to include Hibernate mode unless you’re running a battery-operated device or you enable it manually. Weird that I forgot to mention that XP included this in desktops :/

  9. Another thing about hibernate is that it creates a file the size of your memory in your root folder named hiberfil.sys (At least in WinXP). If you have 4GB of memory and enable hibernate it will use up at least that much hard drive space always regardless if you use hibernate or not.
    Disabling it will free up that space if you need it.

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