What Is “Hybrid Sleep” on Windows, and When Is It Useful?

If you’ve poked about within the Windows power settings, you may have found a strange option within the “Sleep” category. One of the options will ask if you want to “Allow Hybrid sleep.” However, it doesn’t really explain what, exactly, hybrid sleep does. So, what is hybrid sleep, and more importantly, should you turn it on or off?

“Hybrid Sleep” is, in essence, a hybrid of both “Hibernate” and “Sleep.” Therefore, in order to understand it, we first need to look at what both “Hibernate” and “Sleep” actually do.

When a computer goes into hibernation it saves on energy by turning off its main components, including the RAM. Unfortunately, the RAM is where all your currently open software and data is kept. If the RAM loses power, everything in its memory is wiped, which is why your computer “forgets” everything when you have a power cut or crash.

The hibernate option avoids this by taking the data within the RAM and putting it onto the hard drive. With the data now safe, the PC can enter its low power state without losing any data. When the user brings the PC back out of hibernation, the data is retrieved from the hard drive and put back into the RAM, ready to use.

Sleep is a little different from hibernate. When a PC sleeps it keeps the RAM powered while turning off the other components. This means there’s no need to load the RAM into the hard drive; when you turn the PC back on, all of your data is still on the RAM as you left it. However, should the machine lose power during sleep, the data on the RAM will still be wiped.

From this we can see that hibernation is the best choice if you want to leave your computer for a long period of time. Because hibernation turns off power to all components, it saves on more energy than if you used sleep. Sleep, however, doesn’t have to retrieve all the data from the hard drive when it resumes, allowing it to boot back up more quickly than hibernation. This makes it the best choice if you’re leaving your PC for only a few moments.

Now that we understand what sleep and hibernate do and where they both shine, it’s time to take a look at what enabling hybrid sleep does. Hybrid sleep aims to utilise the benefits of both sleep and hibernate modes. It does this by keeping the RAM powered up during its low-power state, while also saving the RAM to the hard drive.

This seemingly strange combination of modes actually makes hybrid sleep quite robust. Because data is still on the RAM, Windows doesn’t have to dive into the hard drive to fetch your data when you boot the computer back up. At the same time, should a power cut wipe your computer’s RAM, the computer can simply load the data from the hard drive instead.

So that now we know what hybrid sleep does, the question still remains: should you enable it or no?

If you’re a laptop user, this is an easy answer! Because your machine uses battery power, you don’t have to worry about power cuts as much as a computer user does. On top of this, Raymond Chen mentioned on the Microsoft blog that laptop users typically put their laptop to sleep right before throwing the machine into a bag. This means laptops should finish using the hard drive as quickly as possible after initiating a sleep, so the hard drive doesn’t get damaged due to sudden movement. Because regular sleep doesn’t use the hard drive at all, it’s the ideal choice for laptops.

However, if you’re using a personal computer, hybrid sleep can be a very useful option. It boots back up quickly, preserves the data in the case of a power cut, and doesn’t share the laptop’s problem of being moved about soon after being put to sleep. As such, it makes for a nice layer of security on top of your regular sleep functionality.

To enable or disable Hybrid Sleep, open the Control Panel. You can usually do this by pressing “Windows Key + X” and clicking “Control Panel,” but if you can’t find it there, then you can search for it via Cortana or the Start menu.

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Here, click “Power Options” while in Large/Small Icon View.

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Find the power plan you’re currently on and click “Change plan settings” to its right. You can tell which plan you’re currently on because the radio button next to its name is filled in.

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Click “change advanced power settings” near the bottom.

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Expand the “Sleep” category, then “Allow Hybrid Sleep”, and modify the options as you see fit.

hybrid-sleep-settings

If you enable hybrid sleep, you’ll notice there’s no “hybrid sleep” option listed in the shutdown options. This is because hybrid sleep overrides regular sleep. If you want to perform a hybrid sleep, simply enable it as above, then select the regular “Sleep” option in the shutdown options to activate a hybrid sleep.

While “hybrid sleep” is a cryptic terminology, it’s much simpler than you may think. While not a great option for laptop users, desktops can benefit from a fast boot time as well as security against power cuts.

Do you use sleep and hibernate often? Let us know below!

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