Which Is Better: Shutting Off Your PC or Putting It to Sleep?

It depends!

Featured Which Is Better Shutdown Or Sleep

Shutting down your PC versus putting it to sleep has been a long-debated subject. Some argue that turning a computer on and off too many times will damage the components, which decreases the overall lifespan. Others say that putting a computer to sleep is a waste of electricity, especially if left unused for an extended period of time.

Who’s right in this matter?

This article explores the pros and cons of these options to decide which is better for your computer.

What Happens During a Shutdown

A shutdown is like an โ€œoffโ€ switch for software and hardware components.

In Windows, once you press the “Shut down” button in the Start menu (also called a graceful shutdown), all opened programs receive a timed notification from the operating system (OS) to stop reading and writing files before a forced shutdown occurs. On a Mac device, a similar graceful shutdown is achieved through “Apple menu -> Shut Down.”

In both operating systems, shutdown signals are sent to the remaining devices and drivers, slowly cutting power little by little.

Pc Shutdown Or Sleep Shutdown Button Windows11

Another way to shut down your Windows/Mac device is to press and hold the power button on the keyboard for a few seconds. You may risk corrupting a few files with this method, as your system doesn’t get the time to save everything you were working on. However, it won’t negatively impact your PC hardware.

On Windows devices, before shutting down a PC using the power button, go to “Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> Power Options -> System Settings” and set the values for “When I press the power button” as “Shut down” for both “On battery” and “Plugged in.”

Pc Shutdown Or Sleep Access Shutdown Settings Control Panel

What Happens During Sleep Mode

Think of sleep mode as a way for your computer to take a nap. It is also known as Standby or Suspend mode, wherein the PC or laptop isn’t quite turned off but is not turned on either. Your PC will remain unusable during sleep, and a black screen is all you will see. By just clicking the mouse or pressing Space or the power button, you can wake up your computer from its sleep state.

In Windows 10/11, Sleep settings can be accessed from “Settings -> System -> Power & battery -> Power -> Screen and sleep.” To put your Mac to sleep, choose “Apple menu -> Sleep.”

Pc Shutdown Or Sleep Screen And Sleep Settings

You need to adjust the amount before your device is put to sleep on battery power and when plugged in. If you don’t want your computer to sleep at all, just set these values to “Never.”

When your computer is put in sleep mode, its open files, browsers, games, and documents are stored in RAM (random access memory), which runs in a low-power state.

Most other software and hardware components, such as the display, are also disabled during this time but you can quickly wake it up by tapping on the mouse or keyboard.

Advantages of Shutting Down the PC

No Stress on Hardware Components

This is arguably one of the biggest factors in the Shutdown versus Sleep Mode debate.

Back in the day, computer components, most notably the hard drive and fans, were a little more susceptible to possible damage from consistently powering the computer on and off. To avoid these problems, PC manufacturers would discourage frequent shutdowns and restarts.

Pc Shutdown Or Sleep Hardware Components Stress
Image source: Pixabay

Nowadays, these parts are manufactured better, so they are able to withstand this kind of stress (both from sleep mode and a shutdown state) to a certain degree.

Unless you are constantly powering your PC on and off like a toy, the wear and tear from a daily shutdown is minimal and won’t cause noticeable damage.

On the other hand, if you put your PC to sleep for several hours with many applications and browser windows open, you may have to wait a while to launch them again when it’s time to restore. Your PC hardware โ€“ including RAM, motherboard, and battery โ€“ doesn’t get much rest during sleep.

Therefore, if you want to prolong your device’s hardware life cycle, it is better to shut it down rather than use the sleep settings.

Lesser Power Consumption

Whether your PC is operating at full power, sleeping, or in hibernation, it operates at varying power levels. Sleep mode draws power to the RAM to store opened files and programs, resulting in an increase in electricity usage, which some consider a wasted resource, as the computer isn’t being used during this time.

Pc Shutdown Or Sleep Access Power Consumption Battery
Image source: Pixabay

While a PC still draws a little bit of power when shut down (unless it’s unplugged from the power source), it still remains a much better energy-saving option. If your device’s power consumption is less, the hardware doesn’t get heated as quickly. When you shut down frequently, the various PC components, such as the battery, will last longer.

Tip: learn how to fix battery drain issues in Windows.

Clean Reboots

Completely shutting down a PC followed by a restart ensures a clean reboot. This is something that is not possible in sleep or hibernate modes.

Think of this as a way for the OS to clean itself out.

Pc Shutdown Or Sleep Reboot System
Image source: Pixabay

Shutdowns clean out minor system issues like bugs, leaked memory, and unused network connections. Also, Windows runs its update in the background, and some of these updates require a reboot.

If you never power off (or reboot) your computer, all of these issues snowball and may cause a decrease in performance and an increase in load times.

Tip: learn how to troubleshoot when Windows is stuck in an infinite reboot loop.

Protection From Power Surges

Although it’s extremely rare, random power spikes and surges can damage your computer when powered on or in sleep mode.

Major damage includes file corruption, a scratched hard drive, and data loss, which can all lead to an unbootable computer.

A shutdown lowers the risk of this type of damage happening to the components. An easy rule to remember is that if you’re not using your computer, it is better to shut it down.

Pc Shutdown Or Sleep Power Surge Symbolic
Image source: Pixabay

Advantages of Putting Your PC to Sleep

Convenience

If your computer is in sleep mode, you can quickly wake it up with a tap of the mouse or keyboard.

Pc Shutdown Or Sleep Keyboard
Image source: Pixabay

Powering a computer on from a shutdown state requires extra time waiting for it to boot and load all of the necessary files (although this can be expedited with an SSD card). This can be seen as an inconvenience to those who frequently use a computer throughout the day, as a lot of time is lost waiting for the computer to boot up.

Easy Running of Background Maintenance Programs

Your computer runs important maintenance programs in the background, like virus scans, disk cleanup, and system backups, particularly during evening hours (while your computer is in sleep mode).

Unless you schedule these tasks to be done during daytime hours, shutting off your computer may interfere with these necessary programs, which may leave your computer more susceptible to malware.

Pc Shutdown Or Sleep Automatic Maintenance

Shutdown vs. Sleep: Which Is Better?

Considering the above factors, it’s better to shut down your computer during an extended period of time (such as overnight) and put it in sleep mode during shorter periods of time (such as throughout the day).

In other words, leveraging a combination of both is ideal for the longevity of your computer. You will get the daily benefits of a clean reboot with less power consumption if you only use your computer when you need it. The risk of a power surge is also lowered, and background maintenance programs can still run normally throughout the day with a nightly shutdown. More importantly, you won’t need to worry about potential damage to hardware, especially since computer parts are manufactured better than before. (Just don’t constantly power your PC on and off like a toy.)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it ok to leave your PC in sleep mode overnight?

Yes. Leaving your PC in sleep mode overnight will not affect its performance at all. But when restoring the application windows, you may experience a slight delay, as all the active data is brought back one application at a time.

What happens to dual-booted computers in sleep mode?

If you have two different operating systems installed in booting (say Windows and Linux), one of them has to be set as your default boot option. When the PC is restored from a sleep state, it will switch to the default boot option.

Which is better for SSD: sleep or shutdown?

Neither shutdown nor sleep will affect solid-state drive (SSD) performance.

An SSD boots very quickly after a shutdown or restart; it takes only a few seconds. Moreover, as it uses flash memory similar to a USB stick, there are no moving components. Any frequent shutdowns will have a negligible impact on SSD performance (also true for commercial hard disk drives.)

In a similar manner, the sleep mode does not affect the disk drive at all. All its data is stored in CPU and RAM. Thus, sleep will not affect the performance of the SSD.

However, for the overall health of your device, we recommend a shutdown instead of sleep. The best time to use sleep is when you have a time-consuming update to finish. Otherwise, you should go for the hibernate option.

What is the difference between sleep and hibernate power states?

Both sleep and hibernate turn your computer off, followed by restoring that status, but the latter leads to a shutdown. Still, when you restart your device in hibernate mode, your running applications and documents are launched instantly. In sleep mode, you just need to click the mouse or a key to restore access. Hibernate mode consumes much less power compared to sleep. Learn more about the differences between sleep, hibernation, and shutdown.

Image credit: Lemonsandtea via Pixabay. All screenshots by Sayak Boral.

Sayak Boral
Sayak Boral

Sayak Boral is a technology writer with over eleven years of experience working in different industries including semiconductors, IoT, enterprise IT, telecommunications OSS/BSS, and network security. He has been writing for MakeTechEasier on a wide range of technical topics including Windows, Android, Internet, Hardware Guides, Browsers, Software Tools, and Product Reviews.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox