Windows has two main options for shutting down your PC without really shutting it down—“Sleep” and “Hibernate.” There are some key differences between these two modes, but which one actually uses the least electricity? Let’s find out.
What’s the Difference Between Sleep and Hibernate?
Before we dive into energy consumption, let’s talk about why these two modes exist separately. Neither mode fully shuts down your PC, but they do very different things.
Sleep is essentially a “low-power mode.” The PC’s state is kept in memory, but the other parts of the PC are shut down. This is what allows it to very quickly resume where you left off when your turn the PC back on. Sleep mode is sort of like a light nap.
Hibernate saves the current state to the hard drive instead of the memory. When you power the PC back on, it loads that state back to the memory. Since the state is saved to the hard drive, the PC can essentially shut down completely while still resuming where you left off when it’s powered on. It does take a little longer to boot up from hibernating than sleep, though.
Sleep mode should typically be used if you’re stepping away for a short time, whereas hibernate is better for situations like going to sleep for the night. Both save more energy than keeping the PC on when you’re not using it.
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Which One Uses More Energy?
You may have already guessed from the previous descriptions, but hibernating does save more energy than sleep. Is it a considerable difference? There’s only one way to find out.
A PC that is hibernating supposedly uses about the same amount of power as one that’s completely shut down. As mentioned, that’s why it takes longer to boot up. While both sleep and hibernate are still technically powered on, sleep mode is more “awake” than hibernate. That takes more power.
To test this, I plugged my PC into a smart plug that has a power meter feature. When the PC is powered on, I tracked it using anywhere from around 40W to over 100W. In sleep mode, that dropped down to around 4W. Hibernate dropped it all the way down to 0.2W and even 0W.
Clearly, both modes are conserving more power than if you just leave the PC on. Sleep mode doesn’t use much power, but hibernate uses even less. That’s the mode you should be using to conserve the most power. Don’t even bother with shutting down your PC.