Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Hibernation vs. Sleep+Vista

What is the difference between “hibernation” and “sleep”? Both are power-saving states designed to achieve a compromise between fully-powered (“on”) and total shutdown. Without these low-power states (Stand By, Sleep, and Hibernate), you would have to go through the whole Windows’ boot process each morning. Although Vista has a shorter boot than previous versions, it still takes longer than most of us would like to wait — we are prone to desire “instant gratification” these days — and so we use Stand By, Sleep, or Hibernate.

I wrote an article on power states and how to make adjustments to when they kick in, and use the Power Options control panel. To read (or review) this article, click this link, More reader questions answered: power states. Today I want to answer the title’s question, and tell you how to enable Hibernation as a power-saving option if it is not already a part of your Power Options control panel.

To begin with, Hibernation is a deeper “off state” than Sleep (or Stand By, as it’s sometimes called), and thus offers greater power savings at the cost of a longer rebooting time. It is considered a “safer” state, in terms of data. This is because, unlike Sleep mode, Hibernation not only shuts down the power to peripherals (monitor, etc.) and hard drives, but also turns off the power to the RAM memory chips.
When you remove the power to RAM, any data there is “lost”, forgotten, gone — whatever unsaved document, any open window, and such. 
Hibernation “writes” (Saves) all the 1’s and 0’s that are in RAM to a reference file (on your hard drive) before un-powering RAM, and it “reads” this file and reloads the data when you come out of Hibernation, thus restoring you to where you ended your ‘session’. (This “reading” and loading is why it takes longer to “wake” than coming out of Sleep.)
Sleep/Stand By mode retains the power to your RAM. There is no saving of RAM contents to a file and there’s no need ‘load’ it — and thus it’s faster.. with less power savings. If there was a power interruption for some reason while in this state (and you don’t have a UPS), then your unsaved RAM contents would be gone.

Laptop computers typically come with the Hibernation power-settings option enabled and desktops don’t. If you would like to add the Hibernation option to your desktop, or if for some reason (such as a sneaky Windows Update) your Hibernation option has disappeared and you would like it back, here’s how to restore it: open a command prompt (Start >Programs >Accessories >Command Prompt) and type in “powercfg -h on” (no quotes) and hit Enter. That’s it. Now you will find Hibernation settings in the Power Options area of your Control Panel.

Vista users: Vista has a known bug which sometimes causes it to fail to read the Hibernation reference file and “lock up” when waking. This causes you to have to do a hard boot, (hold down the power button for 10 seconds) and the data in the reference file is gone. It is hoped that this ‘glitch’ will be fixed with the release of Service Pack 1, but I cannot confirm this will actually be the case. The KB Update which fixes this issue was included in SP1, and it seems to have eliminated the issue entirely. Both SP1 and the seperate patch can be obtained by simply using Windows Update, or manally at

* If instead you would like to remove the buggy Hibernation mode, and disable it from your automatic power-saving settings, the command is “powercfg -h off” (no quotes).

Today’s free link: for those of you who like digital music, the Nexus Radio download is for you. This offers you not only 6000+ Internet radio stations you can listen to, but the ability to record directly to your hard drive.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 1, 2007 - Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , ,


  1. Thanks this helped me knowing what is the difference I was wondering what hibernate was thanks.


    Comment by Nicholas | January 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. are you sure that vista has the shortest boot???????!!!! … i think you need to update a bit my frient!


    Comment by Kurt | January 18, 2009 | Reply

    • Sounds like Kurt might be a bit of an *jerk*.


      Comment by art | November 14, 2010 | Reply

      • art,
        I hope you understand why I ‘edited’ your comment. I’m Rated G.

        And.. I understand that many people felt/feel Vista had/has a slow bootup time. (Frankly, most people want “instant on” .. you know.. because of how super-busy they are?)They would no doubt be surprised by stop-watch comparisons. (Perceptions are everything.)


        Comment by techpaul | November 14, 2010 | Reply

  3. Kurt–
    I did not say that Vista has “the shortest boot”, I said shorter than previous versions of Windows.. though I probably should have simply said than XP.. it has been so long since I’ve run an even older OS version that I really can’t remember the bootup..
    Since this was written, I have installed a beta of Windows 7, and it is the faster booting OS now. Is that what you mean by “update myself”.. or are you saying I should factor in Linux and Mac?
    This was written in ’07..


    Comment by techpaul | January 18, 2009 | Reply

  4. Thanks – good explanation of the difference between sleep and hibernate.


    Comment by John | August 29, 2009 | Reply

    • John,
      Thank you for the nice comment.


      Comment by techpaul | August 29, 2009 | Reply

  5. Thanks for the “goods” on those settings. It seems that hibernate is a problem with Vista, do you think that they will have it “almost fool-proof: in 7 ?


    Comment by Mike | December 3, 2009 | Reply

    • Mike,
      Microsoft resolved the Hibernation ‘glitch’ in Vista fairly early on via an Update. That update was included (again) in Service Pack 1.. which was released.. um.. early 2008? I think.. anyway, quite some time ago. Current “up-to-date” status for Vista is Service Pack 2.


      Comment by techpaul | December 3, 2009 | Reply

  6. At start of article, u say people use standby or hibernate so they don’t have to do full boot each morn…my question is, can you always use standby..or are there times when it is good to do full boot?

    BTW, I am a grandma who uses a laptop that is plugged in 24/7.


    Comment by marlene | December 22, 2009 | Reply

    • marlene,
      The answer to both questions is “yes”. It is okay to use “sleep” for extended periods and, yes, you should also do a full “recycle” occasionally.

      The primary times when a reboot is recommended are when you have just installed (or uninstalled) a program, or update (for the changes to “take effect”).

      Also be aware that the “reboot” is a cure for something like 90% of all computer glitches and oddities.


      Comment by techpaul | December 22, 2009 | Reply

  7. Thats a usefule piece of information.
    Thanks a ton


    Comment by Techy | January 16, 2010 | Reply

  8. thanks for making things clearer on these power saving states(sleep,standby& hibernate).that was a good info. however,you didnt explain their difference on windows XP.


    Comment by Anna | July 4, 2010 | Reply

    • Anna,
      I am not aware that there are any “differences”.

      Are you talking about something specific?
      (The Vista “bug” was cured quite some time ago, as the article mentions.)


      Comment by techpaul | July 4, 2010 | Reply

  9. It is telling me I don’t have permission enable or disable hibernate. I am the “owner” on the computer and have adminastrative abilitys. My system is Windows Vista Ultimate 64 bit.


    Comment by Bryan | August 4, 2010 | Reply

  10. Oh and i have service pack two


    Comment by Bryan | August 4, 2010 | Reply

  11. why dont they just have an option where you know not make any changes to your computer (via hardware or any other way) so that the comp/OS does everything the boot-up does, ON THE WAY DOWN (for a longer shutdown)… THEN youll have your instant on


    Comment by Dan Stewart (@EMAILSTUART) | June 12, 2015 | Reply

    • that’d be like, braking with a spring-action coil, that releases into a spinning charger (or gradually releases to power the vehicle)…. no-brainer


      Comment by Dan Stewart (@EMAILSTUART) | June 12, 2015 | Reply

      • Dan Stewart,
        While I do appreciate a good “no brainer”, I don’t think what you’re suggesting is possible.. even if you had a very large eprom.. but I could be wrong. A computer has to jump through a lot of hoops before it can even load an OS.

        .. on a fixed-configuration device (aka, an appliance, like a tablet) you can get fairly close to ‘instant on’.

        .. Maybe I woke up today on the wrong side of the bed, but I have to wonder.. how many of us mere mortals need Instant on devices?
        Maybe a commander on a battlefield.. ?


        Comment by techpaul | June 12, 2015 | Reply

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