Guess what – your computer does not need to sleep.
There are different levels of “slumbering” for your computer. You can use a screen saver, which just means that the screen changes to different pictures after a period of no keyboard activity. Then there is “hibernation” – this is where your computer’s hard drive first takes a picture of everything that is happening at the moment (open programs, unsaved documents, etc.), then the hard drive actually shuts down. This is a deeper level of sleep than the screen saver provides.
I don’t use either one. It’s really just a personal preference, I guess – but you really don’t have to have your computer go to any level of sleep if you don’t want to. And if you are getting tight on hard drive space, you definitely don’t want to use the hibernation mode. Hibernation uses part of your hard drive to store the “picture” of all the activity before it hits the sack. Problems could arise if you don’t have enough hard drive space to accommodate that function.
Update – received this email question: “When the “hibernate” mode for a laptop is activated, the hard drive saves information and shuts down, the screen goes blank, etc. However, is it still drawing power from the laptop’s battery? Could we end up with a problem whereby the laptop is put into “hibernation” mode and then the battery is drained until it goes flat and the laptop can’t start up anymore?”
Actually the opposite is true – hibernation would save the battery power. Hibernation stores the data temporarily on your hard drive while the computer is powered down. In fact, you could change the battery during hibernation and not lose any data.