Is your computer screen-saving, sleeping or hibernating?

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Like a human, your computer has varying levels of “sleeping” modes that it can use.  It might be screen-saving, or it could be sleeping, or it could be hibernating.  There’s even a new mode called Hybrid Sleep.  Let’s explore what each of these means.

sleepy computer
Screen-saving mode just causes some constant movement on the screen while you are not using the computer.  This saves your monitor from having images (such as your desktop icons) get “burned in” to the screen because of extended display time.  The computer uses the same amount of power in screen saving as it does when you are actually using it.

Sleep Mode is also sometimes referred to as “Standby” mode.  The computer still uses some electricity (or battery power) in this mode, but not much.  When your computer is put into Sleep Mode, your open documents are stored in the computer’s memory.  The computer can come out of Sleep pretty quickly, and your documents and programs are right where they were previously.

Hibernate Mode, just like the name implies, is a deeper sleep.  When your computer goes into Hibernate, your documents and program status are stored on the disk drive, and the computer actually shuts down.  So in this mode, it is actually use no electricity at all.  When brought back from Hibernate, everything is on the screen as it was before.

Hybrid Sleep is – surprise – a blend of Sleep and Hibernate modes.  In Hybrid, your documents and program status are stored both in memory AND on the hard drive.  The computer uses low power and can come back to “life” quickly.  The practical use for Hybrid Sleep is on desktop computers, since they don’t have the option of running on a battery.  Let’s say you leave your desktop computer in Hybrid Sleep mode, and there happens to be a power outage.  When the power comes back on, your documents will be right where you left them and you can resume work like nothing happened.

 That takes care of the definitions…
now for the practical advice:


1. Don’t count on any of these sleeping modes to save a file.  If you’re working on a Word document, be in the habit of saving regularly.  Word is set by default to save your work every 10 minutes, but only after you have saved the file to start with and given it a name.  I can’t believe how many times I have seen people with documents that are several pages long, and the name at the top is “Document1” – meaning it has never been saved.  Don’t risk losing all your work!  Just hit Ctrl+S every few minutes (or File – Save) to play it safe.

2. When your computer is sleeping, other stuff won’t happen.  This means your antivirus scan, your online or local data backup, etc.  You need to either schedule these things to happen when the computer is awake, or just leave your computer awake overnight and schedule the “housekeeping” tasks for then.  For me, I have all of that stuff happen overnight.  I leave the computers “awake” all night (they don’t need nearly as much sleep as I do) so that these things are handled.  BUT – I turn off my monitors at night.  This saves that much electricity, and it allows the room to be dark.  The computer doesn’t care if the monitor is powered on or off – it will still run your important tasks.

Do you use Sleep or Hibernate modes?  Your comments are welcome in the comment section below.

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