What is the opposite to on? Off, right? Well, things are not always that simple where PCs and laptops are concerned. Operating systems such as Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 actually offer four power states: mechanical off, soft off, sleep and hibernate. So what is the difference between them?
Mechanical Off is as close as your PC will get to being completely at rest, with only the battery-powered internal clock still running. To achieve this, unplug your PC at the wall.
Soft Off is what the regular shut down function gives you – just a few low power circuits checking the power button and, if they are enabled, other inputs such as the keyboard, network connection or USB ports.
Hibernation mode can be described as a compromise between the shut down and sleep modes. It memorises the applications and windows currently open on your desktop, before shutting down your computer. When you restart the machine, you should find all applications as you last saw them, ready to continue using, and the restart can take less than a minute in some cases.
Sleep is a medium-low power standby state that does not actually switch your machine off. Instead, open documents and applications are stored in the computer’s RAM memory and your system can be ‘woken up’ ready to use again in just a few seconds. However, it is worth remembering that, unlike the hibernation function, sleep does continue to slowly drain your battery. So if you’re using it on a laptop with low power, this mode could eventually result in your laptop shutting itself down.
[themecolor]When to use these functions?[/themecolor]
Of course, the choice is yours but here are a few pointers.
Hibernation is generally recommended for longer periods of inactivity – a few days, for example. Sleep mode is more commonly used for shorter breaks – several minutes to a few hours. Neither mode carries any real risk, although it is possible to lose data in sleep mode in the event of a power cut. You can often configure power settings to ensure that your laptop automatically saves work to the hard drive and enters hibernation mode when battery levels become low.
If you do regularly use hibernation mode, it is recommended that you shut down and restart your Windows devices on a weekly basis. This is not essential but it does allow the operating system to clear its cache and refresh the system registry.