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What's the best for a PC life: Sleep, hibernate, or shutdown?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / June 8, 2012 9:26 AM PDT

What's the best for a PC life: Sleep, hibernate, or shutdown?

I have two Dell desktop computers, one for me and the other for my
wife. We use our computers for a few hours daily, and I'm not sure
what is best to use. In the Windows Start menu, shall I "shutdown"
every night, use "sleep", or the "hibernate" option? What are the
differences between sleep and hibernate options? When it sleeps or
hibernates, does the hard disk still spin at 7,000 RPMs??? Will it make a
difference in hard-drive use and life expectancy in the PC depending
on which method I use? In other words, if I put the computer to sleep
or hibernate every night, instead of shutting it down, am I shortening
its life? Please note, my only concern is shortening equipment life, not
power consumption. Thanks!

--Submitted by: Andre G.
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pc life
by d_blitz13 / June 8, 2012 11:25 AM PDT


For maximum life of your pc I would suggest a couple of things. Firstly, the most fragile part of your system in regards to shutdown/hibernate/sleep will be your motherboard and components connected directly to it (PCIe cards). These components are receiving an electrical charge while your pc is running and when you shutdown the pc the charge stops, and returns when you boot up again. This can result in power fluctuations that actually damage or shorten the lifespan of your components, especially when power surges or spikes occur. Typically, and especially with newer 'green' hard drives that are not continuously spinning, hard drives can last an extremely long time with the pc power either running or in any mode. Remember, hibernate will simply copy your ram into your hard drive temporarily so you can resume your session later, however, essentially shuts down power to your components in the same way as a system shutdown. Sleep will keep your ram powered, but will shut down power to other components. In short if you are concerned about all components lifespan I would suggest keeping the power on, however, adjusting your power/performance settings to your liking in windows settings. If you are mostly concerned with just RAM lifespan, you can put the pc in sleep mode and have no worries.


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by waynearcelectcom / June 8, 2012 11:44 AM PDT
In reply to: pc life

With the new "good grade" power supplies and Mother Boards - powering up is not a problem as it was.
Now leaving the PC in a sleep mode is OK to a point - but what if there was a power problem/surge/lighting you have power to the MB - but I guess the newer PCs power seem to have juice on to a degree all the time - USB jacks seem to have 5VDC on even with the PC in soft off - now with a full power down - no juice to the power plug would be the safest - now I run a surge protector and a good grade battery back up which also has surge
to better insure I don't get hit (well only God will protect you for sure)
Now leaving the PC in sleep does have the MB refeshing the memory all the time in sleep mode so I guess you could be placing waer and tear on the chips ????

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by d_blitz13 / June 8, 2012 4:42 PM PDT
In reply to: HUM

Great point about the surge protector. I would also suggest a clean power producing and regulator UPS system or surge protector. The usb power on state while off is configurable in both bios and windows. Powering on and off is still the main cause of voltage regulation disruption in old and new motherboards. This is caused by the systematic charging and recharging of the capacitors located in the power supply and motherboard circuits. This should be checked by going into bios and viewing the specific voltage flow for 5v/7v/12v flowing through the motherboard, once these values have increased or decreased by .05 it is a strong sign that the power supply or motherboard will need replacement. The best way to avoid this and lengthen the life of your pc is to NOT turn your pc off. IMHO of course. hope this helps.

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Thumbs up for Surge protectors
by maverick11359 / June 15, 2012 10:51 AM PDT
In reply to: HUM

Thumbs up for the surge protectors .I'm an electrical contractor and I install them on peoples power boards to protect everything electrical through out the whole house not just the computer.The other device i recommend is a couple of good Power Conditioners plugged in to your wall outlets in front of your computer and your media room gear. They remove the spikes,rubbish and distortion from your 240/120 volt supplies..This extends the life of all your electronics. P.S.. I turn off all electronics with sleep mode or standby mode every night . Electricity is just to dam expensive to waste.

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Another good one...
by JCitizen / June 18, 2012 5:25 AM PDT

is the smart surge protectors. Some of them may do less "surge" protecting than power saving, but looking at the reviews on CNET or Amazon can help that determination.

"Smart" strips, can shutdown unnecessary power draw from periferal devices like power transformers and the like. This can addup to significant money savings at years end! I'm planning to use a combination of regular reputable surge protectors with one smart protector and one remote control power strip, to save money. The remote controlled strip Belkin makes can be programed into a Harmony remote, so having too many remotes isn't a problem.

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Every Night
by mymama20 / June 15, 2012 12:32 PM PDT
In reply to: HUM

I have a HP which I got at Wal-Mart in '06. I've turned it off every night, that amounts to about 2400 off and on's. I did the same with my old Gateway, which I got in '99. It still runs. I'm not an expert on any of this, this is just my story.

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I agree
by bobc47 / June 15, 2012 11:34 PM PDT
In reply to: Every Night

I've always shut my systems off from the power strip when I'm done using them for the day. now that I'm retired I turn my main computer on at 7AM and let it run all day (goes into sleep mode after 15min) till I shut it off at night.

In 24 years I've lost one hard drive and one motherboard on the dozens of computers I've owned in that time. I am lucky that my power is pretty clean but I do believe in using surge protectors; i design my own and they do a much better job than those you buy at the local Walmart.

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I agree - Shut Down
by Islands7 / June 15, 2012 11:49 PM PDT
In reply to: Every Night

Shut Down
is the only way to go.
Heat vs. time basically says running = heat, so less life time running
Everyone has power spikes, brownouts, etc. that can overpower & outlast UPS/surge/clean whatevers ...
the fewer hours your computer is on power, the fewer changes it has to be assulted.

Best Buy Gateway 2008
HD cloned once

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PC Shutdown
by vicpf51 / June 16, 2012 12:07 AM PDT
In reply to: Every Night

Thanks! I have had my HP since 2007 and I shutdown every night. It is still going strong.

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Concur-Shut Down
by waperry / June 17, 2012 3:07 AM PDT
In reply to: Every Night

I have always found it interesting that this is a controversial topic. I have always used shut-down on my PC's, Mac's and Linux boxes. Heat and fluctuating power (dirty power) are the biggest enemies of any electronic device. Shutting down along with a good surge protector will go a long way to safe guarding your investment.

Similar to the other replies, over twenty-five years I have had one HD failure and most of these units have gone well beyond their expected life span. Many of them have made their way into other people's homes and secondary computers for children and friends. As gofer1947 stated, I am not an expert, this is just what has worked for me.

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Just how "physical" is a physical shut down...
by djdrew103 / June 15, 2012 6:36 PM PDT
In reply to: pc life

When you shut down a computer you have to consider that you are actually only dealing with 3V, 5V, and 12V circuits as your 110v PSU transforms or reduces the power down to the converted voltage. So we aren't talking a huge surge of power when you turn one on.

In the normal lifespan of a computer, the amount of energy surge created from a cold boot or hard shut down compared to the energy impressed upon the system during normal usage for hours on hours in the Home User PC's life, well its simply trivial.

Your main worries are not the strain on circuitry components, but the strain on actual mechanical parts; power supply fans and case fans, hard drives spinning up and down, optical drives starting up during pOST (power on self/system test) and such. All of these are "mechanical components that will fail from the cold cool stress far more likely than the circuitry. What harms circuitry more than anything is the stress of temperature changes from a cold boot to a full running hot environment.

The CPU or processor runs the hottest naturally since it runs stable at common (between 42*C and 60*C).
If hard drives are mounted wisely and properly and have adequate air flow from case fans and routing of wires not impeding flow, then you have few worries to consider when concerned with drives.

The system bus is the most intricate and fragile of the circuits in a computer as compared to the far sturdier bus lines of graphics cards or pci card components slots , and little damage can be done to them even, unless you may have your computer in your barn to hide it from your Amish Parents and being in freezing temps, start with a very cold boot.

It is the general consensus though that a cold boot is harder on a computer and its components, than leaving a computer on at least through the day, and if you HAVE TOO, then shut it down just once daily, restarting it the next; ie: not turning it off and on frequently through the hours of a day.

So in the long run, your PSU or power supply will fail faster than anything most likely from cold boots since it is the only other hottest running item, plus mechanical due to a cooling fan spinning hour after continuous hour, yet at the same time you can purchase PSUs comparing their wattage AND their lifespan hours.

I leave my computer on ALL the time, even when sleeping simply because I feel the wear and tear savings doesn't justify over or above the cost of $5 or $6 added to my electric bill, to run one all the time. Though you are not worried about energy costs, its only and merely a slight difficulty to get an average dollar amount simply by adding up the wattage on components (a 95W or 125W processor, added to typical wattage for your video card(s) or motherboard Wattage if graphics are integrated, then figure per KiloWatt hour is all and at $.11 to .$.14 per KWH, you aren't going into the poor house for leaving your computer on 24/7.

You hours predicted for your spin life on a drive which isn't spinning unless your burning, or best example is the run time life of a power supply are the major components, and having to buy a power supply once every 6 years isn't a major price breaker of the deal.

Some have mentioned unplugging completely from the wall socket during thunderstorms, and although I think this is overkill, I won't take an opposing stand against the theology of the Demon Lighting Gods charging down to assail your computer on blackened wings in hordes and masses. Yet even in that scenario, a smart home pC owner would have a "surge protector" in between your power outlet and power supply cord rated at least at 4300 joules ($35 and up), and 6000 joules is far better but a bit pricier. Personally, I have twin Surge protectors piggy back'd for added protection just for the strength of that one millisecond of voltage in that area of surge that trips the switch internally, allowing two protectors to guard my ever precious system components. It has worked well for me over the last decade and I live in the tornado alley version of the Midwest with plenty of yearly storms.

So even though you might get allot of advice here, from those who seem admittedly stubborn about their opinions, you can see from this just some of the viewpoints to consider and yet alas then in the end, there's no set ground rules. You have to decide on your own what is best for you in your home environs, in your own personal scenario, and how you are affected by your own geographic locale.

Hope it helps even though its a bit confusing at times, you should be able to find a solution that will lessen the burden on your heart for good power planning and longevity for your system.

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Just how "physical" is a physical shut down...
by Leslie Satenstein / June 15, 2012 10:35 PM PDT

If you read the specifications for mechanical devices in your computer, for example, disks, fans, and DVD readers, or even pushbuttons, they all have a rating for number of actions.

Disks are guaranteed for aseveral hundreds of thousands of start stops, The same is true for mechanical switches (ons and offs), such as power, reset, keyboard, mouse buttons, wheel, etc.).

If you look at your desktop computer, you will probably note the lettering or ornamental plating on the front power switch is worn away. So, big deal.

If you have a laptop, it is best to power the unit off. This will tend to preserve the battery. But if you want faster startup, use the sleep mode. Sleep mode is best only if you are going away for an long bathroom break and you want privacy, and will be back to full power rapidly to continue using the system from where you left off.

Hibernate is a concept that says, "Write a full image of memory to a cache / swap file and then power off."

Startup should be somewhat faster than going through a full boot. The negative side is that any system updates for security, bugs, etc, will not always be installed until a cold restart is done.

The full power off has a benefit of allowing a clean start the next time you begin to use it. Let me explain the benefits.
Not all programs are perfect with memory management. This means that after many hours of use, memory gets somewhat fragmented. Similarly cache/swap also gets fragmented. Some programs crash, and dynamic memory (some of the spare memory that was reserved), may not be given back to the operating system. Gradually, your system may begin to run more slowly.

So, in my view, for best execution performance, poweroff is best.

Some other ideas... If you have a desktop, check the filters that are usually on the case. Clean them of lint.
If you are handy, open the case, get a can of compressed air that is used for blowing ling away and do some cleaning, by blowing out the lint that is on the cpu fan and fins. Don't unplug or remove fans from aruond the CPUs. Blow or wipe away as much dust as possible, including the power supply fan. This action will do more to prolong computer life than anything else.

Regarding disks and disk spinning. All operating systems have an optional timed disk spin down. If you don't do any disk I/O for some period of time (a user setting), then at the end of that timeout period, the disk will spin down to a stop. So whether you choose to power off, put the computer in sleep mode, (power supply is running and so is the power supply fan), or put the computer in hibernate mode, the difference in life span after 5 years may only be measured in minutes.

Keep the cooling fans and cooling fins dust and lint free will do more than anything else to prolong computer life.

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If you have a laptop....
by Ps57v6 / July 21, 2015 11:08 PM PDT

That was a very helpful post . Thanks for going into detail.
I was advised to remove the battery from the laptop whilst it was plugged in to a power source so as to preserve the battery life. Do you agree?

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"lessen the burden on your heart"???
by ddferrari / June 16, 2012 9:39 AM PDT

..."the theology of the Demon Lighting Gods charging down to assail your computer on blackened wings in hordes and masses." ??? Your publisher must be proud of you (eye roll and head shake).

Anyway, that mere five or six bucks you're throwing away every month would pay for a pretty decent power supply at the end of the year- EVERY year. It would make a lot more financial sense to put your PC to sleep at night, replace the PS every 3 years, and put the $125 you saved in your pocket.

Now, back to Earth and the person who asked the question.

I generally hang on to my PCs for five years, upgrading performance as needed. I put my PCs to sleep every night and in ten years and two computers have never had a HD or PS fail. Yes- as some have stated- the on/off cycle does cause a teeny bit of damage over the years. The problem is, they seem to have forgotten (or never knew) the other three enemies of electronics: power surges, heat and time. So, if you leave your system on all the time you avoid their on/ off problems, but now you're creating different and additional problems: constant heat, constant running time (which is using up the life span), and the added chance of power surges.

Put it to sleep at night, save money, and restart it once or twice a week to keep it fast (plus, some programs only check for updates during a fresh start). The odds are very good that you'll put it out to pasture before it dies on you.

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About putting it to sleep at night...
by Ps57v6 / July 21, 2015 11:20 PM PDT

Another helpful post, thanks.
I just have one question:
Was putting it to sleep at night a metaphor for shutting it down or did you really mean just to put it on 'Sleep" mode, ( and do you give the same advice for a laptop, with battery removed &connected to a power supply)?
I think the latter because you said just to start it up twice a week ,
but I just wanted to be sure.

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Just how "physical" is a physical shutdown...
by picotte / June 17, 2012 3:56 PM PDT

Nice contribution. Longish, but interesting enough to read it to the very last drop. From Tokyo, Japan.

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Back to back or piggy back Surge Protectors do not protect!
by Steve Istvan Horvath / December 15, 2015 6:36 PM PST

From the first day I bought and built my PC more than 10 years ago, and when I asked about surge protection, the Technicians at the MicroCenter Computer Store in Chicago advised me not to use surge protectors back to back, or piggy back, as you wrote it.
The Technicians told me that these actually reduce protection, instead of doubling it! Their solution to this problem was to purchase and install UPS (small or large), the first connection to the wall socket, and then connect a Surge protector to the UPS, and then to the PC's Power Supply. The UPS is capable of absorbing electrical fluctuations from the wiring system, even during lightning storms, and after that clean electricity is supplied to the surge protector for more protection and finally to the PC's power supply. I have been using this configuration for many years now and everything is running very smooth. P.S. Since that time, I acquired 7 IT Certifications and built 4 more desktop PCs. Best Regards, Steve H. from Chicago, IL.

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Shutdown overnight.
by Alanrc21 / June 8, 2012 11:34 AM PDT

I think it's better to shut down overnight, not sleep or hibernate. You asked about the hard drive, and that's an easy answer--the hard drive shuts down for all three options. Microsoft gives a good explanation of sleep vs. hibernate here:

During the day, you might want to put your computer into "sleep" mode for times you will be away from the computer for more than a few minutes, but overnight, you are better to put it into shutdown and turn off the power bar, if you are using one. If you put it into sleep mode overnight, you waste some electricity, and if there is a lightning storm or power interruption, your computer would be better off turned completely off and not in sleep mode.

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No question about it: Shutdown for longest life!
by ElectronChaser / June 8, 2012 2:50 PM PDT
In reply to: Shutdown overnight.

I want to loudly chime in right behind Alanrc21: "Shutdown" is the logical way to go for longer idle periods such as overnight.
Electronic hardware wears out principally from run-hours. Military and industrial electronics is often rated statistically for MTBF, or "mean time between failures" while operating. The more distant one is from that (on) state -- shutdown instead of "on" or even "standby" -- the longer it will last. As for the "surge" of turning something on and off, far greater surges (now formally becoming called power line "swells" in performing such stress tests) are available to a device that is merely operating from a power line. So don't sweat turning it fully "off" -- it will thank you with longer operating life!
Comment: "Hibernate" is similar in that the PC is at least fully off; However, there is benefit in having a clean software startup (reboot from scratch) periodically, which does not occur if hibernate is used in place of shutting down. So, shutdown still has benefit by comparison but for a different reason. (Hibernate is handy to have occur automatically if you forget to shutdown altogether after awhile; for example, I have my laptop do so upon "low battery".)

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power off
by waynearcelectcom / June 9, 2012 1:12 AM PDT

does any body know if soft power down realy turns off completely - USB and mouse still seem to have power so It seem to me that the power supply and MB still have power - maybe not completely but if hit by a surge you could still have a problem -

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power off
by Box134 / June 15, 2012 1:44 PM PDT
In reply to: power off

In modern PC computers the only way to turn power off completely is to unplug it. If it's plugged it you will see illuminated LEDs on the motherboard, showing you it does have power, but at a very low consumption level. The power and reset switches merely signal the motherboard to turn on, they are not really power switches at all.

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You can shut down modern PC's all the way
by cybermark1 / February 19, 2016 9:26 AM PST
In reply to: power off

Actually, you can use this in a command prompt and it will power modern PCs off all the way.

shutdown -s -f -t 0

Replace -s with -r for rebooting. -f is to force the processes to close first and -t is time, in which zero means now. This also works well with a computer that tends to hang at shutdown; you can make a shortcut out of it for frequent use. Just make a new shortcut and type the exact command above.

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I agree
by VaDeltaChi / June 15, 2012 10:09 AM PDT
In reply to: Shutdown overnight.

I have turned my PCs off overnight for years and have never had a problem with anything failing. I have,however, lost an HDTV to a lightning storm. The TV was turned off, but still plugged in. The surge apparently came through both the power line and the HDMI cable as both the HDMI port and the TV power supply were burned. The TV was plugged into a surge strip, but the HDMI cable was connected between the TV and the cable box. (I wonder if there is a surge suppressor for HDMI cables?).

The cable box, of course, was just fine.

So, my SOP now is to both turn everything off AND unplug anything connected to the devices so there is no way any surges can get into the gear. Sometimes unplugging overnight causes the cable box to lock and not work, so I have to call the Comcast and have it reset. The cable modem, which I own, doesn't seem to suffer this malaise and boots up right away when plugged in again -- usually with the same IP address.

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My 2 cents
by hawkhuff / June 15, 2012 9:55 PM PDT
In reply to: Shutdown overnight.

I have had PC's since 1988 and have built my own since 1990. I have never had a power supply go after 12-18 months. In fact, all have lasted for years and the only time I changed them out is when I was building a new PC from scratch.

I shut mine down at night or when I am not using it for anything during the day. I have it in sleep mode if I am away for a while or forget it's on.

The only components I have ever had die on me are the ones with moving parts; the HDD's, one CPU fan, and a vent fan one time. IMO the chip and component companies have built them to last and they do. I count my blessings.

I have had five lightning strikes, near my home, in the last ten years and there is no surge protector in the world that would have protected my machine form the unbridled electron storms that decimate home appliances. I have unplugged my PC on three of those occasions only to have it partially or completely destroyed via the cable modem. Unplug EVERYTHING that is a connection to the outside world if there is a threat of a thunderstorm.

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by Howardc4290 / June 16, 2012 1:35 AM PDT
In reply to: Shutdown overnight.

Thanks for giving an answer that didn't require me to check the time when I was done reading it.

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Microsoft gives a good explanation of sleep
by sea.bass / June 16, 2012 2:32 AM PDT
In reply to: Shutdown overnight.
Microsoft gives a good explanation of sleep - may be, but I've never had a Windows computer that would go to sleep properly. Beggars belief that a system can't suspend processes properly and consistently
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Power supply most likely to fail
by PJCrowley / June 8, 2012 11:36 AM PDT

I have been using and fixing computers of one sort or another for 30 some years. There are two things in a computer that are going to fail eventually: the hard drive and the power supply.

The hard drive's life can be extended by allowing the computer to spin it down when it isn't being used, which sounds like most of the time. This does not remove power from it (which would be bad) but instead just turns off the spindle motor. For a computer like this you can set the hard drive timeout value to something like 1 hour and it will then be spinning only when it is being used and for a little while after that.

The other part that fails most often is the power supply. If you have the computer on a UPS so it is not affected by power surges and short interruptions, leaving the computer on all the time is probably best. If you do not have a UPS and given the small amount of time it is used sleep mode might be best - the computer will be able to ride out small interruptions by itself in that mode. Many power supplies will fail after 12-18 months if you turn the computer on and off every day.

Both of these parts are pretty easy to replace if you can use a screwdriver. However, if you do not have a backup then replacing a hard drive can be a disaster.

Recommendation is to at least have a surge suppressor outlet strip for the computer, if not a UPS. Both will protect the computer from nasty things that come in on the power line - which will affect the power supply life.

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(NT) Helpful
by smigota / June 15, 2012 11:17 AM PDT
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Hard Drive
by ballaarat / June 15, 2012 11:54 AM PDT

How do you set control to harddrive spindle?

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How do you set the HD timeout interval?
by Hey_888 / June 15, 2012 4:09 PM PDT

And won't setting it to an interval overide any writing of the cache or hard drive if it is doing something in the meantime?

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