Differences between Hibernate and Sleep

by Barry Dysert
(last updated October 19, 2015)


Hibernate and Sleep are two power modes that Windows can enter in an attempt to conserve energy when you're not using your computer. Sleep mode is meant to be used for short periods of time when you'll be away from your computer, but you want it to respond quickly when you return. Open documents and applications are stored to memory, and the system enters a "pause" state. Since reading from memory is faster than reading from disk, restoring your system from sleep mode is a fairly quick operation.

Hibernate mode, on the other hand, is intended for when you're going to be gone for a longer period of time. Open documents and applications are stored to disk in a file named C:\hiberfile.sys, and the computer actually shuts down, thus making its energy requirements zero. When you return, you restart your computer and your documents and applications are read from the disk file and restored just as they were before the system entered Hibernate mode.

If you know you'll be away from your system for an extended time (a couple of days or more), then you should tell Windows to Hibernate rather than simply putting it to Sleep. This will help conserve energy, which can be very important if your system happens to be a laptop. If you put the system in Sleep mode, it is possible that it will still drain power and, over time, run out of juice. However, when your available power drains to a dangerously low point, Windows automatically enters Hibernate mode and then shuts down so that your work is not lost.

 This tip (12621) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...


Understanding Jump Lists

Jump lists are great productivity enhancers to Windows 7. By using jump lists, you can easily access frequently used ...

Discover More

Using Sync Center

Sync Center is a centralized place where you can deal with your offline files. You can do a manual sync, set up a sync ...

Discover More

Specifying a Copy Schedule in Robocopy

There are a few ways to set up a copy schedule in Robocopy by using its options. This tip explains how.

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Pin Items to the Start Screen

You can improve your efficiency at launching applications by using the Start Screen. This tip shows you how to pin items ...

Discover More

Starting Programs Automatically at Startup

If you have programs that you want to automatically start when your system starts, this tip tells you how to set them up.

Discover More

Restoring Your System from a Restore Point

Restore Points let you go "back in time" to a point before you made system changes that could prove harmful to your ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is six more than 8?

2015-10-19 15:56:37

Henry Noble

Hibernate appears to function in Win10 as it does in Win8/8.1 and in Win7.

When Hibernate is enabled, the choice will appear in the Shutdown menu.

The commands to enable and disable Hibernate are the same as for prior versions, i.e. "powercfg /h on" and "powercfg /h off".

Side note: You will not see hiberfil.sys unless you have enabled viewing of protected operating system files in File Explorer a/k/a Windows Explorer.

2015-10-19 14:56:44


Yes, Windows 8.1 has hibernate and sleep states.

2015-10-19 14:50:28

Jas R

Does this apply to Win 8.1?

2015-10-19 12:10:03


I liked that feature in Windows 7, however now that I have Windows 10 I don't have that feature and I don't want to be always turning my computer off.

Is Windows 10 going to be coming out with the "hibernate" feature?

2015-10-19 09:43:40

Henry Noble

Hibernation is a solution in search of a problem. It made modest sense with slow processors and slow disks, but modern hardware has relegated hibernation to a Wiki article.

Use sleep to pause for a few minutes. For any extended pause, turn off the laptop.

Hibernation requires a file on disk roughly equal to the size of the computer's memory. With a small SSD, that may be a significant penalty.

The only way to get rid of the hiberfil.sys file is to open a command prompt window as Administrator, then enter the command "powercfg.exe /hibernate off" or "powercfg.exe /h off". Disabling hibernation in the power configuration does not remove the big file.

2015-10-19 09:31:25


I always wondered. So are the contents of hiberfile.sys removed after the computer resumes operations? What happens to that file and its contents once the computer comes out of hibernation?

2015-10-19 09:18:39


very straight forward and concise comment to understand.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.