Differences between Hibernate and Sleep

by Barry Dysert
(last updated March 8, 2019)


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.

You may find that your Windows 10 system doesn't have the Hibernate mode option on the Shutdown menu. If that is the case, you will need to enable this option. To enable the Hibernate mode on your Shutdown menu, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Start icon (the Windows icon to the far-right of the Taskbar) and then select the Settings icon (looks like a small gear) from the list on the left side of the resulting context menu. Windows displays the Windows Settings dialog box.
  2. Select the System option. Windows displays the System section of the Settings dialog box.
  3. Select the Power & Sleep tab on the left side of the dialog box. Windows displays the Power & Sleep section of the Settings dialog box.
  4. Select the Additional Power Settings link under the Related Settings section. Windows displays the Power Options dialog box.
  5. Select Choose What the Power Buttons Do link and then select Change Settings That Are Currently Unavailable near the top of the dialog box. Windows enables the list of options in the Shutdown Settings group.
  6. Click the Hibernate check box to turn on this option.
  7. Click the Save Changes button. Windows again displays the Power Options dialog box.
  8. Close the Power Options dialog box.
  9. Close the Settings dialog box.
  10. The Hibernate mode option is now available on the Shutdown menu.

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, 8, and 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 35 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer. He is currently a software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. When not working with Windows or writing Tips, Barry is an amateur writer. His first non-fiction book is titled "A Chronological Commentary of Revelation." ...


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What is 2 + 3?

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.

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