Hibernation and Suspension of the computer: differences and usability

Windows hibernation
Back in the days when computers were slow, with very small hard drives and less than 1 GB of RAM, the fastest way to turn off your PC was the suspension or hibernation, which allowed to quickly resume the work from where we left it without having to repeat the annoying start-up procedure, which could take several minutes (especially with many programs set in auto-start).
Computers are now vastly faster thanks to SSDs and classic boot times have become extremely fast, to the point of making the use of hibernation or hibernation almost superfluous.
It is, therefore, worthwhile to use hibernation and when hibernating the computer on Windows? Let’s find out the scenarios where these two shutdown modes are still valid today, considering the great steps forward made by Windows 10 the hybrid suspension.

How to start a Windows PC

When you turn off your computer using the function of Shut down the system, all programs, system services, the operating system are terminated and then the power to the PC is also interrupted, which shuts down completely (no port remains on, the flow of current is interrupted). The next time the computer starts, it loads all the systems, all the drivers, and all the services to be activated, including the programs configured to start automatically.
I start Windows

Another mode that we can use to shut down the computer is the Suspension, activated by pressing on the item Suspend: in this mode, the computer disconnects the electricity from all the components except the RAM and the USB ports.
The data of the running programs remain in the RAM before stopping the computer, therefore the RAM memory is not emptied as it happens when the PC is turned off.
This means that the PC will keep the programs we were working on as long as it remains connected to a power source.
In this mode, the CPU fan is usually stopped, as well as the video card and the disk: we can find only the power LED on, which often flashes (an evident sign that the PC is suspended). To resume the work, just move the mouse, press a key on the keyboard, or press the power button.

The last shutdown mode available on Windows is the hibernation, probably the most effective of all even on modern SSDs. With hibernation, the computer is shut down completely, but the RAM memory content is copied to the main disk and saved to a dedicated file. On reboot, the PC loads this data in order to return the user the same work session he had before hibernating Windows.
Hibernation is useful on laptop computers with the battery because it allows you not to lose the job you were doing and to be able to pick up where you left off without consuming energy.
Unfortunately on Windows 10, hibernation is turned off by default and we will have to activate some hidden item to be able to reuse it.

How to enable hibernation on Windows 10

To reactivate hibernation on Windows 10 we first open the Command Prompt as administrator: we open the Start menu at the bottom right, we search for the prompt, we right-click on it, and use the item Run as administrator.
As soon as the prompt is ready we type the following command:

powercfg.exe / hibernate on

We confirm with the button Submit keyboard. Now we will have to re-enable the Hibernation item in the Windows shutdown menu; to do this we open the Start menu, we search Change the operations performed when the lid is closed (we can also search only “cover”), we press on the item Change the currently unavailable settings and put a checkmark on the item Hibernation.
PC hibernation

We press down on Save changes to make the changes effective. From the same screen, if we are on a laptop, we can set hibernation when the lid is closed, taking care to set the item Hibernate both in the field Battery operated both in the field Power supply from the mains.

Difference between suspension and hibernation from a performance point of view

The difference between suspending or hibernating the computer is in the boot process. A computer that wakes up from hibernation loads data from RAM which is much faster than a hard disk or SSD; after hibernation, the computer restarts in seconds.

Restarting the PC from hibernation instead requires the computer to recover data from the main disk, but the times have been reduced considerably thanks to the arrival of the SSDs (which are undoubtedly faster than the old mechanical disks): in fact, hibernation is faster than standard boot if we use an SSD disk or an M.2 disk, but it is slower than a suspension.

Hibernation still works well on laptops, when you have to disconnect the power to save battery and not lose the work you are doing in case of breaks; upon restart, we will immediately have all the programs and documents already open and we can immediately start working!
The suspension works well on stationary PCs to turn them back on quickly and can be useful on laptops for very short breaks taking into account that, unlike hibernation, the suspension consumes battery and, after some time, it runs out.


Despite the times when we had to choose whether to suspend or hibernate Windows (the PCs were very slow with the standard boot!), We can still set hibernation and suspension on Windows 10 in some scenarios, so as to obtain ready to use computers in seconds without having to wait to load any program or process.
Do not forget also that in Windows 10 there is a special hibernation mode called Quick Launch, which allows you to turn on your PC more quickly if activated, even if it only works in certain conditions as explained in the guide.

If we notice problems with the suspension of PCs, we can read our in-depth analysis If the PC wakes up from sleep by itself, so as to understand where we are wrong.
Do we want to set a specific time for hibernation or suspension of the computer? In this case, we invite you to read our guide to Programs to turn off the computer automatically with a timer.
Do we want to start our computer remotely? In this case, just follow the tips in our article Turning on (waking up) the computer remotely with Wake-on-Lan.


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