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Sleep vs. Shutdown: What’s Best for Your Laptop?

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You'll agree that your laptop is a device you can't do without, so it's essential to keep it running at its optimal level. That also includes how you power it down when not in use.

So should you let it remain in sleep mode, or is it better to shut it down altogether? Let's explore both these low-power states and find out what's best to use and when.

What Is Sleep Mode?

You're likely familiar with the sleep mode. It's when your laptop screen goes black and blank after a period of inactivity. But what happens in sleep mode?

It's a state when your PC uses very little power. Whatever is running on your PC at that time, like websites, applications, and open documents, are saved on the PC's short-term memory, RAM (Random Access Memory).

You can select after how much time your laptop should enter sleep mode from the Power & sleep settings on your PC.

Power and Sleep Setting Windows10

In sleep mode, only your laptop's RAM draws battery while the processor, hard disk, and other components are powered down to save battery. Also, you don't have to worry that you'll lose your work because of your battery draining, because Windows or macOS automatically saves all your work and turns off the PC if the battery is too low.

To access sleep mode, just press the power button on your laptop, or close your laptop's lid.

To come out of sleep mode, press your laptop's power button. You might also be able to wake it by pressing any key on the keyboard, clicking the left or right mouse buttons on the touchpad, or opening the lid on your laptop.

What Happens When You Shut Down Your Laptop?

Shutting down your laptop completely powers it off. All programs, applications, and the operating system are closed, and all memory is cleared.

You're most likely to shut down your laptop when your work is done or at the end of the day. Or, unless you're forced to do so when you encounter a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) error—in that case, it's best to long-press the power button for a few seconds to shut down your PC.

How Is Sleep Different From Shutdown?

There are two main differences between sleep and shutdown.

First is the bootup time. When you want your PC to come out of sleep, it will start up faster—it just takes a few seconds before you're back at your desktop. Since all work is saved to RAM, you can begin right where you left off.

Laptop in Sleep Mode with Coffee Mug on Table

To start a laptop that's shut down, it'll take a minute or more to boot up and even longer if you have a few apps configured to open when your PC starts up. Plus, you need to save all your work before shutdown, or you will lose it.

The second difference is power consumption. You might have heard that you save more money and energy if you turn off your computer each night. However, as per Energy Star, the reality is that you only save a watt or two by turning off a computer vs. placing it in sleep mode.

Sleep vs. Shutdown: What's Best for Your Laptop?

If you're working on and off on your laptop through the day, or if you step out for lunch, it's best to let it sleep. Putting your laptop in sleep mode overnight is also fine if you plan to start work first thing in the morning.

Woman Sleeping on Table with Laptop in Sleep Mode

Having your laptop go to sleep is also better as some components like the LCD panel, battery, and hard drive have a limited life cycle. So allowing them to sleep when not in use will extend their life. Heat is also generated when your laptop is on, and heat is the enemy of all components.

Shutting down your laptop is better when you've finished your work and don't need the laptop for a longer duration, like over the weekend.

It's good to do, too, especially if you haven't shut it down for a few days. See, the longer your computer is on, the more programs, apps, and background processes will be running. With a shutdown, those things are reset, which is essential as constantly running programs tends to slow down your PC over time.

Most laptop owners know how a simple restart sometimes fixes an unresponsive app or an issue. A shutdown once or twice weekly will clear up your PC's RAM and free up memory and processing power.

Related: Should You Leave Your Laptop Plugged in All the Time?

Use Your Laptop With Care to Enjoy it for Years

Now you know what sleep and shutdown are and what happens to your laptop in either of these states. In short, you should use both options in different situations. So use your laptop with thought and care to enjoy years of hassle-free performance.

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