In the olden days, Windows offered a command called Standby. This special state of PC consciousness reduced the amount of electricity the computer used, putting it in suspended animation until you used the mouse or keyboard to begin working again. Whatever programs or documents you were working on remained in memory.
When using a laptop on battery power, Standby was a real boon. When the flight attendant handed over your microwaved chicken teriyaki, you could take a break without closing all your programs or shutting down the computer.
Unfortunately, there were two big problems with Standby, especially for laptops.
- First, the PC still drew a trickle of power this way. If you didn’t use your laptop for a few days, the battery would silently go dead—and everything you had open and unsaved would be lost forever.
- Second, drivers or programs sometimes interfered with Standby, so your laptop remained on even though it was closed inside your carrying case. Your plane would land on the opposite coast, you’d pull out the laptop for the big meeting, and you’d discover that (a) the thing was roasting hot, and (b) the battery was dead.
The command is now called Sleep, and it doesn’t present those problems anymore.
- First, drivers and applications are no longer allowed to interrupt the Sleep process. No more Hot Laptop Syndrome.
- Second, the instant you put the computer to sleep, Windows quietly transfers a copy of everything in memory into an invisible file on the hard drive. But it still keeps everything alive in memory—the battery provides a tiny trickle of power—in case you return to the laptop (or desktop) and want to dive back into work.
If you do return soon, the next startup is lightning-fast. Everything reappears on the screen faster than you can say, “Redmond, Washington.”
If you don’t return shortly, then Windows eventually cuts power, abandoning what it had memorized in RAM. (You control when this happens using the advanced power plan settings) Now your computer is using no power at all; it’s in hibernate mode.
Fortunately, Windows still has the hard drive copy of your work environment. So now when you tap a key to wake the computer, you may have to wait 30 seconds or so—not as fast as 2 seconds, but certainly better than the 5 minutes it would take to start up, reopen all your programs, reposition your document windows, and so on.
The bottom line: When you’re done working for the moment—or for the day—put your computer to Sleep instead of shutting it down. You save power, you save time, and you risk no data loss.
You can send a laptop to Sleep just by closing the lid. On any kind of computer, you can trigger Sleep by choosing Start->Sleep or by pushing the PC’s power button, if you’ve set it up that way.