75. Leaving computers on:
models offer shutdown options
By Mark Alberstat
Under more than a few trees this Christmas, lucky people will find new
computers and some people may receive their very first one. They will no
doubt have a myriad of questions. One that is often asked is not how to
turn off a Window's-based machine but which of the shut down options is
best suited for their particular case.
Recent versions of Windows have three shut down options: Hibernate, Stand
By and Shut Down. The third one is obvious, it powers off the computer,
the drives, fans and everything else stops.
The differences between hibernate and stand by, however, are more subtle
and which one you should use will depend on your situation.
If you are going to be away from your computer for a short time, such as
going to a meeting, watching a tv show or anything less than a few hours,
Stand By is the best choice. In standby mode the system goes into a
low-power state but leaves all of your documents and files open where you
left them. This is really convenient if you have multiple documents open,
a spreadsheet and maybe a few Internet sites as well. When you come back
to your computer, simply shake the mouse or hit one of the keyboard
buttons and your computer springs back to life.
If you are going to be away from your computer for a long time, overnight
for example, Hibernate is the better option. Hibernate mode is just shy
of a complete system shutdown. When your computer enters Hibernate mode,
the operating systems saves all of your desktop settings to a file that is
then read when the computer "wakes up" and restores all of your files and
settings. One of the main differences is that in Hibernate you can only
bring your computer back by pressing the power button and logging in
To check if your computer goes into hibernate mode, or to set it to that,
you have to go to the Windows Control Panel and double click the Power
It is under this set of options that you find the settings for your
computer's power cycling. If you are interested in the Hibernate mode,
click that tab and see if there is a check in the box next to Enable
hibernation. In the Power Schemes tab you can adjust the idle time for
your computer before it goes into hibernate mode.
As with all computer issues, a caveat should be stated. Not all users
will have success with either of these modes. Not being able to "wake up"
a machine is a common complaint regarding these settings and often has to
do with a driver mismatch. Another common problem is that attached USB
devices are not seen after hibernation ends and the only way to reactivate
them is to restart the computer. If you are experiencing any of these
problems with the Hibernate or Stand By mode it is best to simply shut off
the machine when you will be away from it for long periods of time. If
you are on a new machine and these modes work well, they can be a useful
and convenient way to temporarily shut down your system.
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Originally published 8 January 2006