Comparing Windows Hibernate and Standby | Important differences

The old Windows family operating systems – like XP and 7 – are known for their interesting data handling. They were originally created for low-performance computers, so the built-in mechanisms involve working with obsolete hardware. And this is most evident in the presence of two suspend modes – hibernate and standby.

Let’s understand the difference between hibernation and standby mode in Windows, and where they went in the “ten”.

How does the Windows operating system itself work?

When the Windows operating system is running, all running data is fetched from the hard disk into RAM. So in this temporary storage there is the core of the operating system itself, running programs, open documents and so on. This is primarily due to the fact that the hard drive is a rather slow element of the computer configuration, and numerous accesses to it would lead to an extremely slow operation of the device.

RAM itself is a volatile medium. That is, it is only capable of storing data if current is applied to it. No power, all information is erased. But a hard disk drive (HDD) is a non-volatile, even if it’s left unconnected to the electricity for a couple of years, nothing happens to the information stored on it.

All information you need for your PC is stored on the HHD. This is where the operating system itself, its kernel (a set of drivers, interfaces and execution environments), installed programs and user data are stored. When you turn on your PC it all gets moved to RAM, where it is kept until you turn it off, periodically unloading it back to HDD if there is not enough space.

So, the principle of the Windows operating system is clear. Now we can get to the analysis of the sleep and standby modes.

How hibernation works

Hibernate mode

Hibernation in Windows (sometimes also called “hibernation”) implies full transfer of the data from the main memory to HDD while temporarily shutting down.

That is, it works in the following way:

  1. The user presses the button to go to sleep mode or closes the lid of the laptop;

  2. The operating system dumps all the RAM and saves it to your hard drive as a separate file;

  3. After a while, the user turns on the PC or opens the laptop;

  4. OS loads the required minimum of data;

  5. Windows finds the RAM dump and sends it “in place”;

  6. The user sees a familiar environment.

When switching to “sleep”, everything is preserved. Editable documents, location of windows on the screen, other elements of the user interface. But it consumes almost no power, which is especially useful for notebooks – or for desktops if you need to leave them idle for extended periods of time.


  • Preservation of the user environment;

  • No power consumption.


  • Comparatively long boot time after “waking up”;

  • You must have plenty of free disk space.

Particularly, booting after “waking up” may take from 8-9 seconds on Windows 10 to 1-2 minutes on older OSs. And it depends directly on the speed of your hard drive.

Also, “sleep” will not work if the system disk has less free space than the total amount of RAM. Still, its dump has to be downloaded somewhere. So, configurations with 4GB of “RAM” need more than 4GB of free space on the system HDD to operate in hibernation mode.

How Standby works

Standby mode, in its turn, requires permanent power supply. The point is that when the computer enters it, the data from RAM is saved in the same. Basically, just pauses processes and shuts down the screen.

As mentioned above, RAM is volatile. In order to store data, it must be powered by electricity. During “standby” the data is not transferred from the main memory to the permanent memory – and therefore current continues to flow to it.

As a consequence, Standby mode is not suitable for laptops. When entering it, the PC only slightly reduced the power consumption.

But waking from sleep mode takes seconds even on weak PCs with one or two cores or slow HDD. And so it is suitable for a quick return to work after downtime.

Because data is stored in RAM, a user session does not end. Open documents stay open, windows do not “move away” from their seats. Except that programs stop running – so torrents, for example, won’t be downloaded during the “standby” time.


  • Very fast boot after waking up, even on weak PCs;

  • Saving user session.


  • Only a slight decrease in power consumption;

  • Hardly ever found on modern configurations.

Somewhere in the mid 00’s, Standby mode began to be abandoned. Microsoft managed to change operating system algorithms, so that waking up after “sleeping” takes less time.

Thus Standby mode started to disappear already in Windows 7. Some builds of this OS were still equipped with this feature, but newer versions came without it. And of Windows 8, 8.1 and 10, it was removed altogether, leaving only sleep mode.

Features of Windows 7 and newer

The peculiarities of Windows 7

The new hibernation mode that was mentioned a couple of paragraphs above, appeared in Windows Vista. Nevertheless, the operating system was forgotten like a bad dream two years after its release, it was so unstable. And the “glitches” affected and that new sleep mode.

A refined and improved variation of it has been introduced in the Windows 7 operating system. It would mean to transfer the RAM dump to the hard drive without deleting the data in the “RAM” itself.

That is, while the computer was asleep, data was stored in two places at once. The RAM was powered by electricity but not everything else, which resulted in lower power consumption. Then, on waking up, the computer would interrogate the RAM – and if the data was there, it would boot from it. And if not – from the hard drive.

This mechanism of operation is called “hybrid hibernation”. It preserved the advantages of its predecessors and corrected their shortcomings. And that’s why it is used in all the new Microsoft operating systems, replacing the traditional wait and sleep.

Of course, it requires a lot of space on the HDD. That is where memory dump from RAM is stored. And on modern computers, which can be equipped with 16-32 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD drive as a system drive, this loss of space is quite noticeable. However, this mechanism allows for a much faster loading whether or not there has been a power outage. Therefore, it is not recommended to disable it, and delete system files – even more so.

Is it worth turning off hibernation

Hibernation, normal or hybrid hibernation is a complex mechanism that is deeply integrated into the power management system of the motherboard. So “playing” with it can lead to very serious consequences.

Of course, some sources recommend to disable hibernation in order to increase the amount of available disk space on the system disk. But the effect would not be the most significant. On average, you can save 5-7 gigabytes, but the systemic damage can be much more serious than you would like.

  1. First, the last session would stop saving. This can lead to the loss of important data in the event of an unexpected discharge of the laptop, for example, or accidentally pressing the power button on a desktop PC.

  2. Secondly, the computer would boot slowly pulling the data up from scratch every time. Even on “machines” with an SSD drive this process may take up to several minutes.

  3. Finally, deleting the hibernation file can affect the overall power management system. And after that, the computer will not be able to shut down normally.

So hibernation or sleep mode is best left untouched. Of course, you can disable it through the standard Windows settings (by selecting “Never” in the appropriate menu), but you can not delete system files manually.

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