In Windows 10, as with previous versions, there are three basic options when you turn off your computer: shut down, sleep and restart. When you choose shut down, your PC will do different things depending on whether hibernate is enabled or disabled.
Hibernate is – as far as you’re concerned as a user – the same as Sleep mode. It means you can carry on where you left off: all your apps will be open and where you left them, and browser tabs will still be open. Hibernate is also linked with Fast Startup in Windows 10.
In Sleep mode, all this information is stored in RAM, which makes it quick to resume when you wake your PC. But if the power is turned off, or the battery in your laptop runs flat the system state is lost and you’ll have to boot from scratch and start from Windows’ desktop. You might even lose unsaved work.
With hibernate, which is enabled by default on most PCs and laptops, the information about which apps are open and your unsaved documents are also written to the hard drive in a file called hiberfil.sys. Even if your PC has been without power for weeks, it matters not: Windows 10 will read this file when it boots up and restore everything as it was when you clicked the Shut Down button.
If you want to enable hibernation because your PC isn’t saving your progress and “cold” booting each time, here’s how to do it.
How to enable Hibernate in Windows 10
In Windows 10, you can right-click on the Start button and choose Windows PowerShell (Admin) from the menu that appears.
Type powercfg –h on and press Return. You won’t see any confirmation of success, but you should see an error if it doesn’t work for any reason.
PCs equipped with ‘InstantGo’ don’t have hibernation, for example, so you can’t enable or disable it.
How to disable Hibernate in Windows 10
To turn off hibernation, it’s basically the same process, but type ‘powercfg –h off’ (without the quotes) at the command prompt.
How to configure Hibernate in Windows 10
Enabling and disabling it is one thing, but you also need to make sure the selected power plan is set to use hibernation.
Type Control Panel into the Windows 10 search box (next to the Windows symbol, bottom left) and then click Hardware and Sound, then Power Options.
Click Change Plan Settings next to the power plan which is currently selected, then click the Change advanced power settings link at the bottom.
In the window that appears, scroll to Sleep and expand it by pressing the small + sign. Set the time after which you want your computer to go into hibernate. If you can’t see ‘Hibernate after’ under Sleep it’s because hibernate has been disabled, or is not available on your PC or laptop.
Also, under Battery (which applies to laptops only, naturally), make sure the Critical battery action is set to hibernate.
Conversely, if you disable hibernate make sure that the critical battery action is NOT set to Hibernate. Instead, choose Sleep or Shut down.
How to make your PC hibernate using the power button or lid
It’s useful to have your computer hibernate when the battery runs out, but you might have a desktop PC (with no battery) or you want it to hibernate when you close your laptop’s lid or press the power button.
If so, it’s easy to configure. By default, your laptop will be set to sleep when you close the lid or press the power button. With a PC, it might be set to shut down when you hit the power button.
The settings are in the same list of power options as Sleep and Battery as described above. Just scroll up to Power buttons and lid, and then choose the Lid close action, Power button action and – if you have one – Sleep button action.
Under each you can choose different actions depending on whether your laptop is running on battery or mains power. For PCs, you shouldn’t see the ‘On battery’ options.
To get back to your work (or play) even quicker, here's how to sign into Windows 10 automatically at startup