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Hibernate or shutdown? Windows protections are the same either way

Hibernation or shutdown? The choice is yours, but keep in mind that many of the protections Windows uses against system damage are not exclusively linked to shutdown or hibernation.

I'm a fan of using hibernation on my desktop PC and my notebook computers, mostly because a computer can almost always come back up out of hibernation far faster than it can reboot.

However, many people believe that shutting down is somehow better for a system than hibernating. Their argument seems to boil down to the idea that when the system is shut down, certain measures are taken to protect system settings that aren't extended to the system when you hibernate.

As far as I can tell, this is not entirely true, because many of the protections that Windows uses against system damage are not exclusively linked to shutdown or hibernation.

One such mechanism is System Restore. Every 24 hours, regardless of when the system was last powered on or off, the PC automatically creates a System Restore point. For instance, if you turn the computer off and turn it back on again more than a day later, a System Restore Point will be created; if you hibernate the computer and restore it more than a day later, a System Restore Point will likewise be created. As a further defense against system damage, the Registry is also backed up each time this happens.

Admins cite another reason for not using hibernation: Sometimes the computer doesn't come up out of hibernation due to a problem with the hibernation file. Their argument has some validity; I've had a hibernation file fail to come back up a few times on notebook computers (possibly due to a drive problem). But the only time it poses any real trouble is if you hibernate while you have completely unsaved work in progress and can't recover it later. An application that's set to auto-save its work every few minutes should help overcome this problem. (It's always best to save work before any suspend or hibernate operation anyway.)

In summary, almost all of the same system protections are extended to users whether they shut their computers off completely or simply hibernate them. The choice is yours.


About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to and

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