Sleep or Hibernate?

No, it is not a question as to what to do this winter, but it is a common question for Windows users to ask: do I use Sleep or Hibernate on my computer? What is the difference?
The Windows Help and Support Center has this explanation:
Sleep is a power-saving state that allows a computer to quickly resume full-power operation (typically within several seconds) when you want to start working again. Putting your computer into the sleep state is like pausing a DVD player—the computer immediately stops what it’s doing and is ready to start again when you want to resume working.

Hibernation is a power-saving state designed primarily for laptops. While sleep puts your work and settings in memory and draws a small amount of power, hibernation puts your open documents and programs on your hard disk, and then turns off your computer. Of all the power-saving states in Windows, hibernation uses the least amount of power. On a laptop, use hibernation when you know that you won’t use your laptop for an extended period and won’t have an opportunity to charge the battery during that time.

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Hybrid sleep is designed primarily for desktop computers. Hybrid sleep is a combination of sleep and hibernate—it puts any open documents and programs in memory and on your hard disk, and then puts your computer into a low-power state so that you can quickly resume your work. That way, if a power failure occurs, Windows can restore your work from your hard disk. When hybrid sleep is turned on, putting your computer into sleep automatically puts your computer into hybrid sleep. Hybrid sleep is typically turned on by default on desktop computers.

Now, how do you adjust or choose these settings? There are two quick ways:

First, click the Start button and choose from the options arrow beside the shutdown button (mine has been modified to display Hibernate; more about this below):


You can change what the shutdown button displays by right-clicking it and then choosing Properties. Then there will be a Power button action dropdown list to select from. Choose the one you are most likely to use most often.

Secondly, you can access the Power Options control panel by clicking Start, then typing power options  in the search space. Your may look different than mine, since Lenovo has added some extra options for my ThinkPad:


In this window you can adjust all the power setting plans for your desktop or laptop, as well as choosing when the computer ‘sleeps’, what the power buttons do when pressed, what happens when you close the lid on your laptop does (sleep/hibernate/shutdown or do nothing) and many more options. It all depends on your needs. If you are constantly on your PC, such as at work, then you do not want it going into sleep mode if you step away for a break, for instance. Laptop users running on a battery will want to conserve as much power as possible until they can get an AC outlet.

So take some time to get familiar with the power settings options and choose what works best for you.