Windows won’t hibernate: Solutions to hibernate not working on PC

Can your PC hibernate? Solve Windows hibernation problems

Laptop computers enable us to work wherever we want and a great feature is being able to close the lid, then open it later and carry on where we left off. What if your PC won’t go into hibernate mode?

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Laptop computers enable us to work wherever we want and a great feature is being able to close the lid, then open it later and carry on where we left off. What if your PC won’t go into hibernate mode?

There are several causes and it varies from computer to computer. Most commonly the cause is an incompatible driver or a bad program running in the background preventing hibernation. Drivers and apps can also be the problem when the PC won’t wake from hibernation.

Let’s see how to deal with hibernation issues on a Windows PC, but first, what is hibernation?

Windows hibernate vs sleep

  • Sleep: When a computer is put into sleep mode, it suspends what it is doing and enters a very low power state. A laptop battery can last a week or more in sleep mode. When it resumes from sleep, it carries on where it left off.
  • Hibernation: The computer saves the current state of the machine to the disk and then turns off the power. Unlike sleep mode, no battery is used in a laptop and there is no limit to the time it can spend in hibernation. When it resumes, it continues exactly as at was before.

Hibernation may appear to be the better option because it doesn’t use any battery on a laptop. However, a computer in sleep mode can be scheduled to automatically wake to perform tasks like checking for emails, syncing, backing up and then it will automatically go back to sleep. Maintenance can be performed while sleeping, but not in hibernation.

Sometimes you will want the computer to sleep, sometimes to hibernate to save battery. It is good to have a choice.

How do you hibernate a PC?

You may see options to hibernate or sleep when you click the Start button followed by Power. Just select Hibernate on the menu. A laptop computer may enter hibernation when the lid is closed, but it may enter sleep mode instead, depending on how it is configured. Simply shutting down the computer can enter a type of hibernation

Recent versions of Windows have used a hybrid sleep/hibernation mode. When the PC enters sleep mode, the computer state is saved to disk, as with hibernation, and this is in case the power is cut or the laptop battery expires.

Also, when Windows is shut down, you are first logged out and then the PC enters hibernation. Think of it as entering hibernation from the login screen. This enables it to start faster than a normal startup. However, it only returns to the login screen and it does not save running programs and open documents as a full hibernation would.

Windows hibernate missing

An option to sleep is always on the Start > Power menu, but a Hibernation menu option may be missing. This is deliberate and is because of the hybrid sleep/hibernation mode that recent versions of Windows use. However, you may want to manually choose between sleep and hibernation, so it is useful to add the option.

No hibernate option on the Windows Start menu
No Hibernate menu option on Start > Power

Click the Start button and type ‘command‘. Windows search suggests Command Prompt and there is an option to run it as an administrator. Click it. At the command prompt, type:

powercfg /a

to list all power modes. See if your PC is capable of hibernating. In the screenshot below you can see that hibernate has not been enabled on this computer. It is then enabled and the power modes listed. Type:

powercfg /h on

to turn on hibernation and repeat the first command to list all power modes. Take a look below.

Power configuration at the Windows command prompt
Configuring Windows power options from the command prompt

Now that hibernation has been enabled, open the Control Panel (Start > Windows System > Control Panel) and click Power Options (select small icons view if you don’t see it). Click Choose what the power buttons do and then click Change settings that are currently unavailable.

Control Panel power options in Windows
Some settings are hidden. Show them.

Now you can tick the Hibernate checkbox in the lower half of Power Options in the Shut-down settings section.

Control Panel Power Options in Windows
Enable hibernate

Hibernate may not be instantly available and it is a good idea to restart Windows.

Control Panel Power Options in Windows
Choose what the power button and closing the laptop lid do

Return to Power Options in the Control Panel and you can choose the Hibernate option on the power button, sleep button or when the lid of a laptop is closed.

Hibernate option on the Windows Start menu
Hibernate is now on the Start menu

Hibernate is also added to the Start > Power menu and can be selected when shutting down instead of Sleep.

Windows hiberfil.sys too big

When Windows hibernates, it saves the current state of the system, including everything that is currently in the PC’s memory, to disk in a file called hiberfil.sys. Don’t look for it, it is hidden, and you can’t do much with it anyway. The more RAM that a PC has, the bigger the hiberfil.sys file will be. When there is little disk space left, the size of hyberfil.sys can cause problems. Maybe a lack of disk space is preventing hibernation and many gigabytes of storage are required.

The solution is to free up disk space by deleting unnecessary files. Click Start and type ‘clean-up‘. Disk Clean-up is suggested in the search results. Run it, tick all the boxes to select all the items for clean-up and delete the junk from the disk to free up space. It may be sufficient to enable hibernate to work.

Another option is to configure hibernate to use less disk space. There are two size settings for hibernate, full and reduced and if disk space is limited, use the reduced size. Return to the command prompt and enter:

powercfg /h /type full

or

powercfg /h /type reduced

depending on which you want. The reduced size option only allows fast startup, which is set in Control Panel > Power Options > Choose what the power buttons do. To select hibernate manually, such as from Start > Power menu you need the full option, but it requires more disk space. Use the full option only when there is a lot of free disk space, like 10 GB or more.

Windows won’t hibernate

If Windows will not hibernate or if a laptop will not wake up from hibernation cleanly, it is most likely due to drivers, but apps running in the background can also cause problems.

Try updating the PC’s drivers. Click the Start button and type ‘device‘ then open Device Manager in the suggested search result. Expand each section in Device Manager, right click each item and click Update driver. When it asks how you want to search for drivers, select Search automatically for drivers. If you see an option to search for updated drivers on Windows Update, click it.

Update drivers in Device Manager in Windows
Update device drivers to solve hibernation problems

Repeat this for all Device Manager categories down to the System Devices section. There are a lot of items, but it has to be done.

IObit Driver Booster Free is a good utility that saves a lot of effort by checking all the drivers and locating updates for them online. It often finds dozens of outdated drivers and offers to update them all in one go. Take a cautious approach and update only one or two at a time and make sure you have a backup before starting.

IObit Driver Booster free
IObit Driver Booster

Sometimes it is just a single driver that is causing problems with hibernation, like a video, audio, network or trackpad driver. Don’t update everything unless you have to because newer drivers are not always better than older drivers and it depends on your computer.

A program running in the background may prevent hibernation, so try closing every program, not forgetting those that hide as icons in the taskbar. Click the up-arrow to show the little panel of icons, right click them and quit or exit every item. If the computer hibernates, you will know it was one of those programs you shut down. Try to find updates for them or manually close them each time before you hibernate.

Autoruns is a great free utility for finding out what is starting with Windows in the background. The programs and services that start with Windows will probably still be running when you try to hibernate the PC and they can prevent hibernation. Shutdown problems are often caused by startup items!

Autoruns is an advanced tool and is not for novices. It scans the system for absolutely everything that loads with Windows and the list is very long and very complicated. Take great care not to delete anything that is needed and if in doubt, don’t touch something you do not understand.

If you know what you are doing, you can disable unnecessary items, such as startup items placed their by third party software. Anything that is not part of Windows is suspect, so look for software brands and program names from software you installed. You can probably manage without it and it can be temporarily disabled to see if it cures the PC’s hibernation problems.

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About Roland Waddilove 396 Articles
Roland Waddilove is interested in technology: Computers, phones, gadgets, software and internet. Long ago he worked on computer magazines, but is now mostly a tech writer for the web.