You can if it works.
This is one of those “theory versus practice” situations.
In theory, you should be able to use hibernate all the time. I know some people who do.
In practice, however, things aren’t always quite that easy.
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Hibernate can be fragile on some machines and may not power back on reliably. If it works on your machine, there’s no reason not to use it as much as you like. If it fails, make sure your system is as up to date as possible. You’ll still likely want to reboot Windows itself occasionally, but this is often forced by Windows Update.
The theory behind hibernation is wonderfully simple.
- It’s off. It’s using no power, unlike StandBy, which uses a trickle.
- Turning it back on can be faster than a full reboot.
The last point is its big appeal.
When the machine powers back on after hibernating, the computer simply reloads the RAM image and resumes from where you left off.
In theory, it should just work.
However, theory and practice don’t always coincide.
Hibernation in practice
There are several flies in the hibernation ointment. While it continues to get better over time, you can still have problems.
The ability to hibernate (and stand by, for that matter), relies in part on support from the computer’s BIOS (aka UEFI). The problem is that some BIOSs aren’t quite up to snuff when it comes to hibernate.
This is, fortunately, one of the areas of greatest improvement in recent years, and is typically an issue only in older machines. Even then, it’s not uncommon that a BIOS update can resolve many of the issues.
Drivers for the various hardware attached to your computer is a more common issue.
I’ll use a common sticking point: wireless networking.
Just before you hibernate your computer, it likely has a working wireless connection. That connection is terminated when your machine goes into hibernation.
When the machine wakes up or resumes from hibernation, that wireless connection needs to be restored from being completely powered off to whatever state it was in before hibernation.
Normally, when the device is powered on, it’s in a boot situation and can start from scratch. Unfortunately, resuming from hibernation isn’t from scratch. The wireless connection must, if at all possible, act as if nothing happened.
In addition, your computer might wake up from hibernation in a completely different location, in which case the wireless driver needs to act as if, well, something happened; something that’s not quite a reboot, but certainly something.
It gets complicated.
Almost every driver for every device connected to your computer needs to deal with all this in ways that are specific to each device. Some — like a monitor or screen — need very little effort. Others, like network connections, need to act as if nothing happened, except that the world they’re connected to could be completely different.
That means that every driver is a potential point of failure for a clean resume from hibernation.
This, too, has been getting better over time, but we’re certainly not living in a perfect world.
If it works, great
So the first answer to your question is this: there’s nothing wrong with always using hibernation as much as you like, unless you find that it doesn’t work or that problems result.
If it works, it’s nifty, possibly faster, and, as you said, more convenient than opening up all those applications each time you turn on the machine. If it doesn’t work reliably for you, all I can recommend is making sure your system, including the BIOS, is as up-to-date as possible.
The second answer really boils down to how long you can leave Windows running without doing a “real” reboot.
Once again in theory, forever. And once again in practice: not so much.
This is particularly due to applications that don’t release resources the way they should — occasionally even applications that are part of Windows itself. You simply need to reboot to clean things out. How often depends on many, many things, including the hardware and software installed and how you use the machine.
As one data point, I typically leave my relatively active desktop computer running for weeks at a time. Usually, a Windows Update comes along, requiring a reboot, and resolves the question for me.
If that update-related reboot doesn’t come along, you’ll want to reboot once in a while… just because.
Hibernate, sleep, or reboot as you see fit. Then, once you’re awake again, subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.