Making Win7 Even More Usable: Part 1 – Hibernate

Win7moreUsable_logo I haven’t exactly hidden my love for Windows 7.  Having used it for over a year now (including the “Beta” and “RC” versions), I’m pretty darned used to it… and it’s great! 

Now, I was also a fan of Vista – albeit through slightly gritted teeth.  You see, although I didn’t personally have a lot of issues with Windows Vista, I certainly ran across my fair share – especially in the work place, and especially with laptops.  Vista was a very capable operating system, but something was wrong with it.  I don’t know what it was, but it had some deep down issues that are hard to put my finger on.  I don’t normally advise folks to upgrade their operating system as a “fix” for anything, but I make an exception with upgrading to Windows 7.  I have quite literally seen issues *disappear* after wiping Vista out and installing Win7 – no other changes made.

I guess it is what it is.

So, I love Win7, right?  Yeah, I do.  I think it’s great, but it’s not perfect.  Funny thing is, most of the ways that I would change Windows 7 are done through simple tweaks, not major changes.  I thought I’d share those with the masses.

Here we go… my first item to “make Win7 even more usable”:


hibernate00 Microsoft made a lot of headway in regards to power management with both Vista and Windows 7, but in my opinion they are rarely utilized as they ought to be. 

Case in point: Hibernation.

People often complain about the time it takes to start up and shut down their PC.  I agree.  Part of the issue is over-installing crapware onto your box, much of which starts itself up when the computer first boots.  Sadly, most people don’t know how to take care of that, and I’m not going to get into it here.  The other part of it, though, is that most folks are doing a full SHUT DOWN every single time they turn their computer off.  Microsoft hasn’t made this any easier, since it’s the default option – and most people I know can’t tell you the difference between Sleep, Hibernate, and Shut Down.

But I’m gonna.

  • Sleep – this mode puts your computer into a low-power state.  Your computer and operating system are still fully running, but in an unusable “groggy” state that uses much less battery/power.  Shaking the mouse, hitting the keyboard, or tapping the power button usually wakes the computer up again, and you’re ready to go back to work – typically within 5 seconds or so.  “Sleep” is the default state for laptops when you close the lid.  Most computers will move to “Hibernate” or “Shut Down” after being asleep for too long.
  • Hibernate – this mode takes the current state of your computer, writes it to the harddisk, and then shuts the computer off completely – typically  faster than a true “Shut Down”.  There is no battery or power being used when you “Hibernate”.  The system is completely off. 
    win7-boot-800x600[1]The biggest benefit, perhaps, comes when you turn the system back on again.  Instead of cycling through the normal Startup process – including services, start up apps, reinitializing devices, etc. – it simple reads from the hibernation file that was created when it was powered off.  This means that the bootup time is typically about 50% faster, and is ready to use when you login – meaning that the system isn’t still loading up services, startup apps, and whatever else when you login.  Getting to the login screen or desktop is all fine and dandy, but what really means something is the Startup-to-Usable-State boot time, and Hibernation is clearly faster in this regard – by quite a bit.  Otherwise, you will find no discernible difference when using Hibernate – just faster to boot up and shut down.  That’s good stuff.
  • Shut Down – most people are familiar with Shutting Down their computer, so I won’t belabor this one too much.  Basically, when you Shut Down your computer, services are stopped, all programs are closed, and the computer is turned off completely.  No battery or power is being used.  Starting up from a previous Shut Down state means that the OS starts up all services, loads Startup programs, and initializes the interface.  It can certainly take a while, and the Startup-to-Usable-State boot time can be quite long, especially if you have a lot of services and/or Startup programs.

Here’s the deal: each option has its purpose.  If you’re walking away from your computer for 15 minutes, especially a laptop running on (precious) battery power, then put it to Sleep.  Do you need to install some updates and turn the computer off, then choose the Shut Down option.  Otherwise, the Hibernate option is the best option for everything else – meaning 95% of the time you need to shut down your computer down for any length of time – be it for a few hours, overnight, or weeks at a time (hibernation files don’t wear out or expire).

Honestly, Microsoft should’ve made “Hibernate” the default option.  As it is, you typically have to run through a bunch of hoops to make it the standard option for powering down.

Here’s how to do that:

  • Check if the Hibernate option is available.  Click on the Start button, select the arrow to the right hibernate01of the Shut Down text, and then see if “Hibernate” is available in your menu of options.  If “yes”, then continue to the next step.  If “no”, check out this page to enable Hibernation.  For most laptops, the option should be there by default.  On desktop machines, however, it likely has to be enabled manually.  It’s worth the effort, though.
  • hibernate02Set “Hibernate” as the default Start Menu option.  Right-click on the taskbar and choose Properties.  Select the “Start Menu” (middle) tab.   Finally, choose “Hibernate” from the Power Button Action drop-down menu.  Hit OK when done.  Now the default option for powering down your computer will be “Hibernate”.  (Note that the “Shut Down” option is still possible by clicking the options arrow to the right of the “Hibernate” text.)
  • Power Button set to “Hibernate” (OPTIONAL).  Personally, I find it *most* handy to have the physical power button set to “Hibernate” as hibernate03 well – especially for a laptop computer.  On our laptop, for instance, the computer “Sleeps” when the lid is closed, and then “Hibernates” when asleep for a certain period of time – say 4 hours, or so.  Otherwise, when I’m done using the computer for the day, I hit the physical power button and close the lid.  The computer hibernates itself and powers off.  Nice.

    So, to do this you need to adjust thehibernate04 Power Options for Windows 7.  Click on the Start button, type “power” in the search field, and then select the Power Options icon when it’s found.   On the left-hand side, select the ‘Choose What The Power Buttons Do’ link.  Select the first drop-down box (“When I press the power button:”) and choose “Hibernate” from the options given.  Finally, hit the Save Changes button and you’re done.  Now hitting the physical power button will initiate the “Hibernate” sequence.hibernate05

    Another option (while you’re changing what the power buttons do) is to “Require a password” when you boot your system and/or resume from sleep.  Although a bit of a hassle to some, protecting your data is serious business, even if it means having to type in your password more often than you’d like.  “Password protection on wakeup” is highly recommended for all users.


So, that’s all for the first post in this series.  Look for another addition to this guide in a week or so.

Thanks for reading.


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