Solving the mystery of my drowsy PC

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One of the many annoyances resulting from my company laptop being rebuilt onto a corporate standard build has been that it keeps on shutting down overnight. That might sound very green, but it’s actually not very useful – for example when certain processes are running – and there’s the added complication that I need to supply a username and password to the hard disk encryption software, using the built-in keyboard hidden under a document stand, because my Bluetooth keyboard is not available pre-boot.

After checking the Windows Power Options, my next assumption was that my employer’s administrators had installed something on my machine that was what was switching it off at night. After a little digging, I found the answer and it wasn’t some piece of systems management software – it’s a bit of poor user interface design by Microsoft.

In their quest to simplify the Windows UI, Microsoft has presented a very simple Power Options interface to “Change when the computer sleeps”.

Windows 7 Power Options

My computer is set to never sleep, when plugged in – but that’s not the whole story. It seems that, by clicking the link to change advanced power settings, there are many more settings I can change – including when the computer hibernates (hidden under a sleep heading).

Windows 7 Power Options Advanced

It turned out that my computer was set to hibernate after 360 minutes (6 hours) – since changing this to 0 (never), my PC has happily spun down its disks and turned off its display but, crucially, kept running overnight.

I know the difference between hibernate and standby – but does the average Windows user? I’d argue not! I’ve criticised Apple before for over-simplifying tasks in OS X and it seems that Microsoft has fallen into the same trap with Windows too.

2 thoughts on “Solving the mystery of my drowsy PC

  1. Most users have no idea what distinguishes “sleep” from “hibernation”. I explain this almost every time I set up a new Windows computer, which is several times a week.

    Microsoft has struggled with both sleep and hibernation for years. Many machines sleep but fail to hibernate.

    I think it is a good thing that they hide the plumbing from the average user.

  2. I agree that “hiding the plumbing” can be benficial but here are my concerns:

    The advanced settings for hibernation are under a heading called sleep
    If someone doesn’t want their PC to sleep, presumably they don’t want it to hibernate either?

    By all means simplify, but this is just obfuscation and confusion.

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