Troubleshooting Windows 7 Sleep Problems

Windows 7 Sleep Problem and Hibernate OptionsWindows 7 Sleep Problems

Sadly, Windows 7 sleep problems are all too common.  By knowing where to find the numerous sleep and hibernation settings, you can determine how to troubleshoot the commonest symptoms.

Topics for Windows 7 Sleep Problems

Why should Windows 7 sleep or hibernate in the first place?  Good reasons are, to save electricity, peace and quiet, or in my case, to keep the room cool in summer.


Getting Started: Finding the Windows 7 Power Settings

Let us examine the difference between Windows 7’s sleep and hibernate.  Firstly, a ‘Sleeping’ computer awakens quicker than one which is hibernating.  The downside of Sleep is that you lose unsaved data in the case of a complete power loss, this is because the information is stored in RAM.  Hibernate on the other hand, saves the contents of memory into a physical file called hiberfil.sys, thus you would not lose unsaved data.

One more point, Windows 7 has a setting called ‘Hybrid sleep’, which combines sleep and hibernate as described above.

Two initial questions:

  1. ‘What do you want to achieve with power management?’ 
    Possible answers include:  Security and conserve the battery.
  2. ‘Where can I configure the Windows 7 hibernate or sleep settings?’ 
    Four possible answers:

Plan A
Start Orb
Control Panel
Hardware and Sound –> Power OptionsWindows7: Click the Battery in the Navigation Area

Plan B
Start Orb
Click: Search programs and files
Type powercfg.cpl

Plan C
Launch cmd (or PowerShell). Remember to ‘Run as Administrator’
At the command prompt try these switches
powercfg -q (Query settings)
powercfg -h on

Plan D (Only if you have battery!)
Right-click the battery in the Navigation Area,
Select ‘Power Options’
See screenshot opposite

Alternatively, Left-click the battery and
Select ‘More Power Options’

Windows 7 Sleep and Hibernate Options

Desktops and Laptops
Windows 7 desktop and laptop computers have significantly different power management needs, options and configurations.  Just remember that the keyword is battery.  By configuring power management, you can have different settings depending on whether the laptop is plugged into the mains, or running on its battery.  Thanks to sensors, Windows 7 can detect a mains supply and also a battery.  If the notebook computer has no mains electricity then Windows 7 connects instantly to the battery, and then applies your battery power management settings.Windows7: Click the Battery in the Navigation Area

As you examine the Power Options, decide what Windows 7 should do when you press the power button.  I also like to control what happens when I close the laptop lid.  Investigate each link on the task list show by the screenshot on the right.

If I work with the Aero graphics at maximum brightness, my Sony Vaio’s battery will not last much more than 90 minutes.  Therefore, anything that I can do to conserve battery power, will increase the time I can use my laptop away from the mains electricity.  As with all task’s, micro-management is counter-productive, in the case of the laptop you have to balance the hesitations from coming out of ‘Sleep’, with the battery wastage when you get up from the laptop in order to perform some other task in the room.

Windows 7 Sleep
Windows 7’s Sleep saves data to memory (RAM) and then switches to minimal power mode.  The disadvantage is a 5 second delay while Windows 7 manages the switch back to normal power mode.  In the event of a power failure you would lose any unsaved data which is stored in RAM.  You may also have to re-enter your password to resume after sleep, however that is another configurable setting.  See ‘Require a password on wakeup’ from the task list menu.

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Windows 7 Hibernate
Windows 7’s Hibernation stores unsaved data, including information about open programs, to a special file called hiberfil.sys. This means that your data is safe even if you switch off the mains and take out the battery.  When the machine restarts, it loads the data stored in hiberfil.sys and thus returns the machine to the precise state when you set it to hibernate.  Incidentally, hiberfil.sys is a hidden file, which is always found in the root of the c: drive.  To see the file, you may need to adjust your Explorer’s settings.  Press the Alt key, then click on the View tab and now scroll down to Hidden files and folders. Select the radio button next to Show hidden files and folders.

If you figure out the role of Microsoft’s hiberfil.sys, then you understand why Hibernation sometimes is not an option.  For example, there may be insufficient disk space on the C: drive to create this huge file, or some older Bios software cannot manage suspend to disk or suspend to RAM.  You if you wish to use the Hibernate option, be careful that a Disk Cleanup operation does not delete hiberfil.sys, and thus at least temporarily, remove the option to hibernate.  (Solution issue the command line instruction: powercfg -h on.)

Hybrid Sleep
Hybrids are always more vigorous than their parents.  In the case of Window 7’s Hybrid Sleep, it gives you the speed of Sleep, combined with the resilience of Hibernation.  If all goes well then your machine comes out of Hybrid Sleep in less than 5 seconds, if all goes badly, then it takes relatively ages for the desktop to return, but at least you can recover your unsaved data from hiberfil.sys.

If you were of a mind, you could choose a different combination of Power Settings everyday of the year, and never repeat the same setting twice.  For this reason, Windows 7 groups settings into Plans for example,  Power Saver, High Performance, or Balanced.  The advantaged of these pre-configured Plans is that you get consistent and compatible settings for: ‘Turn off the Display’, ‘Put the Computer to Sleep’ and ‘Adjust Display Brightness’.

Sleep AND Hibernate
It is possible to set most Windows 7 laptops to sleep for a certain time, and then hibernate after that time has elapsed.  If this is your situation, then a) It may explain unexpected wakening, e.g when hibernate finishes before sleep starts.  Check your settings, and consider changing your power settings so that sleep lasts longer.

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Troubleshooting Windows 7 Hibernate and Sleep Problems

Let us face facts, Sleep and Hibernate will never be 100% reliable.  For any given machine, either they work 99.9% of the time, or else their failure rate is so high you have to abandon power management.  In my experience, Sleep works much better on laptops than desktops.

Troubleshooting Windows 7 Sleep and Hibernate Topics

Event Viewer (View Event Logs)

All troubleshooting should start by inspecting Microsoft’s Event Logs.  In the case of Windows 7, begin by clicking Start, then type event.  Once you launch ‘View Event Logs, review the Critical Errors in the last 24 hours.  Follow-up by looking in the Windows Logs and filtering the System Log for ‘Kernel-Power’ entries.  Interesting items would include ‘The last sleep transition was unsuccessful’, or ‘The system is entering sleep’.

Power Options
I am willing to bet that 60% of all Sleep and Hibernate problems are due to inappropriate settings in the Power Options (Control Panel, Hardware and Sound).  For example, if you see no Hibernate option on the Shutdown menu, then check whether ‘Allow hybrid sleep’ is set to ‘on’.  You could start this line of troubleshooting by pressing the Windows key +x on a laptop, or Start Search, powercfg.cpl on a desktop. See screen shot of Allow hybrid sleepCertified for Windows 7 logo

Does the Bios Support Sleep Mode? 
Provided the computer has the ‘Certified for Windows 7’ all the power management features are guaranteed to work.  It’s just up to you to configure Sleep or Hybrid Sleep, or else complain to the supplier / manufacturer.

To check your computer’s Bios you need to interrupt the initial boot phase.  For this inspection, seek a special key, it maybe F2, or maybe spacebar, it could even be the delete key.  If all else fails read the boot screen!  Once you have intercepted the bios boot, just carefully examine any options which could enable / disable Sleep.  What you are looking for is settings such as,
S3 – Suspend to RAM (Sleep)
S4 Suspend to Disk (Hibernate)

Idea: See if there any updates for your BIOS.  If so a later version may cure your sleep problems.

How to Stop Your Computer from Going to Sleep

1) Navigate to the ‘Power Options’  (Start Search powercfg.cpl)
  or see above.
2) Select your power plan. 
3) Click: Change plan settings.
4) Crucial Links: a) Change advanced powers settings.
                      b) Change settings that are currently unavailable.
5) Research the myriad of settings, in particular: ‘Sleep’
6) Expand: ‘Sleep after’.  If it’s a laptop check both the ‘Plugged in’ and the ‘On Battery’ settings.
7) Choose: ‘Never’ to prevent your computer going into sleep mode.
8) Remember to click ‘OK’.  (Or apply if you want to configure more options.)

Windows 7 Hibernate ProblemWindows 7 Hybrid Sleep  (Powercfg)
There are at least two different types of hibernation problems. One problem is that your computer is not waking up properly.  Alternatively your problem is there is no Hibernate option on the Windows 7 Shut Down menu.  In both cases check the ‘Allow hybrid sleep’ setting.

1) For any hibernation problems the easiest solution is to set 'Allow hybrid sleep' to: 'Off'. (See screenshot).

By design, hybrid incorporates both Sleep and Hibernate, thus you only see Sleep on the Shutdown menu.  Also, by default, desktops are set to ‘Allow hybrid sleep :On’.

Trap:  Before you can change any of the Balanced settings, first you must click on Change settings that are currently unavailable. (See screenshot)

2) Another problem with hibernation is caused because Windows 7 does not have enough free disk space for hiberfil.sys.  My machine needed 4 GB, the size of my RAM.

3) An over-active Disk Cleanup program may cause the Hibernate option to disappear.  If Hibernate does not appear on the Shutdown menu, then open a command prompt and check with:
Powercfg -q

If this was your problem, for future reference you could remove the tick next to ‘Hibernation File Cleaner’ in the Disk Cleanup settings.

Next turn on Hibernate with:
Powercfg -h on

3a) Check for errors with:
Powercfg -energy

Incidentally, Powercfg -energy gave me errors and warnings – even when the computer awoke from sleep gracefully.  However, the point is that the information in the html report may point you to which devices need further investigation and driver updates.

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Windows 7 Sleep Problem – Taskbar Disappears

The problem occurs whenever the computer awakes from a sleep, the taskbar disappears leaving only the the orb.  This seems more common on laptops and computers with Nvidia drivers.

One workaround for the disappearing Taskbar is to restart Explorer. 
Ctr +Shift +Esc  Hold the three keys down at the same time and Task Manager should appear, from there it’s New Process, (Type) Explorer. 

This technique is no substitute for a proper fix, but it’s quicker than a reboot.  And I have a slightly better idea for those willing to create a .bat file and assign it to a keyboard shortcut.

Best Workaround for a Disappearing Taskbar


  1. New Text File – Call it say tb
  2. Open tb.txt  Type one command – Explorer.exe
  3. Save the file to the desktop, call it say "ExpRestart.bat"  Make sure it has a .bat file extension.
  4. Right-click select create shortcut
  5. Crucial step From the Properties sheet seek out the ‘Shortcut key’ dialog box. 
    Type a combo such as Ctrl Shift Q
    N.B you are working with the shortcut, because I have not found away of assigning a batch file to key strokes.
  6. The point.  When your taskbar disappears type: Ctrl Shift Q.

Where Is the Windows 7 Standby Menu Option?

Forget Standby.  Vista and Windows 7 replace Standby with Sleep.

Do remember that you can ‘Switch User’ this will save the other person’s open files.  Not really a sleep or hibernate setting, just an idea for specific circumstances.

Premature Waking from Hibernation (Insomniac Syndrome)

All manner of software and hardware can trigger Windows 7 to wakeup from Sleep or Hibernate.  Thus the first question is the old chestnut: ‘Is this insomniac behaviour due to Hardware or Software?’

USB memory sticks, and also USB mice are common culprits for prematurely waking up the computer.  In the case of accidental mouse activation, consider laying the mouse on its back.  See how to use Group Policy to Disable Windows 8 USB drives.

To troubleshoot the problem visit the Device Manager
1) Control Panel –>  System and Security –> System –> Device Manager.
2) right-click the suspect device
3) Properties
4) See if it has a Power Management Tab. 
5) If so, then remove the tick next to: ‘Allow this device to wake up the computer’.

Hardware Example: The Network adapter –> Advanced menu
Select: ‘Wake up capability’. Choose ‘None’.

Plan A) Blame the Task Scheduler!  Start Search, Task Scheduler.  (Else look in Administrative Tools)
i) You are bound to find suspects.
ii) 95% of them will be innocent programs that need to be scheduled.
iii) Good luck weeding out the true culprit(s).

Plan B) Blame a virus checker.
Plan C) Blame a virus!

Try a completely different strategy, investigate recording what is happening with Performance, however, this is a black art.


Windows 7 Stops Responding – Will not Wake from Hibernation
Microsoft is continually releasing hotfixes to solve problems caused when Windows 7 resumes from sleep or hibernate.  Symptoms include devices hanging, also a USB port maybe involved, worse still, you could also see one of these STOP messages:

STOP 0x1000007E
STOP 0x0000009F
STOP 0x00000044
Or Stop 127.

Solution, research your specific symptoms and then download the appropriate hotfix from Microsoft’s site.

Where to ask for more help

  • If you have that feeling of going around in circles – stop; call for Windows 7’s wonderful help.
  • Phone your supplier.
  • Check your manufacturer’s website, there’s a small chance there is a new driver.
  • Post a question in your favorite forum. Mine is Microsoft Technet Windows 7
  • Run the Windows Upgrade Advisor
    I realize that your Windows 7 is already installed, however, the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor may give you fresh clues as to the underlying cause of the sleep or hibernation problem.

Summary of Windows 7 Hibernate

It’s an act of faith that Windows 7 Hibernate or Windows 7 Sleep will work.  I can vouch for numerous false starts caused by incompatible Bios, flaky procedures, or deleting hiberfil.sys.  This is the cycle that I have been though:
Hibernate is great.
   Hibernate causes my machine to hang
      Switch from Hibernate to Sleep. 
        Give Hibernate another chance.

Yet, despite these tribulations, I am convinced that one day it we use all computers in Sleep mode.

It is self evident that power management is more important on a laptop than a desktop; what is less obvious is that laptops have different setting an options, for example, desktops don’t have a lid!

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Microsoft Windows Version 7 Configuration Topics