September 24, 2019

Computer Crash Course: What happens when you close the lid of your laptop?

Keep your computer running smoothly with advice from our technical pros


Did you know? Closing the lid of your laptop does not actually shut it down.

Instead, if you’re using the default settings, your computer is put to sleep when you close the lid.

What’s the difference between sleep mode and fully shutting down? A whole lot, it turns out. Keep reading to learn more about what happens when you close the lid of your laptop, and what it can mean for the long-term health of your computer.

What happens when you put your computer to sleep?

When you put your computer to sleep, everything you’re working on and everything that’s running—such as your applications and your operating system—are kept in your computer’s main memory (Random Access Memory, or RAM). Other functions, like the processor and hard disk, are powered down to save power.

Sleep mode is a great option when you want to take a quick break, provided your computer has ample battery remaining or is plugged into an outlet to charge. Once you open the laptop again everything will be instantly ready, so you can carry on working.

What’s wrong with using sleep mode?

What you may not know is that repeatedly putting your computer into sleep mode instead of shutting it down can actually be more damaging than leaving it on all the time. 

Over time, you may notice things starting to slow down or crash. This is often due to your computer’s memory filling up or because of an excessive amount of temporary files being created.

How often should you fully shut down your computer?

We recommend that you shut down your computer at least once per week. This applies not only to laptops, but desktops too.

Fully shutting down and then restarting your computer allows important system updates to run, and more importantly it closes down all of the software and starts it over afresh.

Leaving software running in the background for long periods of time on any kind of device often leads to problems. If things are running slowly or seem a bit sluggish, often a quick restart is all you need to keep your system fast and responsive.

Are you on Team Sleep or Team Shut Down?

Let us know!

How to change what happens when you close the lid of your laptop

For the majority of laptops with the default settings enabled, your computer will go to sleep when you close it.

What you might not know is that this setting is fully configurable, so you have the power to change what happens when you close the lid of your laptop. 

Open Power Options and choose from one of the following:

  • Do nothing (your laptop stays fully powered on even when the lid is closed)
  • Sleep mode
  • Hibernate mode (this option shuts down your computer but saves everything you’re working on in a “Hibernation File” which is opened up again once you turn it back on)
  • Shut down

Please note these settings and options may vary depending on your device and operating system.

Need help with your business computer systems?

With our Managed IT Services, our team of technical experts are here when you need us. Click here to learn more.

Did you enjoy this Computer Crash Course?

Get articles like this delivered straight to your inbox, simply by signing up at the bottom of the page. Look for the “Join our newsletter” box below.

We want to help your business succeed as your trusted IT partner.

Schedule your free consultation