Sleep vs. shutdown: what’s better for your Mac?

When it comes to putting your Mac to sleep or shutting it down, each option has a place and a purpose. No solution is superior to another in all situations, and the choice you make will depend on your schedule and how you use your device.

Typically, you’ll want to put your Mac to sleep during the day when it’s not in use and shut it down to rest and reboot overnight.

Suspend and shutdown fulfill specific functions, so let’s analyze the characteristics of each option.

Advantages of putting your Mac to sleep

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If you need to get away from your Mac for more than a few minutes, we recommend putting it to sleep. A sleeping Mac:

  • Temporarily disable unnecessary hardware to save power
  • Wake up quickly to resume work
  • Keep applications open and saved in their current states
  • Use Power Nap to update iCloud and macOS services
  • Use Safe Sleep mode to avoid data loss if your Mac runs out of power

The main purpose of a Mac’s sleep mode is to save power. Therefore, nonessential hardware like the screen and hard drive shuts down when the device goes to sleep, keeping power consumption to a minimum. Other components, such as the CPU, enter low-power mode and continue to perform only the necessary functions.

Because an idle Mac stores its current state in the device’s RAM, waking up is a quick process, and in most cases you can instantly resume work.

While shutting down forces all applications to close, sleeping allows them to retain their current states and resume upon waking. However, applications that depend on Internet access may experience a delay when re-establishing the connection.

Power nap is a nifty feature that allows your device to sync Mail, Calendar, and other iCloud services while you sleep. When connected to power, your Mac will also download software updates and perform Time Machine backups.

siesta mac power
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Safe Sleep is a laptop feature that writes the current state of your Mac to the hard drive in case the battery runs out while you sleep. If your MacBook loses charge while it sleeps, Safe Sleep mode extracts information from the hard drive to resume its previous state and prevent data loss.

Of course, suspend should be the default in most situations, but shutting down also serves a purpose.

Advantages of turning off your Mac

turn off the warning on the computer
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If you’re done using your Mac for the day, we recommend turning it off. A shut down or restarted Mac:

  • Install downloaded software updates
  • Empty RAM for a fresh start

Keeping your Mac software up to date is paramount. Apple frequently releases important bug fixes and security patches, and delaying the installation of a new update could lead to unavoidable problems. In addition to rebooting regularly, you should also consider enabling automatic updates if applicable.

Clogged RAM can decrease system performance. While modern versions of macOS are pretty good at managing memory, cleaning the slate every now and then to start over will keep things running smoothly.

Should you put your Mac to sleep or turn it off?

Realistically, you don’t need to shut down your Mac every night, and leaving it to sleep while it’s connected to power can be useful for downloading software updates during downtime.

However, shutting down regularly is a good habit to adopt and can help prevent minor problems from arising.

Do you have any ideas on this? Let us know in the comments below or take the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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