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

Here’s what to know about the differences between shutting down your Mac and putting it in sleep mode.

both sizes of 2021 mac macbook pro models
Image: KnowTechie

When it comes to putting your Mac to sleep or shutting it down, each option has a place and 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.

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

Sleep and shutdown serve specific functions, so let’s discuss the features of each option.

Advantages of putting your Mac to sleep

mac sleep option
Image: KnowTechie

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

  • Temporarily disable unnecessary hardware to save power
  • Quickly wake to resume work
  • Keep apps open and saved in their current states
  • Use Power Nap to update iCloud services and macOS
  • Utilize safe sleep to avoid data loss if Mac loses power

READ MORE: How to set sleep schedules on iPhone

The primary purpose of Mac’s sleep mode is to save power. Therefore, non-essential hardware, such as the display and hard drive, power down when your device goes to sleep, keeping energy consumption to a minimum.

Other components, such as the CPU, enter low power mode and continue to serve only necessary functions.

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

READ MORE: How to quickly record your Mac’s screen

While shutting down forces all apps to close, sleeping allows them to retain their current states and resume on wake up. However, applications that rely on internet access may experience a delay when reestablishing a connection.

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

mac power nap
Image: KnowTechie

Safe sleep is a notebook feature that writes the current state of your Mac to the hard drive in case of battery depletion while sleeping. If your MacBook loses charge while asleep, safe sleep pulls information from the hard drive to resume the previous state and avoid data loss.

READ MORE: How to turn off Sleep Focus on iPhone

Evidently, sleep should be the default choice in most situations, but shutting down also serves a purpose.

Advantages of shutting down your Mac

shut down prompt on computer
Image: KnowTechie

If you’re done using your Mac for the day, we recommend shutting it down. A shut-down or rebooted Mac will:

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

Keeping your Mac’s software up-to-date is paramount. Apple frequently releases important bug fixes and security patches, and delaying the installation of a new update could allow unavoidable issues to arise. As well as restarting regularly, you should also consider enabling automatic updates if appropriate.

Clogged RAM can decrease system performance. While modern versions of macOS are quite good at managing memory, occasionally cleaning the slate for a fresh start will keep things running smoothly.

Should you put your Mac to sleep or shut it down?

Realistically, you don’t absolutely have to shut your Mac down every night, and letting it sleep while connected to power can be useful for downloading software updates during idle times.

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

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Matt is an Australian writer with a degree in creative and critical writing. Prior to commencing his studies, he worked in tech support and gained valuable insights into technology and its users. He is also an editor and author coach at Dean Publishing.

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