How to Choose a Mac Sleep Mode

How to Choose a Mac Sleep Mode

You have probably noticed how your Mac goes to sleep after a period of inactivity.  However, Apple developed more than one power-saving mode for its computers. In this article, we’ll walk you through all of them and show how to set them up.


Before we start


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Here we’ll discuss how to hibernate your Mac and change Mac sleep settings properly:


Mac energy-saving modes

1. Mac sleep mode

Putting a Mac into a simple sleep mode leaves its RAM powered on, which allows the Mac to wake up and get back to work very quickly.  

Normally, a Mac automatically goes to sleep after a certain time of inactivity (between one minute and three hours).  You can set a preferred timespan before sleep in Mac sleep settings or even completely stop your Mac from sleeping.


This energy-saving mode is set up by default for desktop Macs and is called “hibernate mode 0”.

2. Mac hibernation mode

In this MacBook sleep mode, before the Mac is put to sleep, the startup drive starts copying the RAM information. The only difference between sleep and hibernate modes is that hibernation turns off the RAM when a Mac is sleeping.  


The startup disk downloads necessary data to the RAM once you wake up your Mac from hibernation mode. And that’s why the wake-up time is a bit longer than in the sleep and safe sleep modes.  


This mode is also called “hibernate mode 1,” and it was set up by default for portable Macs released before 2005.

3. Mac safe sleep mode

Unlike the simple sleep mode, this mode is safe because it copies the RAM contents to the startup drive before your Mac goes to sleep. This allows you to recover your data in case of battery failure, hardware damage, or any other unfortunate events that can affect your Mac.


However, in this mode, the RAM remains powered on while the Mac is sleeping. And that’s why the wake-up process is still as quick as in the simple sleep mode.  


Safe sleep is also called “hibernate mode 3” and is set up for portable Macs since 2005 by default. However, not all laptops support this mode.

4. Mac standby mode  

This mode was mainly designed to save battery charge (by the way, desktop computers also have this mode). Entering a standby mode means that the current session is recorded to a Flash storage (SSD).  


Standby is the next stage that comes after a certain time of simple sleep. Apple computers produced in 2013 or later got to standby mode after about three hours of sleep, while older Macs enter standby after about an hour of sleep.


What’s fascinating about this mode is that without being plugged in a MacBook with a fully charged battery can remain in standby mode for up to 30 days.  


To exit the standby mode:

  1. Open a lid—press any button
  2. Click a mouse button or a trackpad, or plug in a display.

What happens to a Mac while it’s sleeping  

Whether you have a desktop or a laptop, putting your Mac to sleep will:  

Put the processor into a low-power mode

  • Spin down Apple-supplied hard disks
  • Spin down third-party hard disks
  • Deactivate video output, and a display may become turned off when connected or enter its idle state


However, laptops are a bit different as they need to save energy as much as possible to protect the battery. Therefore, they complete all the previously mentioned stages and achieve the following state: 

  • RAM memory is off (in the hibernation and safe sleep modes)
  • The Ethernet port is turned off. This depends on system preferences, which can allow the Ethernet port to respond to a Wake on Lan signal (WOL)
  • Expansion card slots are deactivated
  • The built-in modem, if present, is deactivated
  • AirPort functions are off
  • The USB ports have limited functions (they respond to the power key on an external keyboard only)
  • The optical media drive, if present, spins down
  • Audio input and output are off
  • Keyboard illumination, if present, is off
  • Bluetooth is deactivated. Depending on the Bluetooth preferences, this can allow Bluetooth devices to wake your Mac


These processes significantly save battery usage because computers need much less power while sleeping than when waking up. 

How to change sleep mode in your Mac  

Mac sleep settings work this way: Macs enter sleep mode automatically without you controlling it. You can’t easily choose one the way you do it on a Windows computer. However, you can manage those modes with the help of the Terminal app.

1. Open the Terminal app from Application > Utilities, or type Terminal in Spotlight

2. See what type of sleep mode is being used. In the Terminal window, enter the following script:

pmset -g | grep hibernatemode

3. You will see one of the following types:

  • hibernatemode 0  (normal sleep)
  • hibernatemode 1  (hibernate mode for pre-2005 portable Macs)
  • hibernatemode 3  (safe sleep)
  • hibernatemode 25 (hibernate mode for post-2005 portable Macs)
hibernatemode command in terminal

4. Now you can change the sleep mode of your Mac (however, it’s not recommended for Macs that are older than 2005). So, to change the mode, enter the following command:

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode X

5. Be sure to change X to your preferred sleep mode number

Be careful while changing the sleep modes as the activation of a mode not suitable for your Mac may cause a serious problem that would result in battery issues and a need to reinstall the macOS.


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