Avoid notebook sleep issues with a few easy steps

If you’re a notebook user, chances are you’ve encountered an issue with getting your computer to go to sleep peacefully. Something is either keeping it from drifting off to the land of 0’s and 1’s, or it can’t stay asleep, the hard drive just keeps tossing and turning and you open your bag to find a notebook so hot you could cook an egg on it.

What are the most common causes of notebook sleep issues?

  • A process running on the system does not allow the system to enter sleep mode.
  • A hardware interrupt, such as some peripheral devices for example.
  • An unstable driver which does not properly support sleep states or is just buggy.

I’ve owned several notebooks over the years, and almost every one of them have had an issue with sleep mode in one way or another, and over time I’ve learned a certain "practice" which ensures that sleep mode generally works when I close the lid of my computer…

  1. Make sure that all of the latest updates are installed for your operating system (Windows Update on Microsoft Windows, Software Update on Mac OS X, your favorite package manager on Linux).
  2. Close any running programs on the system (and exit any programs which are running in the notification area which is next to the clock on Windows systems).
  3. Unplug all external devices (USB, FireWire, etc.) This includes your external keyboard and mouse if you’re using one, your printer, and whatever else you have plugged in. And no, your USB-powered rocket launcher isn’t an exception, even though it is really cool.
  4. Use the "Sleep" option in your operating system to put the computer to sleep instead of the lid (Start > Turn Off Computer > Sleep on Windows XP, Apple menu > Sleep on Mac OS X).
  5. Once the computer has gone to sleep, close the lid.

You’re probably wondering why it’s not a good idea to always rely on the lid of your computer to put it to sleep, and the answer is fairly simple. Notebooks have a sensor or switch which detects the position of the display (lid) and when the lid is closed to a certain degree it should trigger sleep mode… only that’s not always the case.

Some notebooks take up to one minute to fully go into sleep mode, and general habits have shown that you’re more likely to close the lid and immediately tuck your computer into its carrying case, which means you’re moving the computer around in mid-air before the hard drive head has gotten a chance to park, which could cause damage to the hard drive (and your valuable data). By using the operating systems "sleep" function and waiting for the signal that your computer is snoozing away (whether it be a flashing power light or a pulsating sleep light), you give the computer a chance to park the hard disk head and enter sleep mode correctly.

Mind you, some notebooks with older NVIDIA drivers on Windows Vista may cause your computer to go into a perpetual coma every time it falls asleep. If your notebook manufacturer hasn’t provided you with a newer graphics driver, I’d recommend consulting a sleep therapist LaptopVideo2Go.com, which has all of the latest NVIDIA drivers and modified INF files for installing them on any NVIDIA graphics card.

4 thoughts on “Avoid notebook sleep issues with a few easy steps

  1. Very nice! One thing to add though:

    Some BIOS have an option to “wake up on keyboard”. I would pull my laptop out of my bookbag and find it hot enough to cook an egg (love that expression!), and none of those issues above were the problem. Here the slight shock of the laptop bouncing in the bookbag caused a key to be pushed just enough to wake it up. After disabling this feature, I no longer have had any problems.

  2. Yeah, I have a problem with my mobile broadband: when I close my notebook’s cover (or screen? I’m from Sweden, and I don’t know the word for that. You’ll understand) and open it later the program Mobile Connect says “Wireless drive not found”. It also says that when I have’nt used the Internet in a while, for example when I write in Zoho or OpenOffice, or play a flashgame on a site. I hope you understand!

  3. I use Swoff to force hibernation, when necessary. I have the lid closing do nothing, it’s always been far too fickle for me – and sometimes I just want to not look at the screen!

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