A Beginner’s Guide To Whether To Shut Down or Sleep Your Mac

Typical Mac users never need to shut down their Macs on a daily basis. It is better to let your Mac go to sleep so it can handle maintenance tasks while you aren't using it. This will make your Mac faster when you are using it, and also allow you to avoid any delay while it starts up. A sleeping Mac uses very little power.

Video Transcript
So if you're new to Mac there's something you're doing, perhaps every single day, that you shouldn't really be doing. What I'm talking about is shutting down your Mac. Choosing Shut Down you may think is a good idea when you're finished using your Mac. You think it might save power. Maybe even prolong the life of your Mac.

But in fact what you're doing is you're preventing your Mac from performing some very simple, basic, everyday maintenance tasks that it's supposed to do while you're not using it. There's all sorts of things that your Mac does. Like, for instance, index the files so you can do searches, perform backups, lots of different things going on in the background that it does in a very low power mode, it's not using very much power at all. A lot of power is used by your screen anyway which is off. It's doing this while you're not there.

But if you shutdown your Mac it doesn't get a chance to do it. Then you start it up and you expect your Mac to be fast and responsive and do all this stuff but you haven't let it perform these maintenance tasks. So it's either going to try and perform some of them while you're trying to use your Mac as well or it's never going to get around to doing them which is going to slowdown your Mac.

So what you want to do instead is choose Sleep. You don't even have to actually choose Sleep. If you have a MacBook, a MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air just close the lid and it goes to sleep. If you have a desktop Mac in your home, like an iMac, you can just walk away and let it go to sleep or use a hot corner to turn the display off.

When it goes to sleep it gets the chance to perform these tasks. Now it doesn't mean it's going to be on all night long performing tasks and maintenance. It may only take fifteen minutes to do a lot of this stuff. But it gets a chance to do it and then it's barely using any power at all. Plus, when it's time to use your Mac again you hit the spacebar and it's instantly ready for you. You don't have to go through the starter processes which saves you a lot of time. Really, your time is a lot more valuable.

Now Apple actually has a page that addresses this. It talks about something called Power Nap. Power Nap is actually what your Mac is doing when sleeping. They call it power nap instead of sleeping because it's getting things done. It lists a whole bunch of stuff that it does. For instance, Spotlight indexing. Very important and it could take up a lot of time. It got to index all your files so it can search for things. If you don't let your Mac do this indexing is either not going to work or it's going to slow you down because it's doing it all the time while you're using your Mac. But if you let your Mac sleep it'll do it while your not using your Mac.

It will perform Time Machine backups. If you change a bunch of files and then shutdown your Mac and start it up again, now it has to back all that stuff up. But if you let it backup while you're not using your Mac, then the backups are tiny and hardly noticeable. Other things like software updates and such are done while you're not using your Mac while it's sleeping. There's a lot of really behind the scenes maintenance work that's done as well. Things that will speed your Mac up while you're using it.

Now Power Nap can be controlled in System Preferences under Energy Saver. You can see Enable Power Nap and it should be on by default. If you've got a MacBook then you're going to see two tabs at the top here. One for when you're plugged into power and one for when you're just using the battery. You can have Power Nap enabled for just one for when you're plugged into power or you can have it enabled for both.

Really, this stuff doesn't use that much power. It's not going to change the longevity of your Mac because it's not going to use your Mac all night long. It's only going to use it for a few minutes here and a few minutes there. It's going to get this stuff done. It's going to mean better performance for your Mac. It's going to mean that it's less time for you waiting for it to start up when you need to use it. So, it's just a very standard thing. I never shutdown my Mac. I walk away from it many times during the day for lunch, for coffee, at the end of the day. I come back to it all the time and it's great to be able to have it go instantly on when I need it and not have to let it start up. But I still hear about people shutting down their Macs all the time. Sometimes I hear people complaining saying, Gary what's wrong with my Mac. Why's is so slow? After questioning I find out that they're shutting down their Mac all the time and not letting it do any of this maintenance stuff. Just let your Mac sleep. There's no reason to shut it down.

Comments: 43 Responses to “A Beginner’s Guide To Whether To Shut Down or Sleep Your Mac”

    1/12/18 @ 12:42 pm

    I love the way you present your tutorials. Very information but easy to understand.

    1/12/18 @ 12:43 pm

    Jimmy: Thanks!

    Piet van 't Zelfde
    1/12/18 @ 1:06 pm

    Hi Gary, Watching this tutorial I wondered why you have more options than I have. I miss in my options among another one the Power Nap. I would love to use them. I have the latest update 10.13.2

    1/12/18 @ 1:13 pm

    Piet: It depends on which Mac model you have.

    Phyllis Steele
    1/12/18 @ 1:20 pm

    I have a hot corner set to put my Mac to sleep when I move the cursor there. I think I remember reading that this only put the display to sleep, but doesn’t put the computer to sleep. Is that true? Of course I’d prefer to be able to just use the hot corner, but ever since I read that, I’ve gone to the drop-down menu to put my Mac to sleep. What should I be doing?

    1/12/18 @ 1:24 pm

    Phyllis: If you only have one kind of sleep in Energy Saver, then they are the same thing. Putting the display the sleep is basically sleep. Use the Hot Corner. I do.

    Russ Winkler
    1/12/18 @ 3:00 pm

    I have problems waking up my 2014 MacBook Pro from sleep 😴 lately. When I first get to my Mac The fan is running at a continuously high speed and I can’t wake it up. I have to shut it down and restart. I think the problem is with the Thunderbolt Display I have. My MacBook is mostly closed and hooked up to the display.

    1/12/18 @ 3:02 pm

    Russ: I would suspect a process or app not behaving on your Mac before I would think about the display. Perhaps something you have installed or running in the background?

    1/12/18 @ 3:33 pm

    Great vid, Gary. One thing though, is that after a few days of not shutting down my MacBook Pro it gets a little slow. This gets fixed with a re-start. With what frequency should this be done?

    1/12/18 @ 3:35 pm

    Bernie: Never. Well, not never as you sometimes need to restart for an upgrade or to move your desk or something. If your Mac is getting slow, then something is causing it. I would encourage you to figure out what app/process is the problem.

    1/12/18 @ 3:51 pm

    When I put mt Mac to sleep, it wakes up all by itself after a few minutes and stays awake for a long time when it puts itself back to sleep. Is this normal?

    1/12/18 @ 3:55 pm

    Carl: No. Something is causing it. Could be a piece of software. Could also be a piece of connected hardware (by cable or bluetooth).

    Phyllis Steele
    1/12/18 @ 7:32 pm

    Not sure what you mean by “one type of sleep”. Under energy saver, there are 5 possible boxes to check: Prevent computer from sleeping automatically when display is off, Put hard disks to sleep when possible, Wake for network access, Start automatically after a power failure, and Enable power nap. By default they are all checked except 1st and 4th.

    1/12/18 @ 7:36 pm

    Phyllis: Look at the slider at the top, like around time 4:00 in this video. There is one slider with “Put the display to sleep.” So one type of sleep. On older Macs with older versions of macOS, you had a second kind “Put the computer to sleep.”

    1/13/18 @ 8:30 am

    This is a very timely tutorial (all of your tutorials or suggestions are informative), Gary. I’ve been putting my Mac Air to sleep regularly, although, recently (I’m about ready to call Apple support), after its been sleeping overnight and I lift the cover in the morning, there’s a blank/black screen. I have to shut it down and power it up in order to use it. Not sure why this is happening. Possibly, others are experiencing the same?

    1/13/18 @ 8:33 am

    Bob: Sounds like an issue with something running on your Mac. I’d review any extensions or other software you have running.

    1/13/18 @ 9:41 am

    Gary: Thank you, I’ll look into that possibility.

    Bradley Dichter
    1/13/18 @ 8:17 pm

    A Mac that is not restarted at least every so often, I don’t want to use the term periodically as it implies a regular schedule, will probably run out of memory and do weird things do to memory leaks. The most common is a web browser running the Adobe Flash Player plug-in.

    1/14/18 @ 2:29 am

    I have the same problem as Bob with my MacBook Pro 15”. After it has been sleeping, and I open the cover to use it, there is a blank, black screen. I have to shut it down and power it up again to use it. I think it happens if I quit all running apps or I don’t quit. I will have to observe it more.

    Heinrich Fickler
    1/16/18 @ 11:23 am

    Thanks for this great video. My question I have an iMac (2015) and a HP ENVY 5640 printer connected via cable. After waking from the sleep mode the printer is not active (not every time). I usually switch the printer off and on again or i pull the cable and push it in again.
    Question: is there any way tu avoid this or at least a way to activate the printer by klicks?
    Thank you very much.

    1/16/18 @ 12:24 pm

    Heinrich: Perhaps, but it would be something specific to the printer. I would get in touch with the manufacturer and ask for support on that.

    Daved Muttart
    1/18/18 @ 7:24 am

    Thanks for this!

    But shouldn’t the first box (Prevent computer from sleeping automatically when the display is off) be unchecked. Otherwise won’t the computer be prevented from doing its sleep maintenance?

    David Misenko
    1/18/18 @ 7:27 am

    is the hard drive running at it’s full 72,000 rpm while in the sleep mode ???
    will this shorten the hard drives life ???

    1/18/18 @ 7:28 am

    Daved: This is for when you have an external display (Mac Pro or Mac Mini, for instance) and you want the computer to remain on for remote access. Your Mac will do maintenance when it is asleep or awake, but not when it is turned off.

    1/18/18 @ 7:36 am

    David: The drive is only being used when it is needed. This is true when you are using your Mac too. It is probably getting very little use in sleep mode. And maybe only slightly more when you are using it, unless you are processing lots of data or something. Also, most Macs sold today don’t have “hard drives” anymore, they have solid-state drives.

    1/18/18 @ 8:00 am

    What about “Put hard disks to sleep when possible”? Are there circumstances where you should uncheck this option?

    David Misenko
    1/18/18 @ 8:10 am

    Gary thanks for the response… but when you say the hard drive is getting very little use… does that mean it is stopped or running at 1000 rpm instead of 72,000 rpm… a light bulb is on or off it doesn’t matter if you are using it or not… does this apply to the hard drive also?

    Jan Franklin
    1/18/18 @ 8:33 am

    I run SuperDuper as a secondary backup option; if I do not restart before running this app, I notice from its log that I have many temp files included in the backup; if I do restart before running the app, I show only a few temp files in SuperDuper’s log. I therefore get the impression that a weekly restart “cleans out” temp files. Please explain…& enjoy your help tremendously

    John Hess
    1/18/18 @ 8:53 am

    Thank you so much for this tutorial; doesn’t shutting it down make it more secure
    against hackers?

    1/18/18 @ 9:15 am

    I restart my Mac Pro every day. The only OS I’ve ever used that can run for months with no restart is Linux and that was before is became graphics heavy. Unless a computer is used for one thing such as a security cam it needs to be burped once in a while.
    From an iPhone to a desktop rebooting once in a while will clear the memory and solve any common problems that might slow the computer.
    I don’t shut down my Mac a night because it does have to run maintenance scripts.

    1/18/18 @ 9:25 am

    JC: Typical Mac users should leave “Put hard disks to sleep” checked.

    1/18/18 @ 9:26 am

    David: Hard drives manage themselves. I believe maximum RPM is only used when it has a lot of work to do — like an app is writing out a huge video file or something. Typically, normal users shouldn’t worry about the specific of hard drive use. Just let the hardware do its job. Worrying about the details of drive use is something people that run massive server farms need to be concerned about, not personal computer users.

    1/18/18 @ 9:30 am

    Jan: I don’t know what those “temp” files are — hard for me to advise since I don’t have the details. Perhaps you have some app or process that is creating them? But even so, why worry about them?

    1/18/18 @ 9:43 am

    John: If your Mac was in danger from just sleeping, then it would be in danger from being awake too. And you need it to be awake to use it, right? So, no, there is no additional danger having your Mac sleep.

    1/18/18 @ 9:46 am

    Haz: The only time I have restarted in months has been for a system update that required it and one time when I needed to switch out a UPS. I use lots of heavy software and don’t have any issues. If you are having trouble that requires that you restart your Mac for things to work well, then you should figure out what is causing the trouble because restarting is a poor way to deal with the issue.

    Bert Mullemeister
    1/19/18 @ 2:01 pm

    Hi,thanks for your many useful videos.I am an iMac power user and tried your suggestion . I woke up at 2am this morning when the computer decided to wake up and lit up my bed room so had to switch it off

    1/19/18 @ 2:26 pm

    Bert: It shouldn’t do that. Could be software, or a connected device causing the issue. I’d look into it.

    Bert Mullemeister
    1/19/18 @ 3:53 pm

    I found this and will try that
    To prevent this from happening, go to System Preferences > Energy Saver and uncheck the box next to Wake for network access. This will prevent any outside internet or network activity from waking up your Mac randomly

    David Girling
    1/21/18 @ 5:26 am

    Every night, I clear the menu and close all apps using Force Quit on my Mac Mini. Then I log out and click on Sleep. Several times recently, it would not open when I hit a key, although the power light was on, and the top surface was very hot. Each time I completely shut it down with the corner power button and then successfully opened it by pressing the button again after few minutes. Any idea what’s happening? Should I stop logging out and just press Sleep. Should I eject ext. hrd dsks also?

    1/21/18 @ 7:49 am

    David: First, never force-quit an app unless it is frozen. And if it freezes on a regular basis, investigate and fix the issue. Otherwise, just quit normally. But for most (all?) apps you don’t need to quit them. I never quit my apps before putting my Mac to sleep. No need to log out either. Just sleep. Besides the visible running apps there are app helpers and other background processes that are running you you don’t “quit” — and it is probably one of those that is causing the issue. A firsthand look by an expert may help. (Genius Bar, etc).

    David Girling
    1/22/18 @ 2:45 am

    Many thanks, Gary, for your advice. That’s one more pre-bedtime computer chore I can dispense with!

    Jerry Raphael
    1/29/18 @ 6:49 pm

    I put my iMac to sleep and it will wake up if I use it several hours later but if I try to wake it the next morning it needs to be powered up. Any suggestions?

    1/29/18 @ 6:51 pm

    Jerry: Hard to advise as it probably requires a firsthand-look to figure out what is wrong.

Comments Closed.