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Issue #663: April 5-11, 2020

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Q: I have a problem with my Dell XPS 8700. When reading an e-mail etc. and not moving the mouse for a long time (10 minutes or longer) my computer shuts down and I have to reboot.

– David S.
Niceville, Florida

A: The first thing that comes to my mind on reading your question, David, is to wonder whether your system actually “shuts down” or whether it’s doing something else.  I’m wondering that because there is no set of circumstances that I can think of that would cause a system to function so long as you’re interacting with it, but then shut itself off when you stop moving the mouse.  However, there are a couple of system states that might be mistaken for a shutdown.

My suspicion is that your system is actually hibernating, rather than shutting down.  By all outward appearances, a system in hibernation looks exactly like it has been shut-down.  That is to say, the system will be fully powered off, with no fans running, and no status lights illuminated.  Moving the mouse or pressing keys has no effect.  If someone were to walk up to the system while it was in this state it would be impossible to distinguish from it having been shut down.  The difference is that when it is powered back up, a system that has been in hibernation restores itself to the exact state it was in when it went into hibernate mode, whereas, a system that has been shut down will go through the boot process, typically requiring username and password validation.  When the system comes up, the programs that were running when it was shut down are no longer running.   When you power your system back up after it “shuts down” I’m betting you’ll find that it was hibernating.  There is a third mode: Sleep.  In this mode, your computer remains powered on, but in a state of low-power consumption.  Tapping a key or moving the mouse wakes the system, and it resumes at the point where it went to sleep.

These power settings are far more useful on a laptop, where conserving battery power might be a concern, than they are on your XPS 8700.  Nevertheless, they are available regardless of the form factor of your PC.  The use of hibernation and sleep modes is controlled by the Windows Power Management settings.  I briefly covered these, back in March (Geek Note: IGTM #658, March 1, 2020).  You can access your power settings by clicking the Windows Start button, then Settings (the Gear icon).  Type “Power” in the search box, then select “Power & sleep settings” from the choices.  If you want to eliminate the system going into a low-power mode altogether, change the “Sleep” dropdown to “Never”.  If you want to make finer adjustments, click on “Additional power settings” in the right-hand column.  Then, in the box that comes up, find the current power plan, and click on “Change plan settings”.  This is Advanced User territory, so tread lightly.  Find “Sleep” in the list of settings, and click the plus sign to open that branch.  Below it, you will find multiple adjustments, including one for “Hibernate after.”  Open it, and you’ll see one or more settings, depending on whether your computer has multiple modes of power, such as being plugged-in or on battery.  Click the one you want to change.  The value you select is either “Never” or the amount of time (in minutes) of inactivity before the indicated action occurs.  In your case, Dave, you’d want to set it to “Never”.

• •

 More Geek Warnings on COVID-19:

 The world is currently responding en massé to the COVID-19 crisis.  And of course, that means the low-lifes of the world are coming out in droves to try and take advantage of the frightened, or well-meaning, and pretty much anyone else they can dupe.  Most of this revolves around money, so please remember the following tips:

  • Yes, the government has promised everyone a payment. However, they will not be calling or e-mailing you for bank or credit card information or to find any other information about how you want to be paid.  Any call you get from someone claiming to be from the IRS, CDC, Homeland Security, or any other agency seeking your personal information is a scammer trying to steal from you.
  • There are a lot of people and organizations doing lots of fundraising to provide assistance to those in need. Sad as it is to say it, but don’t respond to phone calls or e-mails of this nature.  If you want to contribute (and I hope you do) seek out legitimate agencies on your own.  You never know who is on the other end of a phone call or e-mail.
  • Many people are working from home, and may be receiving work e-mails through channels you’re not used to. Be absolutely certain who the sender when replying, especially if you’re discussing sensitive personal or corporate information.

Stay safe everybody!  And keep your questions coming!

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