Solving Windows 8 Sleep Issues

I first installed Windows 8 when the RTM became available to MSDN subscribers in August. Although I had a few problems at first, eventually I came to like Microsoft’s new operating system to the point where I not only kept it on my workstation at home, but was also the first person at the office to migrate to it as well. However, on my home computer I had one serious problem that kept bugging the hell out of me and which I was never able to solve: Windows 8′s sleep, hibernation and much-vaunted “Fast Startup” options just plain wouldn’t work right.

To be specific, the computer just wouldn’t stay off. I’d shut it down, and it would fire right back up. Same thing if I put it to sleep or hibernated it: the instant it would finish entering the low-power state, boom, it came right back online. This was maddening to say the least, especially for someone like me who shuts his machine down each night. After spending a couple evenings trying to solve the problem, I was finally able to make the machine shut down fully and stay off. The key was Windows 8′s new Fast Startup option.

Fast Startup is a new “hybrid shutdown” mode in Windows 8 that saves key information to the hard disk, just like hibernate does. But rather than store the entire contents of RAM as is the case with hibernation, Fast Startup saves only certain information — just enough to significantly speed up boot times, but not enough to require a huge amount of data to be written to disk. It’s a sleep state known as “S4″, whereas a classic full shutdown is referred to as “S5″.

In effect, because reason my computer had decided it did not like low-power states, it would reboot instantly even when shut down because it considered this type of shutdown to be a form of hibernation.

As you might guess, disabling Windows 8′s Fast Startup option enabled me to shut the machine down at last. But I had to turn off hibernation support entirely by running powercfg /hibernate off from the command line, just so I wouldn’t accidentally try to put the machine into a sleep state that it didn’t support.

I posted my quandry in the Windows Eight Forums but received no response.

Until yesterday.

Finally, somebody came to the rescue with the solution. I had always suspected that it was something unique to my hardware configuration, and I was right. My Asus P5W DH Deluxe motherboard (admittedly a dinosaur given that it’s six years old) needed to have it’s front USB header disabled. To do this, switch the board from “8 USB Ports” to “6 USB Ports” mode in BIOS and you’re in business. Sleep, Hibernation and Fast Startup instantly began behaving as they should.

I was elated, until I discovered a trade-off: Wake On LAN (WoL) no longer worked after the computer had been shut down with Fast Startup enabled. Comically, if I disabled Fast Startup and put it into a full classic shutdown, Wake On Lan would work. Some brief web searches turned up a lot of other people having the same issue, which suggested that this was really a Windows 8 problem, not a machine-specific problem.

And then I found Microsoft support article 2776718, and those famous words that one so often associates with Microsoft — “by design” — once again became applicable.

According to Microsoft, beginning in Windows 8, Wake On LAN is no longer supported from the shutdown state “because users expect zero power consumption and battery drain in the shutdown state.” (Wow, does Wake On LAN being armed really consume that much power? I find this hard to believe.) Furthermore, the article claims that WoL is unsupported both from hybrid shutdown (S4) and classic shutdown (S5), but in my own experience this is untrue: WoL from classic shutdown clearly works on my own machine. If this is due to a bug in my motherboard or NIC driver’s handling of WoL, then I’m glad it’s there, because frankly when I want the computer to wake the hell up, I don’t want to care what state I last put it in!

So I have re-enabled Sleep and Hibernation in Windows 8, but I have left Fast Startup disabled due to the Wake On LAN issue. Given that I will likely be hibernating instead of shutting down most of the time now anyway, the loss of Fast Startup is not likley to affect me. You could also make the logical case the WoL not working from shutdown isn’t likely to affect me either if I’m not shutting down anymore, but I’m afraid I’ll either accidentally shut down — or have shutdown forced on me, due to loss of power or whatever else — and then be in a position where I need to wake the computer remotely and am unable to. So I went with the safer configuration.

I just thought I’d put my findings out there for anyone else who has wrestled with sleep problems (or Wake On LAN problems) in Windows 8.