• Defibrillate your “dead” laptop

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    HARDWARE By Ben Myers I confess: I do not have a defibrillator to use on a laptop. Beginning with Windows 7, a laptop in sleep mode can become unrespo
    [See the full post at: Defibrillate your “dead” laptop]

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    • #2509865

      Ben, I find it unbelievable that a person as sophisticated as you could write this whole article without once referring to the word “hibernate,” or pointing out the difference between Sleep mode and Hibernation.

      I’m not sure where your break point about Windows 7 came from, but all the way back to Windows XP and perhaps even to Windows 95, there has been this distinction between Sleep and Hibernate.  In Sleep mode, the computer is STILL RUNNING and consuming power, with critical information held in volatile RAM, and thus subject to loss if power is lost.  In Hibernate, the computer is completely shut off, with the entire contents of memory saved to disk.  No dependence whatsoever on power.

      So in Hibernate, even if the battery, and the CMOS battery, goes flat, reconnection to power will always and immediately restart the computer, with a useful stop in Setup to set the date and time if the CMOS battery went dead, and then cheerfully resume to where you left off when you hibernated.

      Yes, blame Microsoft, because by default Windows has always been shipped with Hibernate disabled, so only Sleep happens — with the potential consequences you enumerate.  You have to enable Hibernate in Power Settings, and then you have to look at the power plan and RESET every power condition (on-off button, close laptop lid, etc) from Sleep to Hibernate, so you NEVER use Sleep.  In this way, the problem you describe NEVER ARISES.

      Hibernate used to be a bit flaky up through Windows Millennium, but ever since Windows XP, it has been virtually bulletproof.  That’s 20 years ago.  I still remember a comment by the late, great Bill Machrone, former editor of PC Magazine, to the effect that since the introduction of Windows XP he had seen machines that were hibernated for weeks at a time without ever being rebooted.  (I have run Windows 10 machines for months using hibernation and never being rebooted, provided I have cleaned out all Windows Telemetry and all other useless background software using O&O’s ShutUp10 and SpyBot’s AntiBeacon.)

      All this is to say that hibernation is very reliable and is the way to go if you ever want to do anything other than completely shut off a machine every time you end a session.

      In 35 years of laptop use ever since the original Toshiba T1000, I have never found a worthwhile reason to ever leave a mchine in Sleep mode, where it continues to use battery and exposes the user to the problem you describe, versus setting it to Hibernate.

      Thank you for your article, but I think it should have addressed some of this, at least in passing.


      — AWRon

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      • #2509902

        I am well aware of hibernate.  However, when one installs Windows 10/11, one is not presented with hibernate as an option.  Why?  Who knows?  Instead, one has to take a specific and overt action to set up hibernation as an option when clicking the little on-off icon in the start menu.


        The consequence here is that 95% of the people who use Windows are unaware of hibernation, yet another shortcoming in the design of Windows.  A local service provider with whom I collaborate from time to time says that he has handled many more laptops in a deep coma than I have.

        For whatever reason, I became aware of the failure of a sleeping laptop computer to wake up in a Windows 7 timeframe, not earlier.

        If anyone at Microsoft will read my article, they’ll get a high level description of how to fix the vexing sleep-coma issue after all these years, and maybe even take action.  One can always hope.

        It seems I had some tunnel vision when writing this article reacting to an immediate issue, didn’t I?

        Nevertheless, you are correct that, at minimum, I should have cited the above Microsoft web page, explaining hibernation as an alternative to sleep.




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        • #2510036

          Thank you Ben for the article.  You’re right about Hibernation not being available to the user by default.  You have to enter the system options panel for power settings, and (through a bit of trial and error), arrive at a point where you can click “change what the power button does”, THEN you will be able to click on “Change settings that are currently unavailable”.   Form there, you can click the radio button that enables  Hibernation as an available option when in the future you click the power button icon. Yikes!  Why should we have to jump through all these hoops just so we can use the built-in hibernation feature?  I don’t blame you for not mentioning hibernate as an alternative to shutdown because it’s basically a nightmare to explain the process to a person intimidated by things like clicking “advanced settings”.



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        • #2511420

          Hibernate is not available by default in Windows 10 and 11 due to changes in the amount of storage and its arrangement with the advent of SSDs and onboard limited memory solutions (like eMMC).

          Typically, today’s laptops have far  less storage than those of just a few years ago, so there is not enough room for the OS, all the user’s programs, data and a huge Hiberfile. These Hiberfiles are smaller in Hybrid Sleep modes, but hybrid sleep still drains the battery and can make the device dead, though it takes a long, long time for this to happen with hybrid sleep.

          So the combination of Windows bloat (hence the larger Hiberfiles) and ever-shrinking onboard storage capacities, have conspired to make hibernate less than useful on many modern laptops. That’s why Microsoft disabled the feature.  This is also the reasoning behind disabling System Restore in Windows 10 and 11.

          -- rc primak

          • #2511681

            Hi RC:

            I do not know your sources of information, but I take issue with your arguments above.

            1.    Hibernate has been a hidden feature in Windows as far back as Windows 95.  It has not been hidden just in Windows 10 and 11.  You have always had to go to power options to enable it.  Nothing new here.

            2.    Today’s laptops have vastly more storage than just a few years ago, not less.  500 GB to 2 TB SSDs have been around for several years, and you almost cannot order a laptop today with less than 500 GB storage.  (Of course, if you’re using your laptop for video work, you will size your hard drive accordingly.)

            3.     The traditional hibernate Hiberfile is only as big as the installed system RAM.  Few laptops ship with more than 32 GB RAM, so at most a 32 GB Hiberfile, most often 16,  in a 500 GB SSD, is not “huge.”

            4.    Hybrid Sleep is clearly an improvement, but I agree with you it does still drain battery.  A solution in search of a problem in my view, when Hibernate works perfectly well.

            5.     Likewise System Restore is not disabled just on Windows 10 and 11, it has (in my experience) always been shipped turned off by default.  And it does not take up a lot of storage space — just a few hundred MB per Restore Point, as it saves only the system settings.

            6.    Why Microsoft builds these useful tools, then ships Windows with them turned off, is beyond my pay grade (but not beyond my expectations for Microsoft).

            So I maintain my original position:  enable full Hibernate, and use it to suspend your machine with zero battery drain and avoid the entire problem addressed by Ben’s article.  And I’ll add, enable System Restore, and use it, and do not worry about storage space.  Storage today is cheaper and more plentiful than it has ever been, and is no longer an issue, either for the system or programs.

            — AWRon


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    • #2509912

      One thing that I’ve done with my laptop is to go to  the Windows Control Panel, then choosing Hardware and Sound -> Power Options -> Edit Plan Settings.  Besides setting the computer to put itself to sleep after 15 minutes, when on battery, I also go to Change Advanced Settings, where I have a custom power handling plan.

      I then go to Sleep -> Hibernate after, and then set On Battery to 60 minutes.

      I do this one because I run BitLocker, and if I’ve stopped using the computer while on battery, I want the encryption key flushed out of active RAM.  By setting Windows to do this, I don’t have to remember to manually revive the computer, either to hibernate or full shut down.

      This approach may also be sufficient to keep the CMOS settings settings from getting lost.

      Noting AWRon’s posting above, I do have my machines configured to reenable Hibernate mode, but I believe that the automatic switch from sleep to hibernate works without having to do that.

      Hibernate takes just a little longer to restart, and if you have BitLocker installed, it means going through the pre-boot authentication process to enter a password. However, it’s worth noting that since Windows 8, choosing “Shutdown” from the Windows Start menu only puts the machine in Hibernate mode anyway.  The only time you get a true shutdown is momentarily in Reboot, where the machine is shut down, and then immediately restarted.

      Thus, if you want a true, cold shutdown (e.g, prior to opening the case), the only ways to do that are either in the noted way of hacking the UI to reenable Hibernate (and where Shutdown is a true shutdown), or initiating  “shutdown /s” from a command prompt.

      • #2510109

        I got a laptop today to replace its battery with a genuine one I ordered.  The job was made more difficult because the previous user of the laptop put it to sleep.  Client did not furnish the user’s password, so I was unable to access the BIOS on a laptop with its BIOS setting of Secure Mode ON.  I violated Lenovo’s rule about opening up a chassis with the internal battery disabled.  Via a BIOS setting, naturally.  I was S-O-O-O-O-O careful with the battery replacement and managed to get it done, and the laptop boots up as before.

        Because the laptop was sleeping when I got it, password reset software does not work to reset the password, to make it ready for another person in the company.  I need to call the client to get the password, wipe the password out, add the name of the new user, remove all the old users, and make sure all the licensed software still operates.

        Sleep mode is one of the challenges to overcome when servicing a computer.  Hibernation, too, I think, altho very few people use it.  And definitely Secure Mode is another impediment.

      • #2511421

        That new “hibernate” is not the old Hibernate. The proper term is Hybrid Sleep Mode, which uses a much smaller Hiberfile. And it also uses some battery power. The point remains — unless you change the power Settings Advanced options, Windows never truly shuts down.

        -- rc primak

    • #2509959

      Great article for us less techie users! I have had this problem in the past with old XP and Win7 computers. Don’t Lithium CMOS batteries ever die? I used to replace the CMOS batteries in desktops, but I can’t recall ever seeing a removable CMOS battery in a laptop? I will try this approach on some old laptops and see if this works for them. I was under the impression that if you connected a laptop to a charger, the CMOS battery would recharge if able. Maybe a scrambled BIOS is the problem.

      Another observation: some laptops will operate fine without the main battery installed. Is the scrambled CMOS memory likely the problem if the computer remains dead?

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      • #2510101

        CMOS batteries do run down after a while, and then they need replacement.  Laptop batteries are somewhat infrequently the same CR2032 batteries found in desktop and tower computers.  More likely they are the same CR2032 encased in plastic with two wires, soldered inside the plastic, leading to a tiny connector that slides into an equally tiny and keyed (you can only connect the battery one way) opening.  After all, a battery socket weighs more than plastic encasing a battery, and laptop manufacturers struggle as much as human dieters to lose weight.

        In nearly all newer laptops, you have to remove the bottom cover to find the CMOS battery.  Some older laptops made it easier, by simply removing the cover for the memory, also exposing the CMOS battery.

        AFAIK, lithium CMOS batteries discharge very slowly and they cannot be re-charged.  Their roles to keep the clock running and to maintain CMOS consistency consume the tiniest amounts of power, so they can last for years.

        A scrambled CMOS is one of the possible causes of dead laptop symptoms, not the only one.


        To see whether a laptop CMOS battery still has any charge, disconnect the large batteries, and power it up.  If the battery can’t keep the date and time-of-day up to date, the BIOS will complain about date and time settings.

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    • #2509937

      Question… I most always use my laptop plugged in. After shutting it down (battery is always 100% charged), is it best (for whatever reason) to leave it plugged in or should it be unplugged, or does it even matter?


      • #2510102

        Odds of any damage to a laptop keeping the charger plugged in are pretty small, although a defective battery charging circuit, a cheap non-genuine battery or even a defective genuine battery could create some chaos, like a swollen battery.  A good rationale for unplugging when at or near 100% is to save a bit on your electric bill.  Keeping a charger not actively charging does consume some electricity.

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    • #2510009

      Ben said: “Whenever possible and convenient, use your laptop with the charger attached. This also prolongs battery life and maintains battery capacity closer to original factory capacity.”

      I hadn’t heard this about prolo9nging battery life.  Please explain a bit.    I often use an old Chromebook off-charger to access OneDrive, but do not discharge the battery–hopefully not even to the warning stage.  Should I start using the charger?  Thanks.

      • #2510108

        Well, if the battery runs down, it needs to be recharged.  Each recharge cycle diminishes the ability of a battery to hold a charge.  I regularly acquire three or four year old surplus laptops from a well-heeled company that can afford to replace equipment frequently.  Invariably, the laptop batteries hold 90% or more of original factory capacity, despite thousands of hours of use as measured by the SMART data in their SSDs.  This tells me that these laptops are used primarily on a desktop with the charger attached almost all the time.  That’s the best explanation I can give. It is a pragmatic one.

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    • #2510025

      (Hopefully I’m not duplicating something in earlier replies that are awaiting moderation.)

      Thanks for an interesting article. I may be missing something (happens more often than I’d like), but I think there’s a problem with your proposed sleep logic.

      When a computer is sleeping, instead of a programmed loop, the CPU is actually stopped until a hardware interrupt wakes it up. A computer would have to have a “low battery” interrupt. Of course, it wouldn’t be 100% reliable since the battery, especially a poorly maintained one, might not have enough juice left at that point to do what needs to be done.

      It seems like the solution really depends on the cause. Maybe the persisted state is bad to begin with when entering sleep mode, or glitches out and becomes bad when power is lost. Conceivably it could be manufacturer-dependent and not something Windows can fix generically.


      The link below describes several different sleep states that Windows recognizes, a subset of which are supported by a given computer. Some of those states do, in fact, try to account for the possibility of losing power while sleeping.


      The next link says, “With each successive sleep state, from S1 to S4, more of the computer is shut down. All ACPI-compliant computers shut off their processor clocks at S1” and “Details of the intermediate sleep states can vary depending on how the manufacturer has designed the machine.”


      • #2510105

        As I best understand it, a sleeping computer is still running, albeit with only one core, one thread and at the slowest clock speed possible.  Consider this.  If a laptop has no program code running, how is it able to respond to a hardware interrupt, which requires a functioning processor in response to the interrupt?

        The processor in a hibernating computer has no power applied to it, and it is not running at all.  If a computer is either completely shut off or hibernating, it requires a push of the on-off button to get going again. The advantage of hibernating instead of fully powered off is that before hibernating, Windows writes a complete sequential memory image to the hard drive or SSD, and sets a flag somewhere that it has done so.  When you push the button to arouse a hibernating computer, Windows begins booting up, and it sees whether the flag is set.  If so, it reads the memory image directly into memory, rather doing the time-consuming boot process involving searching for and loading all the drivers, arranging the registry in memory, putting icons on the screen and all the rest.

        When you push the on-off button of a hibernating or completely-off laptop, this both applies power to a laptop motherboard and generates a hardware interrupt.  A sleeping laptop already has some power flowing through it. It is running and so it responds to the hardware interrupt generated when you open the lid of a laptop.

        I think I have beaten this topic to a pulp. ;>)


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        • #2510212

          Sorry to beat the dead horse 🙂 but you got me wondering and I had to find out…


          Almost every modern processor instruction set includes an instruction or sleep mode which halts the processor until more work needs to be done. In interrupt-driven processors, this instruction halts the CPU until an external interrupt is received. On most architectures, executing such an instruction allows the processor to significantly reduce its power usage and heat output, which is why it is commonly used instead of busy waiting for sleeping and idling.

          • #2510218

            Exactly.  Halt is the operative word.  A processor can be halted with a halt instruction, but halting it does not deprive it of power.

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    • #2510157

      Ben wrote:

      “Whenever possible and convenient, use your laptop with the charger attached. This also prolongs battery life and maintains battery capacity closer to original factory capacity.”

      I have two older Dell (Inspiron 1525) laptops. Keeping them on the charger will boost and hold the charge to 100%. My layman’s understanding is that for maximum battery life the charge should be maintained between 80% and 40% (opinions differ as to precise percentages), and that keeping the battery fully charged or allowing it to run down to zero shortens its life. The Dell laptops warn me to connect to the charger when the battery slips to 40%. So when I am intensively using the laptop at home, I am constantly connecting and disconnecting the charger. An 80% charge is good for about an hour.

      The first laptop is tethered to a scanner and used sporadically, so I often find its battery needs to be recharged. The second laptop was used awhile for another purpose but is now mainly a backup. I kept it on a charger in the back room, out of sight and out of mind, until I found that the charger had burned out–a risk to note. Recently, I decided to swap it with the other laptop and see if it worked. The battery was at 0% but I plugged in the [replacement] charger and it booted right up and began charging. The CMOS battery evidently kept the BIOS and any other essentials alive.

      By the way, I have owned some desktop computers long enough to have to replace the CMOS batteries. Erroneous time and date is the telltale sign. Six to seven years seems to be about the typical life, though it no doubt varies. Layman’s understanding again: If the computer is plugged into the wall, but not turned on, it will still draw enough power to stand in for the CMOS battery, lengthening the battery’s life.

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      • #2510223

        CMOS batteries in laptops work the same way.  As long as a laptop is running with some sort of power, either large battery or charger, CMOS content is kept it its current state, but not by the CMOS battery.

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    • #2511728

      If a laptop has no program code running, how is it able to respond to a hardware interrupt, which requires a functioning processor in response to the interrupt?

      The same way a processor starts up on boot before it has any code ‘running’ ?


      Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
    • #2511744

      I am finding myself confused here (ok I am getting used to that).
      Can a computer powered down, turned off w/o sleep , ant hibernation state but with the power plug and switch on still power on with a Wake On Lan event?


      I have always thought with the power supply on a computer would respond to a WOL in the off state. 😖

      Ok I just read more (i know too late)

      WOL is not officially supported from soft off (S5). However, the BIOS on some systems may support arming NICs for wake, even though Windows is not involved in the process.


      Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
    • #2511914

      Thanks for the article, very timely as Ive had a Dell Inspiron 3500 sitting on my desktop in a coma since just before Christmas. I followed your instructions and it came back to life. Thanks!

    • #2512890

      I am having trouble getting my laptop to power up by pressing the power button. It’s a little “drawer” like button on the side of the chassis and I have to really press hard to depress it enough to get it to power up the laptop. It appears to me to be a mechanical problem, perhaps the solder (or something like that) is wearing out. I’ve had the laptop since 2016, so nigh to 7 years old, and I have always pushed the button to turn it off at the end of the day and have pushed the button to turn it on again the next day. So, it’s no wonder that it might be wearing out. But, I intend to use this machine no longer than the day when Microsoft no longer supports Windows 10. I use the machine primarily for online connection. The machine does not pass the Windows 11 test. I’d like to get two more years out of it, if I can.

      Heretofore, I have never put the machine to sleep. But, to avoid a time when I expect the power-button to completely fail and be stuck with a non-working (hence, dead) machine, I have started to put the machine to sleep at the end of the day and then the next day I wake it up and then restart it (Right-click on the Window icon on the Taskbar > Shut down or sign out > Restart. (I have Hibernation turned off and that wouldn’t work anyway because I’d have to press the power button to get it out of hibernation). I don’t think the laptop can “die” for lack of power, because it is always plugged in — because the battery is worn out and I haven’t seen the need to replace it because I don’t carry this laptop around with me at all. I am thinking that a Restart in this way is the same as shutting down and afterwards pressing the power button. Is that right?

      But, I am also wondering if there is anything unfortunate (such as “intruder” problems or something else I am not even aware of) that could occur while the machine is sleeping and plugged in. I have anti-virus software working. The power-cord is plugged into a power-surger with some other things plugged into it that I don’t want to turn off by turning off the power-surger. The power surger is plugged into the wall. All of my apps are closed and only the Desktop screen is on display when I put it to sleep.

    • #2513643

      As in my screen name, I am IT for my work museum, the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and I babysit 40 Dell Inspirons available for public use in our education classroom. All were purchased on State contract with Dell before the pandemic shutdown in 2020. In the case of my agency, we closed two times, spring 2020 for three months, and another month in early fall 2020. Because of the closures and work-from-home, I got months behind in updating before getting them back on a schedule in early 2021. I update them all every other month, trying to do half each month. As originally set up, they are running with sleep and hibernation turned off, and any action, power button, lid closure, Windows shut down, turns them off – complete power down. They are not left plugged in during their shut down times, but always shut off only when they are 100% charged.

      In early 2021, I started seeing Dead Cold laptops (seemingly so – after several attempts to start, plugged in). After discussions with Dell, I sent 26 of them back for warranty service, and 22 came back with new motherboards, and all 26 had new Win 10 images. I’m still having problems with some of them freezing and not starting. They act like they are asleep, even though these settings are turned off.

      When I left work for the long New Years weekend holiday, two of six on my workbench which wouldn’t start were warm, I could hear a fan running, and yet still had a black screen (sometimes they flash once, first, but the backlit keyboard and power button never light up). All are plugged in to good power supplies. I have five more sitting under my desk, declared dead, while updating last month. The warranty expired last September on all.

      Any ideas why they seem to revert to sleep when sleep is disabled and the laptop is turned off and not used for several weeks? I know these models (don’t remember the exact version, writing this from home) were discontinued from the State contract very quickly, because of too many warranty returns. The newer Dells we “have” to buy on contract are all working fine.

      My thanks to this great site for all the tips I have learned over the years, and glad that I finally decided to upgrade to Plus. Should have done it years ago.

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    • #2514031

      No. Sometimes the screen flashes, but never any second monitor activity because they have not booted up.

      I did find three anonymous posts I made the end October 2019, just after we bought them, when a bad video driver update in the Windows 10 October update trashed several of the laptops. I don’t know if that problem is related to what started happening later after our first covid break – the boot failure behavior is different.

    • #2514403

      IMHO, you are correct in thinking this has been caused by something different. 🙂 The October 2019 video issues were resolved by updates later that year (had the same trouble with video on the HP ZBook (Firefly 14 G7) I’m using to type this on).

      In re-reading your comments about the blank screen, my ZBook had a similar issue with the blank screen later on. HP Inc. ended up swapping out the system board on this one as well. We had all thought it had been related to a botched firmware update while attached to a 3rd party docking station. For comparison to your Dell machines to see if the procs may match up, here are the specs on this one:
      Processor Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-10810U CPU @ 1.10GHz 1.61 GHz
      Installed RAM 32.0 GB (31.3 GB usable)
      System type 64-bit operating system, x64-based processor
      Pen and touch Touch support with 10 touch points

      Edition Windows 11 Pro
      Version 22H2
      Installed on ‎9/‎20/‎2022
      OS build 22621.963
      Experience Windows Feature Experience Pack 1000.22638.1000.0

      For the sleep issue, if Windows 10, look into the developer settings and try setting the power mode in there. I don’t see it in there now in Windows 11, but have had some luck setting it there in some workstations when they would seem to ignore power settings we are pushing out through GPO’s and/or manually setting on the machines when being configured for an end user. There is a power troubleshooter in both Win 10 and 11 that may help reset things for you as well. Be advised, you may need to reset your sleep time to “never” when plugged in after running it (I had to on this laptop). The troubleshooter may be enough of a reset to correct the other behavior though.

      Also, a side note. We’re having some Dell OptiPlex 7050 and 7060 machines that have been having issues over the past couple weeks. We’ve seen a need for sfc /scannow and chkdsk /f /r on them. Seems to stabilize the boxes (at least for now).


    • #2514469

      Good to see someone else has seen this. I don’t have one of the laptops in front of me, now. I’m at home. Very similar slow I7, 8gb ram, Intel vid and chipset. A year ago I upgraded one to Win 11 Pro as a test bed – only used it on my desk, since Microsoft said it was compatible. Wiped the hard drive and went back to 10 Pro six months ago. Never saw any problems, don’t remember if I got to 21H1 before the wipe. I wiped it because it ran slower, and I knew for public use, the already crawling machine would not cut it.

      Dell repaced 26 motherboards under warranty in early and late 2021. I have good records on all to document the returns/repairs. Some which are on the “replaced” list are back doing the same thing. I have 8 in a milk crate under my desk which will not turn on, some from the list, others not originally, and at least 8 more which did “problem” updates. They sat two days or more after unsucessful power-up before they mysteriously turned on with their lids closed and updated while accessing the wireless in my office. All have sleep turned off, no hibernation, and power off with the lid closed.

      I’ve not used developer mode since I quit being a beta tester for 7, 8, and later 10. Not sure I want to look at it again. Their normal power settings usually works. These are the only ones I’ve ever seen that can act like they are asleep, and turn themselves on with the lids closed.

      Only one has been zero trouble. It was pulled to use for media in our classroom when brand new (background music playing all day – 40 hours a week) plus running vids and powerpoints for classroom duties, with a projector connected. Basically on 24/7, always plugged in to power, and I check it occasionally. It seems to keep itself updated. It’s running W10 22H2, with the December updates installed.

      Dell dropped this model in late 2020 from our contract, replaced it with another. Other things I read online note that the ones I have are lemons. I can believe it.

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