Macbook Air "Instant-On" Feature

So I believe the newest Macbook Air has an “instant-on” feature similar to what you would find on the Ipad or a smart phone. Is there a way to replicate this on a desktop computer using Windows 7? Is it a matter of having a solid-state hard drive and a specific motherboard? Or is this a feature of the Apple OS? Ideally, I would like to make a HTPC that boots immediately. Can this be done? Thanks in advance.

To be fair, the Air doesn’t boot immediately, it comes out of suspend very quickly. It still takes 20ish seconds to boot.

The thing will sit in suspend for weeks at a time, though, so it’s fairly reasonable to just never turn it off, which results in “instant on” usability.

If you want to replicate this sort of behavior on a desktop computer, just don’t turn it off.

Ah. Aside from power consumption, are there strong downsides to keeping a computer on constantly?

If you have a solid state drive and use Windows 7’s hibernate feature then you’d probably see the exact same performance. Hibernate stores essentially your “state” when you power down the machine in a file on the HDD (hiberfil.sys IIRC), when you boot back up if the OS sees that file it loads it up and reloads your “state.” This avoids all the processes that OSes by their nature need to run when starting up from “scratch” and results in a faster boot. If you combine that with a HDD that has the read/write time of a SSD, you’re essentially experiencing “instant on.”

On my current PC which does not have a SSD, when I hibernate in Win 7 my time to get up and running from power off is probably under 60 seconds, versus a few minutes if I do a genuine shut down / boot up.

No idea about the Apple feature, but if it is anything like Windows hibernate then it uses essentially no electricity. When a computer is hibernating it is genuinely powered off, with its state saved to the HDD and that is how you achieve the faster startup time and restore the user to their previous state, so it doesn’t require that you actually keep power going to the machine. It does require that your HDD has as much storage space as your machine does memory, since it is essentially writing everything stored in RAM to a file.

Only downside I’ve heard about Windows hibernate is it tends to cause drag fragmentation (no idea how bad.)

There has been lots of debates whether keeping computers on all the time is good or bad. Some people say the constant on and off causes more wear and tear, others will claim that a computer that is off isn’t spinning its disks or heating its chips.

I usually keep my computers on because I don’t like waiting for them to boot, and then to sign on, and then to launch all the programs they launch at startup. I am a busy, busy man and can’t wait around the 40 seconds that it takes to start my day. There are, after all, websites I need to visit.

The new Macbook Air in hibernate mode is fine, and there’s no real reason to turn it on and off. It barely uses any electricity, and it’s nice to open up a computer and start using it – even if it only takes 20 seconds to boot.

The reason the Air recovers from hibernation so quickly is the OS is on a solid state drive; construct a Win7 machine like that and I imagine it would come up pretty much as fast.

Were it to crash, power off completely due to the battery running out or the user forceably powering it off, and any open files could be corrupted. Low but finite chance.

Is the Air that much quicker at waking than the MacBook Pro line?

I say this because when I first got a MacBook Pro some years back, I was impressed with how I could just shut it, and then the next day I could reopen it and the screen re-appeared almost instantly. Up and doing stuff in seconds.
I never saw a PC laptop replicate that kind of snappiness.

Of course, the MBP wasn’t perfect: when I gave it to my wife, I had to tell her that if she shut it, she shouldn’t re-open it until the white light started “breathing”. She had a habit of shutting it, and then suddenly snapping it open to do just one more thing, thereby totally confusing the OS and causing chaos that most Mac zealots would deny is possible.

My macbook pro with SSD boots in about 15 seconds. From closed lid back to typing this post = 2 seconds. Pretty darn close to instant.

The G4 Macs in the Mac lab at school would resume in a couple seconds–not quite instant, but pretty close. Booting took a lot longer than 20 seconds, though, but still was much faster than the equivalent PCs.

The way suspend seems to work on Mac OS X is that the computer immediately goes to suspend, but then will switch to hibernate after a specific period of time. However, I have been told that there is no real difference between suspend and hibernate on laptops–especially solid state ones.

There is no Hibernate or Suspend in OS X, there’s only Sleep. There is an option for “Safe Sleep” on laptops, which backs the contents for RAM to disk before sleeping. If the battery fails during sleep, the system is restored from Disk once power is available. This means that the machine takes a few seconds to go to sleep, but it’s rarely noticeable, since the write to disk occurs while the lid is closed.

Using hibernate on Windows 7 is pretty quick. My laptop doesn’t have a sleep switch so I can click on hibernate and close the screen immediately.

The Mac Zealots I know are MORE aware of the shortcomings of the OS than the average PC/Mac User. They bitch about Apple more than Ballmer does.

Here’s Apple’s document on the Macbook air’s suspend feature. About standby on your Mac - Apple Support

It goes into sleep the same as any other Mac. After an hour, it writes the contents of the RAM to the solid state drive and goes into low power mode. It’s much like hibernate mentioned above, but Apple doesn’t call it that.

Actually, I wonder about that. Apple laptops already write the RAM to disk when they’re put into sleep mode just in case the battery dies. Would it really have to do that again right before it goes into hibernate, or could it just turn the RAM off and use the file it already saved?