Windows has long had the ability to go into "standby" mode, but this was never user-friendly and oft times a PC would wind up requiring a re-start anyway when the "wake-up" command was forgotten or went ignored.
I have recently started using "hibernation" mode. A PC put into hibernation starts up in exactly the same place that it was when it was put into hibernation - meaning that programs that were running, files that were open, tasks in progress, all are as they were, exactly as they were. (If you need a password to log on, you will be prompted for it.)
For a Windows XP computer, hibernation is usually not available by default, but it is easy to turn on.
Click on Start > Settings > Control Panel > Power Options. You should see this screen open up. In this image, you can see what some recommended settings are - a monitor that goes blank after five minutes of no use, and hard drives that sleep after ten minutes.
Note that neither the standby mode nor the hibernation mode are set to commence by themselves.
If you want to use hibernation, you must first check to see that it is available. On this tab, you would check off "Enable hibernation" and apply the setting.
With this set, you can now enter hibernation by clicking on Start > Turn Off Computer, then hold the shift key down, which turns the standby option into the hibernate option.
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