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Shutdown or Go to Sleep?

Shutdown or go to sleep?

Mac users have had the ability to put their computers to ‘safe sleep’ rather than shutting down since around 2005. This was a great time saving option, since in those days rebooting a Mac with many extensions could take a bit of time! Sleep mode allows you to walk away and quickly return to what you were working on without needing to shutdown or restart. However, in the audio world sleep mode can create problems. 

What’s happening in sleep mode?

When you put your Mac to sleep, it’s still on but using less power. It gives you the ability to get back to work much quicker when you open it again, and offers password protection for privacy when stepping away. Most of its activity stops and your screen goes black. This is especially helpful for MacBooks running on battery power, where the screen is a large consumer of energy. Waking it back up puts you right back to where you left off without waiting for the computer to restart. While this time saver is more noticeable on older Macs, you may find the boot time on newer M1, M2 and M3 machines is dramatically faster- making shutdown and reboots less of a challenge.

While Mac users who primarily use the computer for email, web browsing, and documents, keeping the machine on long term and using sleep mode when you step away may be perfectly fine. However, I have noticed that many of the problems that come up with voice actors working from home are the result of using sleep mode rather than shutting down or restarting. This is further complicated by disconnecting and reconnecting interfaces while they're fired up!

Shutdown or Sleep?
The Apple menu is where Sleep, Restart, Shutdown and Lock controls live.

Does sleep mode affect audio work?

It's possible in a recording session for a lengthy pause in work to cause the computer to go to sleep due to inactivity. You can decide in your system settings how long it takes for this to happen- or set it to never. This suspension of resources and background processes can mess things up for the recording hardware and software. In fact, it used to happen so often that studios started using third party apps like Amphetamine to prevent it! Over the years, Apple has made many improvements to sleep mode, giving users all sorts of control of how and when it engages. 

What should you do?

While conventional wisdom tells us that that benefit of using Macs it to just leave them on and not needing to shutdown, I find it to be very useful to shutdown and restart often. At my home studio, I have a scheduled nightly shutdown and start each day fresh. Doing this is helpful because it clears the RAM, and helps the Mac run more smoothly. At work, where our systems tend to stay powered up all the time, I prefer to start each day with a fresh reboot there as well.

If you're a voice actor working from home, there's a good chance your computer isn't just going to sit with your rig at all times. Most people I consult with siimply close their laptops, pull the plug on the interface, and walk away. This may be fine for some, but it can gum up the works when it's time to get back to work! You may plug the interface back in while the computer is on, only to find your recording software is not automatically seeing it. You can end up spending time recording auditions only to find you've been recorring your Mac mic the whole time! Always check your settings!

My advice, which some may argue is overkill, is to shutdown, then disconnect your interface. And when it's time to connect again, do it while the Mac is off- and then fire it up! If the interface is on, more often than not your software will detect it and switch to it automatically on startup.

Shutdown or Sleep: The bottom line.

Shutting down your Mac at the end of the day gives you a fresh start when getting back to work. Avoid audio glitches by power down your computer before disconnecting and reconnecting your audio hardware to assure your software finding the connections it needs. This will keep things running smoothly and happily.

1 Comment

Super helpful as always Frank! Often wondered about what was best!

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