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System Power Management Sleep States
(C) 2014 Intel Corp., Rafael J. Wysocki <>
The kernel supports up to four system sleep states generically, although three
of them depend on the platform support code to implement the low-level details
for each state.
The states are represented by strings that can be read or written to the
/sys/power/state file. Those strings may be "mem", "standby", "freeze" and
"disk", where the last one always represents hibernation (Suspend-To-Disk) and
the meaning of the remaining ones depends on the relative_sleep_states command
line argument.
For relative_sleep_states=1, the strings "mem", "standby" and "freeze" label the
available non-hibernation sleep states from the deepest to the shallowest,
respectively. In that case, "mem" is always present in /sys/power/state,
because there is at least one non-hibernation sleep state in every system. If
the given system supports two non-hibernation sleep states, "standby" is present
in /sys/power/state in addition to "mem". If the system supports three
non-hibernation sleep states, "freeze" will be present in /sys/power/state in
addition to "mem" and "standby".
For relative_sleep_states=0, which is the default, the following descriptions
state: Suspend-To-Idle
ACPI state: S0
Label: "freeze"
This state is a generic, pure software, light-weight, system sleep state.
It allows more energy to be saved relative to runtime idle by freezing user
space and putting all I/O devices into low-power states (possibly
lower-power than available at run time), such that the processors can
spend more time in their idle states.
This state can be used for platforms without Power-On Suspend/Suspend-to-RAM
support, or it can be used in addition to Suspend-to-RAM (memory sleep)
to provide reduced resume latency. It is always supported.
State: Standby / Power-On Suspend
ACPI State: S1
Label: "standby"
This state, if supported, offers moderate, though real, power savings, while
providing a relatively low-latency transition back to a working system. No
operating state is lost (the CPU retains power), so the system easily starts up
again where it left off.
In addition to freezing user space and putting all I/O devices into low-power
states, which is done for Suspend-To-Idle too, nonboot CPUs are taken offline
and all low-level system functions are suspended during transitions into this
state. For this reason, it should allow more energy to be saved relative to
Suspend-To-Idle, but the resume latency will generally be greater than for that
State: Suspend-to-RAM
ACPI State: S3
Label: "mem"
This state, if supported, offers significant power savings as everything in the
system is put into a low-power state, except for memory, which should be placed
into the self-refresh mode to retain its contents. All of the steps carried out
when entering Power-On Suspend are also carried out during transitions to STR.
Additional operations may take place depending on the platform capabilities. In
particular, on ACPI systems the kernel passes control to the BIOS (platform
firmware) as the last step during STR transitions and that usually results in
powering down some more low-level components that aren't directly controlled by
the kernel.
System and device state is saved and kept in memory. All devices are suspended
and put into low-power states. In many cases, all peripheral buses lose power
when entering STR, so devices must be able to handle the transition back to the
"on" state.
For at least ACPI, STR requires some minimal boot-strapping code to resume the
system from it. This may be the case on other platforms too.
State: Suspend-to-disk
ACPI State: S4
Label: "disk"
This state offers the greatest power savings, and can be used even in
the absence of low-level platform support for power management. This
state operates similarly to Suspend-to-RAM, but includes a final step
of writing memory contents to disk. On resume, this is read and memory
is restored to its pre-suspend state.
STD can be handled by the firmware or the kernel. If it is handled by
the firmware, it usually requires a dedicated partition that must be
setup via another operating system for it to use. Despite the
inconvenience, this method requires minimal work by the kernel, since
the firmware will also handle restoring memory contents on resume.
For suspend-to-disk, a mechanism called 'swsusp' (Swap Suspend) is used
to write memory contents to free swap space. swsusp has some restrictive
requirements, but should work in most cases. Some, albeit outdated,
documentation can be found in Documentation/power/swsusp.txt.
Alternatively, userspace can do most of the actual suspend to disk work,
see userland-swsusp.txt.
Once memory state is written to disk, the system may either enter a
low-power state (like ACPI S4), or it may simply power down. Powering
down offers greater savings, and allows this mechanism to work on any
system. However, entering a real low-power state allows the user to
trigger wake up events (e.g. pressing a key or opening a laptop lid).