Instead of hibernation: Mac closes all programs and unsaved documents are lost

Instead of hibernation, the Mac logs the user off completely

My wife always has the funniest problems with her Mac, while my Mac usually works without a hitch. For me this is very practical because I always have food for my blog, but Ms. Apfelot is rather annoyed about it.

Mac logs the user out completely instead of going to sleep

The latest thing at Apfelot was that my wife's iMac suddenly showed the following behavior after a macOS update. After a few minutes of idleness, the iMac should actually go to sleep and ask for the password when it wakes up.

After waking up from hibernation, all programs and documents should still be open - but they weren't. The cause: an incorrect system setting.
After waking up from hibernation, all programs and documents should still be open - but they weren't. The cause: an incorrect system setting.

This has been the case for the last few years, until a few days ago, following an update to save energy, he not only switched off the monitor, but also completely logged off the user. In connection with this, all programs were closed and files with unsaved changes were also simply closed.

You can imagine that this is quite annoying: You go for a quick coffee, have a thousand tabs and some unsecured documents open and come back and the Mac just restarts ... Work from the last few hours is partly lost and all because you briefly Has left work.

The "Security and Privacy" system settings also contain an option that instructs the Mac to completely log the user off after a specified period of time (screenshots: Sir Apfelot).
The "Security & Privacy" system preferences also house an option that instructs the Mac to completely log off the user after a prescribed period of time (screenshots: Sir Apfelot).

Cause: Option "Log off after X minutes of inactivity"

I couldn't begin with my wife's description of the error, but after a short googling she found out what caused this behavior: an option called "Log off after X minutes of inactivity".

And that's exactly what was obviously activated automatically by the macOS update, because you don't accidentally stumble upon this setting. It is hidden in the following path:

System settings → Security & privacy → More options (bottom right in the window) → "Log out after X minutes of inactivity"

This option was suddenly activated and caused the problems, because instead of at least canceling the logout if there are still unsaved changes to files, these files are simply closed without you having the chance to save them.

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25 Responses to "Instead of hibernation: Mac closes all programs and unsaved documents are lost"

  1. Hi,

    Are you sure that it was not activated manually?

    For me, this option was not switched on automatically.

    Greetings Holger

    1. Hello Holger! Yes, 100% sure ... at first my wife didn't even know where to find the option and when you look at how to get there, you can tell that you don't activate it by accident. But there are several people in various forums who had the same problem after an update. So I assume that we are dealing with a bug in the updater. It was a Catalina update too. My wife can't run Big Sur on her old iMac yet.

  2. Stephen Schwenk

    Can I also confirm: New MacBook Pro with Big Sur had been in use for a week and after a short break all previously open programs were closed and my user was logged off. It also took me a while to find the right attitude.

  3. WOW !!
    Excellent! This is THE info that I needed for over a year. My Mac also annoyed me. Irregular. Apparently even after an update. Even Apple's hotline had no advice except: delete apps, gradually reinstall them and keep an eye on them. Bug reports were sent to various supporters and analyzed there.
    But none of that helped. The cause remained hidden - until ... yes, until Lady Apfelot also experienced this problem :) Thank you Lady Apfelot and thank you Sir Apfelot

  4. Thank you, I have tolerated this obsolescence for far too long because I thought it was about nightly system updates that the Mac always does not perform, for example because unsecured notes prevent it from shutting down. I was kindly asked. But: In my MacOS Catalina 10.15.7 the option looks different. There is only "Password required (time) after the start of the idle state" and "Deactivate automatic login". There is nothing to unsubscribe from the user, and neither does it say shutdown of programs. Isn't it because of the updates? “About this Mac> Software update…> Automatically update my Mac” is switched off, so it shouldn't work.

    1. Hello Pi! My wife's iMac isn't running Big Sur either, and she has the option. The Mac usually pauses for updates if a program is still open and has unsaved changes. It could be the updates of course ... but see when it happens. Maybe it is always when an update is delivered. But usually the Mac won't install this automatically if you turned the option off. I'm sorry, but I'm a little on the tube. : D

  5. Grüezi Mr. Kleinholz
    My best regards from Bern to your wife and my warmest thanks to you!
    That's exactly what happened with us: my husband's Macbook didn't do any antics. Mine, on the other hand, simply "done" the accounting work of 2 hours and billing after the first time it shut down unintentionally - for the ass. For days I couldn't find the cause and tried desperately to ignore my husband's slightly sardonic offers of help.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for the tip!
    Best regards

    Stephanie Berger

    1. Hello Mrs. Berger! I am very happy that it worked. 😂 And sorry about the bookkeeping work ... of course that's not nice. :(

  6. SIR Apfelot, I hereby knight you (yeah, you already are).
    I've had the condition on my system since the start of the new machine and no one has been able to help. Installed BigSure and it was really annoying. I always thought it was the hibernate not working properly.

    I'm celebrating your solution.
    Many thanks and greetings to the wife
    Yolande sketch
    (Apple since 1987)

  7. It's been a while, but maybe I can get help. Recently, my computer has ended all programs in idle mode. However, the option mentioned above is not selected at all. Is there another solution? I would be very grateful, that's also really annoying. Am at Monterey 12.3.1

    1. Hello Su! Unfortunately, the error is not known to me. I would create a new user under System Settings > Users and Groups and test there if the same thing happens with this user. Then you would know whether to look for the error at the user or system level.

  8. Hi Jens,
    I'm probably too inexperienced, but with a new user I start everything from scratch, I don't have any documents?!?! Is it enough if I just open programs? I'm quite good with my programs, but I'm totally missing the "deeper" skills :-(

    1. Exactly, with a new user you start from scratch. You shouldn't work much with this user either, just test whether the Mac also closes the programs in sleep mode in this user. The user can then be deleted again. I just want to find out what we need to do to get rid of your problem. 😊

  9. I'm afraid I can't do that. Can change user, but when I usually work with Word and Excel mainly. But I'm supposed to register now and I'm not sure what the consequences will be!??! Could it be that there is a malfunction with Office? But it would also be new. Could something (always close) be set somewhere?

  10. I checked elsewhere and the problem seems to have been fixed. It's a mystery to me, but it was probably because my hard drive was too full. Cleaned up some things and let Time Machine run again - now it's back to how it was before, the programs stay open! Thank you for your help!

    1. Well, great that you found out what it was. And thanks for the feedback. This helps other readers to localize such a problem. 😊

  11. It was exactly the same with me. I have this annoying setting on the new m2 Air. I reset everything. So nothing taken from the cloud. It seems that this setting is desired by default.
    It can also make sense. But it looks annoying. I'll be back, even the browsers are closed. Only when you start it again do the tabs restart. But I can't find my desk the way I left it. As if a domestic help had cleaned everything up. And now I can lie down like that again.

    Thanks for your article. It was only because of you that I knew immediately what attitude it is. All the others I went through were normal.

    Cool blog from you. =D

  12. Thanks for the article! I've had exactly the error on my MBA M1 for months, I thought it was "normal" that if I open the MBA the next day, the programs all close. I didn't have this option enabled either. I hope the problem is fixed now.

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