How many of us are aware of the power saving features on our PCs? Your computer has several built in power modes, each of which will turn off the computer/monitor/hard drives etc at various times.
You can set up a power scheme from a menu. Or you can customize existing ones to suit your own needs. All Windows operating systems since Windows 95 have power schemes that you can use to save energy and money. This article is aimed at Windows XP users, but other versions of Windows should be very similar.
To begin setting them up, first decide how you use your computer. There is little point setting up a power scheme that will annoy you because it turns your monitor off constantly. There is also little point setting up a scheme that waits for 4 hours before turning it off. Remember that these schemes are not set in stone. They are easy to edit, so that it pays to experiment a bit.
You will find the Power Schemes in the Control Panel. This is accessible from the Start Menu, or Windows Explorer. In there, look for the icon titled “Power Options”.
When this is open, you will see a Window with four tabs - “Power Schemes”, “Advanced”, “Hibernate” and “UPS”.
The Power Schemes tab is on top. You will see a drop-down box with the option “Home/Office Desk”. Several other options are available, including “Minimal Power Management”, “Presentation”, “Max Battery”, etc. Each option is a suggested power scheme for each type of usage - a laptop user would select “Max Battery”, for example. If you select a different scheme, you will see the settings change. If you wish, you can select one of these schemes that suits you, click apply, and then OK, and your PC will use the new settings.
However, most of the default Windows settings are rather tame, so you can set the timings yourself.
“Turn off monitor” - my suggestion: 5 minutes. This puts your monitor into standby, which uses less power than being fully on, but it still uses a lot, so remember to turn it off when not in use. Your monitor accounts for 1/3 or more of the electricity your PC uses.
“Turn off hard disks” - my suggestion: 10 minutes. Your hard drive spins at about 54,000 rpm. Most of the time, this is totally unnecessary. This setting stops your hard drive from spinning, but allows it to spin up again as soon as necessary.
“System standby” - my suggestion: 15 minutes. This setting turns off everything in your PC that can be safely turned off. It does take a few seconds to “warm up” from standby, but it is not an excessive amount.
Now click on the Advanced tab. “Always show the icon on the taskbar” - leave this disabled unless you change the Power Options regularly (something you probably will not do once you find your most suitable settings).
“Prompt for password when computer resumes from standby” - I leave this disabled on my home computer. Most employers insist that the password access be in use on their computers. “When I press the power button on my computer” - this is the button you use to turn the PC on with. Using this setting, you can have a “1 hit” option for putting your PC into standby, etc. Choose an option that suits you. I have this set to Standby. I can press the button and walk away from the PC, without having to wait for it to go into standby. Be sure to save your work before going into standby.
Click on the Hibernation tab. Hibernation is a special form of power saving. It is similar to the concept of saving your Word document, but this time it works on the whole computer. Everything in memory is saved, and then the PC turns off. When you turn the PC back on, it reverts to the state it was in right before it went into hibernation - your Excel spreadsheet will be open, your song will continue playing from the part it stopped at, etc. This is great if you spend a lot of time working on a document, or usually have several programs running, as you can turn the PC off completely, and have it open up exactly how it was. To activate Hibernation, put a tick in the checkbox.
Now go back to the “Power Schemes” tab. You will see another option underneath “System standby” called “System Hibernates”. This will put your PC into Hibernation according to the timescale you set it to. As I get older, I tend to worry more about loosing things. I hate to have to redo work that I have already spent time on so I use hibernate and avoid standby. My computer, my choice. It is best to play with the settings until you feel comfortable with your selections.
Remember that screensavers are a waste of money and energy. If you have time to allow a screensaver to appear on your screen, then you have time to turn off that monitor screen.
How much can you save? A typical power draw for an active desktop computer is about 100 watts. Idling with the monitor off it drops to about 20 watts. In either standby or hibernate the power draw is about 2 watts.
Leaving your computer running is like leaving the light on in your closet. Not a big cost for a short time but if left on all day you are wasting money. Just like a light bulb, the more you use it the sooner it will burn out. The heat from it feels good in the winter but adds to your air conditioning bill in the hot season.
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