[Offtopic] Saving PC power

Stephen Loosley stephen at melbpc.org.au
Thu Jun 14 21:11:32 EST 2007

Hi all,

This New York Times article today on saving computer energy, (eg: http://co2saver.snap.com/), may be of interest:

The (US) Department of Energy estimates that in the average home, 40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. (snip)

If you don’t turn off your PC when it is not in use, make sure it goes into a low-power sleep, suspend or hibernate mode. That doesn’t always happen automatically. Windows XP has both a suspend and hibernate option, but it isn’t always turned on by default. 

Computers running the Windows XP operating system can be configured by clicking on 'Power Options' in the Control Panel to set the number of minutes before Windows will turn off the monitor and hard disks or put the system into standby or hibernate mode. (Hibernation uses the least amount of energy).

Microsoft says that it has overhauled energy management in its Vista operating system so that machines, by default, should go into a low-power state after 60 minutes of inactivity. The PC sips only a few watts until the user touches the mouse or keyboard. To configure a machine with Vista, type “Power Options” in the search box at the bottom of the Start menu and click on “Change when the computer sleeps.” 

All of this, of course, assumes that the systems are working correctly. When I first installed Vista on my PC, I configured it to go to sleep after 30 minutes, but it has been unreliable. Sometimes it fails to go to sleep, and at other times it fails to wake up. Sometimes I experience the worst of both worlds: the drives and fan are spinning, but the monitor is blank, and I cannot get the machine to come back to life without powering it down and turning it back on. 

I spent numerous hours trying to fix the problem, including updating the BIOS, installing up-to-date versions of all my device drivers, checking to make sure there were no unnecessary applications running in the background and, of course, scanning for spyware and viruses. The results were encouraging. After all that fiddling, the machine went to sleep most nights and woke up most ­ but not all ­mornings. 

I then installed Co2 Saver (co2saver.snap.com), a free program for Windows XP and Vista, and that seems to have solved the problem. 

Co2 Saver gives you a simple control panel to specify when to turn off monitors and disk drives and put the machine to sleep. It also adjusts some hard-to-configure settings. One option forces the machine to “Initiate sleep mode if system doesn’t sleep automatically.” This feature, according to its developer, Lee Hasiuk, defeats Windows attempts to keep a machine awake if it thinks (correctly or otherwise) that it is detecting a background task other than mouse or keyboard activity. Now my machine sleeps and wakes properly almost all the time..

If you’re shopping for a new PC, be sure that it meets (US) Energy Star requirements, ideally the ones that go into effect July 20. The new standards require that 80 percent of the power consumed is actually used by the PC.

Use an L.C.D. screen instead of a cathode ray tube monitor. L.C.D.’s are as much as 66 percent more efficient than C.R.T.’s, according to the Energy Department. 

Consider buying a notebook PC, rather than a less-efficient desktop. Because notebooks are designed to run on batteries, they’re equipped with chips and drives that draw less power. And because the screen is integrated on notebooks, there is only one power supply...

Tweaking can pay off. Annually, my desktop PC is now using 73 percent less energy ­ saving me $119 (US) a year and depriving the earth of 1,405 more pounds of CO2. 

Cheers, people
Stephen Loosley
Victoria, Australia

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