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Tips to Save Electricity for your Desktop / Notebook / Laptop Computer
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Here are some tips to save power usage when you use your desktop.

Disclaimer

Proceed at your own risk! The information here is accurate to the best of our knowledge. We will not be held responsible if this document causes your computer to explode or burst into flames. In real serious terms, if any corruption of data, hardware damage or any other kind of damage/losses/etc. arises from the use of this document, we cannot be held responsible for it. If you don't like this, please don't read any further.

Turn off devices as close to the power source as possible

Most of you already would have known this, but it is better to state it again than never. In summary, the best point to save power is in the following order

  1. Unplugging from the Power socket (or turning the switch at the socket off)
  2. ON/OFF Power switch on the device
  3. Standby mode
  4. Energy saver mode (device is performing an operation)
  5. Normal operation mode

Manually turn off when devices are not in use. Some people use the switches on the device or unplug the power connector from the device. This does not save as much power as switching it off at the mains as the device may still be consuming a small amount of electricity, and in the case of pulling the power connector, the power adapter (aka power brick) still pulls in some bit of power even though the device is not connected.

Use power efficient video cards

If you are not using your computer for gaming, go for a inbuilt-in graphics card whenever possible. Powerful graphics cards such as the Geforce GTX 480 use 146 watts [ source ] of power even when you are simply at your Windows desktop as compared to an integrated one.

A light gaming card such as the Geforce 9600GT provides a good balance between power usage and gaming power. ATI (owned by AMD) video cards are known to be very power efficient for their performance

Some laptops have a physical switch to switch between integrated graphics cards as well as a dedicated graphic card. This is very convenient and saves power as well as reduce the heat generated.

Turn off at the socket

Standby devices consume power. Most LCD monitors and printers only consume 0.9 watts when at standby, but if they are not being used, switch them off at the power socket to save the bit of power.

Avoid switching off the device via the hardware switch on the device itself as that does not guarantee that no power is being drawn. The best way is to switch it off at the socket, or unplug it.

Buy power efficient PSUs (For Desktops)

Most power supply units (PSU) are 70-75% efficient [ source ]. The power supply unit is a little metal like box in your CPU box that provides DC power to all your internal devices such as the hard disk, optical drive and motherboard.

The industry offers a 80 PLUS label for power supply units that meet the minimum criteria of 80% efficiency. 80Plus PSUs work at better efficiency that those without this label thus wasting less power and generating less heat. The rating ranges from 80 PLUS (80%) -> Bronze (81%) -> Silver 85%) -> Gold (88%) -> Platinum (90%). We are not aware of any consumer PSUs that made it to the Platinum level, but till then, there are many Gold certified PSUs in the consumer market you can use.

Unplug USB devices not in use

Some desktops and laptops continue powering the connected USB devices even when they are switched off. This is to detect any activity and turn the system on automatically. Usually this is configurable via BIOS but some notebooks do not have this function.

For example, the Prolink Glee UW2 netbook does not have such an option in its BIOS. It's BIOS lists only the most basic of options and does not allow you to configure whether the USB ports should be still be powered when the system is switched off or in standby mode. So when the netbook is off, attached USB devices such as a wireless mouse receiver continue consuming power and using the battery.

To work around this, perform the following steps

  1. Go to Start
  2. Right-click My Computer, and click Manage
  3. Click on Device Manager on the left
  4. On the right, locate the USB device that is connected. It can be a mouse, network card or any other device that receives input.
  5. Double-click on the device to open its properties tab
  6. Click on the Power Management tab. If this tab does not exist, the device does not support this feature and will turn off automatically
  7. Place a checkmark for 'Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power'
  8. Remove any checkmark for 'Allow this device to bring the computer out of standby
This will then power down the USB device when the computer is powered off or goes to Standby mode.

Disable devices you don't use

Some examples is the integrated webcam, the integrated card reader or the bluetooth module.

Such devices are usually powered via internal USB connectors and can be disabled via the following steps:

  1. Click on the Start button
  2. Right-click on 'My Computer' and click Manage
  3. Click Device Manager on the left column
  4. On the right, a list of detected hardware devices are listed in categories. Under Universal Serial Bus Controllers, disable each 'USB Root Hub' you don't need.

    At this point, most of us will simply disable the appropriate device by zooming into the category e.g. Imaging Devices for Webcam. Rather than disabling the device, we recommend disabling the USB Root Hub that powers the device as this means that the hardware does not receive any data in question.
  5. If you are not sure which USB Root Hub to disable, simply disable any one randomly. If the device does not disappear, enable the Root Hub back and disable another one.

Disconnect the Optical Drive Physically

Most of us don't use our laptop's built in optical drive everyday. By taking away the optical drive, not only do you save power, you reduce the weight of the laptop as well. And most laptop manuals do document how to do this in detail - if it can be done by the consumer. Our Dell XPS M1210 manual has a section describing this in details

For desktop PCs, open the casing and simply disconnect the power cable from the power supply unit to the optical drive. The power cable consists of 4 pins. There is no need to physically unscrew the device from the casing or to disconnect the IDE / SATA data cable.

Things to take note

  1. Not all laptop optical drives can be removed easily, check the documentation that came with your laptop
  2. After removal of the drive, do note that dust can gather in the empty slot
  3. Always remove the battery and external power source connectors before attempting to remove the drive

Defrag your hard drive

Defragging is a process that reduces the amount of fragmentation by physically rearranging the data to store the bits of each file close together and contiguously. Although the power savings are negligible, this reduces wear and tear and improve performance.

Before you defrag, you may want to close all programs and not use the computer as defragment is a very disk intensive process. Here is how to defrag the hard disk in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  1. Go to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter
  2. At this point, the operating systems have new interfaces:

    • Windows XP: Select the main drive in the top listing (usually C). Click Defragment at the bottom.
    • Windows Vista / Windows 7 : Click Defragment Now and then OK
    • Windows 7: Click Defragment Disk

Defragging takes time but the difference can be large if you have not defragged for a long time.

Underclock the CPU

Underclocking the CPU makes it work slower but does save power. You can underclock your system via the following ways

  • SpeedswitchXP (for Windows XP only)
  • For Windows Vista and Windows 7
    • Click Start, Control Panel, Power Options (located under Hardware and Sound in Windows Vista / Windows 7)
    • Click 'Change plan settings' for the scheme that is currently highlighted. Click 'Change advanced power settings'. Under 'Processor Power Management ', 'Minimum Processor State ', set the value to 5% or lower.

      Under 'Processor Power Management ', 'Maximum Processor State ', set the value to 5% or lower. You may want to increase the value if you find the system too slow.
    • Click OK

This will underclock the CPU. Note that performance may seem slower, if so, you should adjust to a higher value. Some motherboard brands such as ASUS (EPU 6), Gigabyte (DES Advanced) and MSI (DrMOS) offer a more advanced method of switching off 'phases' to to save even more power.

Underclock the Graphics Card

As with CPU, underclocking the video card makes it work slower but does save power. Underclocking has no effect on desktop unless you are utilizing Windows Aero desktop, where it may have a minimal effect. The following software can underclock your graphics card

Be careful. Overclocking the card can void the warranty and make your system unbootable.

Set hard disk mode to quiet in BIOS (AAM)

Some laptop BIOSes have the option to set the hard disk to operate at a quieter mode. This saves a negligible bit of power as the main intention is to reduce noise. If so, you may want to use it to set it to Quiet mode.

Alternatively, the following software can set the mode for you

  1. HDDScan (run the program by clicking on HDDScan.exe after downloading and extracting, click on the large circular button, Features, IDE Features, set Automatic Acoustic Management to DISABLE)

Power down hard disks

Set your hard disk to power down after about 15 minutes. This can be set via the Power Scheme and saves considerable power when you are watching a movie from the Internet or DVD drive. Here is how to set it:

  1. Click Start, Control Panel, Power Options (located under Hardware and Sound in Windows Vista / Windows 7)
  2. At this point, the operating systems have new interfaces:
    • For Windows XP: On the row labeled 'Turn off hard disks', set each column to 15 minutes. Click OK
    • For Windows Vista / Windows 7 : Click 'Change plan settings' for the scheme that is currently highlighted. Click 'Change advanced power settings'. Under 'Hard disk', 'Turn off hard disk after', set the value to 15 minutes

If you want to set a lower level, go ahead and try it out. Each person's usage varies, so if you tend to be performing activities that leave the hard disk idle for long periods, lower the threshold and increase if necessary.

Automatically standby monitors

Set your monitor to activate standby mode after about 5 minutes of no activity. This can be set via the Power Scheme and saves considerable power when you are leaving the computer. Here is how to set it:

  1. Click Start, Control Panel, Power Options (located under Hardware and Sound in Windows Vista / Windows 7)
  2. At this point, the operating systems have new interfaces:
    • For Windows XP: On the row labeled 'Turn off monitor ', set each column to 5 minutes. Click OK
    • For Windows Vista / Windows 7 : Click 'Change plan settings' for the scheme that is currently highlighted. Under 'Turn off the display', set the value to 5 minutes. Click Save Changes.

If you want to set a lower level, go ahead and try it out. Each person's usage varies, so if you tend to be performing activities that leave the computer idle for long periods, lower the threshold and increase if necessary.

Adjust Sleep and Hibernate Modes

Set your system to standby mode and hibernate after about 30 minutes of no activity and one hour respectively. This can be set via the Power Scheme and saves considerable power when you are leaving the computer. Here is how to set it:

  1. Click Start, Control Panel, Power Options (located under Hardware and Sound in Windows Vista / Windows 7)
  2. At this point, the operating systems have new interfaces:
    • For Windows XP: On the row labeled 'System hibernates ', set each column to 1 hour. On the row labeled 'System standby ', set each column to 30 minutes. Click OK
    • For Windows Vista / Windows 7: Under 'Sleep', 'Hibernate after', set it to 60 minutes. Under 'Sleep', 'Sleep after', set it to 30 minutes.

If you want to set a lower level, go ahead and try it out. Each person's usage varies, so if you tend to be performing activities that leave the computer idle for long periods, lower the threshold and increase if necessary.

Last Updated 16th July 2010.

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This document is Copyright(©) 2010 by G.Ganesh. Visit Bootstrike.Com (http://bootstrike.com).

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