How to optimise your computer’s power use

Typically even the most computer savvy don’t mess with default settings when it comes to your computer’s power management. There are however some very simple changes that can be made to optimise your pc’s power use. Trust me, they are simple and should not take more than a minute or two.

What you need to do is find your pc’s power management tool, which would typically be found in your control panel. Due to the variety of operating systems currently in use, I will not give explicit instructions since they all differ. The process should be similar though regardless. The bottom line is that you want to specify when your pc hibernates/sleeps or turns the screen off. There are settings that specify that your pc will wait, let’s say for 15 minutes of inactivity dimming the screen and to also regulate how long until the pc goes into to sleep-mode. You want to reduce this to 5 minutes, or even less.

Ditch the screen saver as well! Screen savers are a remnant of the old boxy tube monitors, which required them to avoid damaging the screen. They are useless for today’s monitors, so rather get rid of the island scene and set your screen to dim.  Furthermore, by reducing the brightness of the monitor reduces your power consumption significantly. So if the room lighting is sufficient, drop it down a few notches. You might think this is rather futile, however if everyone who had a pc did this, the total energy savings would be massive.

Myth busting: it is not bad for your computer to turn it on and off. If anything, it’s worse to leave your computer on as this keeps the fan running and sucks dust in.  You can turn it on and off as much as you want. Remember to turn your computer off when you are not using it.

Laptops use less energy than PCs. If you own a laptop and close the lid instead of turning it off, check your power settings to see if closing the lid either turns it on hibernate or standby. For most laptops the default is hibernate. It is better though to turn your laptop off properly when you are not using it for long periods of time.

What is the difference between standby, hibernate or shut down?

It can get confusing with all these different options. Which one uses the least electricity? The choice is simple: shut down. This is like a full night’s sleep for your computer. This saves power and is good for the computer.

Standby is like nodding off during a meeting. Power is still feeding to your computer memory and your applications are kept running and documents open. However standby mode still uses energy and should only be used when leaving the computer for a brief period.

Hibernation is more like taking a nap. The power is shut down but your computer recalls all open documents and applications. It will take a bit longer to wake up from hibernate than from standby. The hibernate mode uses no power, but it is still active enough to automatically restart and begin using power again in the middle of the night, say for scheduled tasks or updates.

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3 responses to “How to optimise your computer’s power use

  1. Great post! Powering down PCs/laptops also prolongs their lifetime. There are alternative tools to in-built power management – some of them are free for a certain number of PCs, like PowerMinder ( It’s good to be able to see exactly how much energy you are saving.

  2. Great, thanks for the link Irina.

  3. test testing testing

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