Windows

Windows Vista saves energy with its new Power Plans and hybrid sleep mode

To save power on your computer, Windows Vista provides you with a Web page-like interface, which allows you to select and configure power plans.

As you know, when it comes to saving power on your Windows XP desktop or laptop computer, you start your configuration operation by going to the Control Panel and double-clicking Power Options. The same is true in Windows Vista. However, instead of seeing a multitabbed dialog box, which allows you to select and configure power schemes, Windows Vista provides you with a Web page-like interface, which allows you to select and configure power plans. Microsoft describes Windows Vista's power plans as "a collection of hardware and system settings that manages how your computer uses power. Power plans can help you save energy, maximize system performance, or achieve a balance between the two."

Power plans serve essentially the same purpose as Windows XP's power schemes, but Windows Vista's power plans provide you with an easier to use interface as well as some new features. In addition, Windows Vista will allow computer and peripheral manufacturers to add proprietary power plans to the new interface.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll take a closer look at Windows Vista's power options interface. As I do, I'll examine each of the power plans and explain how each one works.

The preferred power plans

When you double-click on Power Options in Windows Vista's Control Panel, you'll see the Power Options page, as shown in Figure A. There are three preferred power plans to choose from.

Figure A

The Power Options page presents three preferred power plans to choose from.

As you can see, each of the three power plans provides you with an at-a-glance graphic rating for quickly determining the energy savings and performance of each plan. The first one is the Balanced power plan, which is designed to offer full performance when you need it and save power during periods of inactivity. The Power Saver power plan will save power by reducing system performance and is designed to help mobile PC users get the most from a single battery charge. On the other end of the spectrum is the High performance power plan, which is designed to maximize system performance and responsiveness, but will do almost nothing to save power. As such, mobile PC users will notice that their battery doesn't last as long.

Customizing power plan settings

Under each one of the three preferred power plans, you'll notice a link titled Change Plan Settings. Clicking this link takes you to the Edit Plan Settings page, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

You can alter many of the settings in each of the default power plans.

On this page, you can alter the amount of idle time that must elapse before Windows Vista turns off the display and puts the computer into sleep mode. You can access more granular configuration settings by clicking the Change Advanced Power Settings link, which displays a Power Options dialog box with a single tab titled Advanced Settings, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

The Advanced settings appear in a traditional dialog box interface.

As you can see, in addition to the more common power settings, there are a host of power consuming devices for which you can adjust settings. For example, you can regulate how a wireless adapter consumes power by choosing maximum performance or low, medium, or maximum power savings, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Windows Vista allows you to adjust power consumption settings for a host of power consuming devices.

Hybrid sleep mode

Under the Sleep heading in the Advanced Settings dialog box you'll find a new setting called Hybrid Sleep, as shown in Figure E. This new sleep mode is being introduced in Windows Vista and is designed to combine the resume speed of Standby mode with the power savings of Hibernate mode. The combination manifests itself by reducing the system to a deep hibernation state, yet the system will wake up just a few seconds after pressing the [Spacebar].

Figure E

Windows Vista features Hybrid Sleep which offers a combination of high energy savings and high performance.

In addition to configuring the system to go into Hybrid Sleep mode after a period of inactivity, you can manually induce Hybrid Sleep from the Start menu. By default, clicking the orange, graphical shut down button, which appears at the bottom of the Start menu, will actually put the system into Hybrid Sleep mode. To really turn off the computer, you must access the Shut Down command which appears on a fly out menu, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

To turn off a Windows Vista computer, you will have to access the Shut Down command from a fly out menu.

Conclusion

Windows Vista's Power Plans and hybrid sleep mode are designed to balance performance and power consumption. If you have comments or information to share about Windows Vista's Power Plans and Hybrid Sleep mode, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

22 comments
surfwalker
surfwalker

if its so good then how come i have to reboot every time i use.

shanti_ellis
shanti_ellis

I was unable despite hours on the phone with multiple tech support individuals at different companies to make the power saving "feature" that turns off peripherals after 20 minutes. I have court reporting software which is very proprietary and as such needs a security key in the USB to work. Every 20 minutes it would turn this off and cause the computer to hard freeze. No amount of setting changes affected this. I had to return the computer and get one with XP instead.

bmbost
bmbost

Title says it all.

pjpinella
pjpinella

Will Vista desktop machines be able to enter sleep mode like laptops do today? In other words, will it be possible to have not only the processor and screen go to sleep, but the fans, hard drives -- essentially everything else? I'm willing to wait 5 - 10 seconds to let it awaken. I'm just tired of booting from scratch each morning.

phake
phake

All it takes, is a PC to fall asleep while making a PowerPoint presentation, and the user then screams to the helpdesk, and all Power Savings options are removed for that user. In my experience, all Windows power savings modes result in 0% actual power savings in the real workd. because they have been too troublesome or have caused too many lockups in the past. If the OS could instantly go to always-on mode while a PowerPoint presentation was showing, or a projector connected...

sbhattarai
sbhattarai

How does this new power mode in Vista affect drives that are locked using ATA security?

Chad Strunk
Chad Strunk

The XP power options available to GPOs is pretty pitiful. What GPOs will be available for Vista?

cthach
cthach

Will non-Administrative users be able to make changes to the Power Plans?

georgeou
georgeou

Vista hybrid mode is a mix of state 3 and 4. 3 is a full blown suspend where the fans stop and you're only using a few watts of power whereas 4 dumps memory to the drive. If you yank the power cord while you're in hybrid sleep in Vista, you can still recover from disk. If you didn't lose power, you wake instantly from memory. The problem is that most desktop computers you build don't support state 3 and only state 1. State 1 barely saves any power. For example, my desktop system still burns up 150 watts in suspend mode. Laptops always have to support state 3 and they barely use any power in that state.

georgeou
georgeou

"In my experience, all Windows power savings modes result in 0% actual power savings in the real workd" That's only because you're going in to S1 mode and not S3. It's a 50 to 150 watt difference in power savings. I'll have an article on this. As for powerpoint going to sleep, don't set the blank screen so aggressively, set it to 30 minute idle to blank screen. Surely you will advance the slide every 30 minutes? If that doesn't work, set it to 60.

georgeou
georgeou

Hard drives security relies on encryption which has nothing to do with power management. Managing the power saving mode centrally does allow you to globally enforce desktop idle time lock down policies which improves security a lot.

georgeou
georgeou

I've been speaking with Microsoft on this one. XP or Win2003 GPOs didn't have much but you did have a command line tool that can tweak more settings. Vista will have lots of GP settings. From what I understand, these GPOs will be visible from Server 2007. But there is a possibility of extending the Win2003 GPOs for Vista and I'm trying to get clarification on this. We had to do that for WinXP SP2 with the new firewall management GPOs.

sbhattarai
sbhattarai

Maynot be Fort Knox, BUT, just another area that Vista screws up.

sbhattarai
sbhattarai

Maynot be Fort Know, BUT, just another area that Vista screws up.

georgeou
georgeou

Ok, got answer from Microsoft. You do not need to be admin in Vista to change the power saving mode.

georgeou
georgeou

Check back here for the answer.

sbhattarai
sbhattarai

George - I think you missed my point. Let me try to clarify. Vista defaults to S3 mode for "off". What this means is that when the laptop is turned back "on" from S3, the OS expects all the files (and hence Hard Drive) to be available. Does this not mean that if one was to enable access control of the HDD (using ATA password from BIOS, for example), then you'd get the OS to crash. The only way to "operate well" with Vista seems to be to disable the access control, thus making the system less secure. (I validated this in my Sony Viao laptop).

georgeou
georgeou

It's still not real security and we have BIOS resets.

sbhattarai
sbhattarai

ATA HDD password CANNOT be bypassed simply by taking the HDD from one machine and putting it in another. Yes, it is not Fort Knox security (there are data recovery houses that can disable ATA password for ~$100) but it is not true that a computer HDD that has the ATA password set can so easily be circumvented.

georgeou
georgeou

ATA locking is useless the minute you pull that hard drive out of the system and put it in to another computer. BIOS locking is more of the feel-good variety of security than real security. Besides, any PC repair technician will tell you that BIOS passwords can be reset via jumper or DIP switch. If you want real security, you use a combination of bitlocker for the system volume and you use EFS for the user data portion. This way if the laptop falls in to the wrong hands, even a determined and capable hands, your data will be safe.

sbhattarai
sbhattarai

The way to lock a Hard Disk is by using ATA password. This is normally done on the system side from the BIOS. The user has the option of setting what is called the "ATA password" or "HDD password" from the BIOS. Today's newer BIOSes also concatonate things like fingerprint scanner, etc to this same ATA password. If you look up ATA security in any ATA specification (ex ATA 7), it will state that for systems that are locked (meaning setup with a ATA password), until the ATA password is provided to "unlock" the system, the HDD will not execute any read/write command. So, back to the problem I see... In the above sceme, the HDD gets locked back up when the system gets it power shut off. The problem with Vista is with it defaulting to S3 mode instead of hibernate or power off, the HDD could never get locked, even when the user may think it has. (The next time someone pushes the power button, the HDD would not require password entry).

georgeou
georgeou

I don't know anyone who uses the BIOS to protect the hard drive nor would that be considered any kind of real hard drive security. Please explain what you mean.

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