Power management is an important part of maintaining your system, especially for laptop users. Portable computing requires the efficient use of resources in order to stretch out battery supply. Improper power settings can translate into the loss of valuable computing time, the suspension of your system, and possible power-down problems.

But power management is just as crucial to the desktop user, as various Windows features are tied to power management settings. Support professionals need to be familiar with these settings so they can quickly address power-related questions from end users. The wrong power setting can cause a variety of problems. Here’s an example of a power management problem and what it took to fix it.

A power-down dilemma
TechRepublic member ebcdic2 wrote, “I have a computer that used to power down automatically [upon shutdown]…Now the computer just displays the ‘It’s now safe to shutdown your computer [screen].’” It appears that this user’s machine is freezing up at this point. To turn off the machine, ebcdic2 must hold down the power button for 10 seconds. He asked, “Is this feature handled by the chipset driver, or is there other software that handles the power off feature?… What part of the chipset handles this function (north bridge or south)?”

Is Windows the culprit?
Several things might be causing this power-down problem. Member Sjwfwork suggested looking at the Windows Control Panel and checking the Power Management Settings. After a quick check, ebcdic2 responded, “Nope, not the Control Panel.” Member soulrider thought the problem could be hardware-related. A defective power supply switch or an overheating CPU might be keeping the system from powering down properly. In addition, soulrider suggested checking the Windows Task Manager to see if a nonresponsive application might be to blame. But unfortunately, these fixes didn’t help either. Our puzzled user answered, “All hardware functions properly.”

Member stryker123 thought the answer could be in the system registry and suggested the following edit. As with any registry edit, you should do a system backup first. Then, click the Start button and choose the Run command. Type regedit and use the Find command ([F3]) to locate PowerdownAfterShutdown. Double-click on the key and make sure that the REG_SZ value is 0. Now, click OK to save the changes, exit regedit, and reboot. Stryker123 wrote, “I know this works in NT/2000,” and said he hoped it would prove to be useful. But like the first suggested remedy, this provided no relief. Ebcdic2 commented, “I happened across this tip a few days ago [and] it didn’t work. I think it works only on NT/2000.”

Turn to the Web
Maybe a trip to the Microsoft Knowledge Base could help solve this problem. A fix or a patch might turn up after a quick search of Microsoft’s support database. Other sites also offer assistance with problematic shutdowns. Anna777 wrote, “I’d recommend you try to identify what changed to make your computer stop shutting down successfully. Was it the addition of more software or hardware?” She also suggested visiting http://www.aumha.org/a/shutdown.htm, which offers step-by-step support advice for various operating systems. Ebcdic2 was grateful but still thwarted. “The site is indeed very informative, and I’ve now bookmarked it. Thanks, but [the site] didn’t solve my problem.”

Check the BIOS
Changes to the Power Management settings, a registry edit, and a search of the Web all left ebcdic2 empty-handed. Welli thought the BIOS should be checked and asked whether the system’s power supply mode is of type AT or ATX. If it is ATX, Welli suggested changing the BIOS settings to AT. Unfortunately, this fix wasn’t applicable. According to ebcdic2, “This system is an old AT system. ATX wasn’t even thought of when [my system] was built.”

Finally, member TheChas was able to shine a bit of light on the situation. “Make sure that you have power management enabled in the BIOS settings. For some systems, if power management is disabled in the BIOS settings, Windows cannot shut down the PC.” This turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. Ebcdic2 graciously responded, “The problem was indeed related to the BIOS power management settings…[and is] now fixed.”

Power to the people

Have you battled a PC power-down problem? How did you resolve it? What tips do you have regarding power management? Post a comment to this article and share your power management tips or visit TechRepublic’s Technical Q&A section for advice on your tough IT problems.