With growing interest in curbing global warming, reducing carbon footprints, and developing green technology, the power consumption of a personal computer is not a trivial matter. And if your PC happens to be a notebook, the amount of power consumed has a direct relationship to battery life. Minimizing power consumption will maximize battery life.

But how do you know how much power your PC is consuming? How do you troubleshoot the problematic power-draining functions?

Well, with Microsoft Windows 7, you can use a small applet called the Power Configuration Utility. Run from the command line with the right switch, it will create a detailed file that thoroughly examines power usage on your personal computer. Here is how it works.

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Create the report

To create your energy report, you will need to type a specific instruction on an elevated administrator-rights command line. Click the Start Menu button and type cmd in the search box as shown in Figure A. The first application shown should be the command-line executable file. Right-click on that file name.

Figure A

Type cmd in the search box.

That right-click will reveal an additional menu where you can select to run the command-line executable in the administrator mode, as you can see in Figure B.

Figure B

Run cmd.exe as administrator.

Once inside the command-line box, type this command and hit the Enter key (Figure C):

powercfg -energy

Figure C

Type the energy report command.

The computer will take about 60 seconds to run the tests (Figure D) and create the report (Figure E).

Figure D

First tests are run.

Figure E

Then the report is created.

Exit out of the command-line box and start Windows Explorer. Navigate to the Windows\System32 folder (Figure F) and look for a file named energy-report.html.

Figure F

Find energy-report.html.

When you open the report, you will find Analysis Results broken down into Errors, Warnings, and Information. For example, under the Errors category on my test machine (Figure G), you can see where I have modified the power settings to prevent display dimming. The analysis suggests I switch to a different setting to save power.

Figure G

This is the power consumption analysis.

Bottom line

The Energy Report created using this method will give you a starting point for troubleshooting excessive power consumption, but how you apply what it tells you will vary depending on personal preferences and usage patterns. And while making some small modifications to your PC power profile will not necessarily save the Earth from doom, it couldn’t hurt.

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