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.


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

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.

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