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Energy Saving Tips

Paint your computer green!

A typical desktop computer draws about 125 to 140 watts of power when in use.  Not only can this be wasteful when the computer is not needed, it also impacts our building air conditioning systems, since most of that energy is transformed into heat that is blown out the back of the PC.

These setting are best handled by your local systems administrator, but a reasonably savvy computer user should have no trouble turning their computers green. In a WINDOWS ™ computer, go to the START menu, then Control Panel, then Hardware and Sound, then either “Power Options” (classic view) or “Performance and Maintenance.”  You will then need to select the “Power Saver” version under preferred plans and make power management changes to that plan by selecting the option on the right “Change Plan Settings.”

Here’s a quick primer on computer power management.  Computers save energy through a number of steps which they can be configured to take after specified periods of idle time.  They’re listed below in the order they’re generally invoked:

  1. Turn off the monitor. This does not effect your current session, all applications remain open, and it can be reversed quickly. Boise State recommends all computers should be set up to power down the monitor and that the user’s password is required to return to your session. This step not only saves electricity, but it enhances the security of our computing network.  Five minutes is  a good setting for this feature, and your electricity usage will fall by about 30% when the monitor is turned off.
  2. Turn off the hard drive. This is not as effective as the other measures because operating systems use the hard drive periodically for background applications and they’re not as idle.
  3. System Standby. This mode comes from the laptop community and allows the system to nearly shut down while preserving your session.  Minimal power is consumed to preserve the state of your applications while making it fast and easy to return to it when needed.  When in Standby mode, your computer will consume about 5% of it’s normal power.  This adds up to significant savings.  Many users find that going into standby after 20 or 30 minutes is an appropriate setting.
  4. Hibernate.  This mode is as close to turning off the computer as you can get, but still preserves your setting.  The computer writes a large file to your hard disk recording all the details of your desktop and open applications, then shuts down the computer. Upon return, it takes a few moments (30 seconds or so) to read that file and gets you back to your desktop.  Having your system hibernate after 1 hour would be  a great energy savings over time.  In some cases you have to explicitly enable the Hibernate mode using the control panel.
  5. Power down.  Going through the system shutdown procedure turns off your computer and allows it to boot fresh when you come back. The re-boot process takes several minutes and this is why many people keep their computers running all night.
  6. Unplugged.  To make sure your computer is completely off, you must disconnect it from the grid. You can do this by either unplugging it, or using a switched power strip. In either case, this is the only way to ensure that you’re not wasting any electricity.

Folks at the OIT help desk are always available to help if you have any questions, call 426-4357 or email

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