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Computing Reminder: Sleep to Save Energy

As Earth Day nears, it's time for another round of publicity campaigns encouraging people to use their computers a little more efficiently. Today, the Climate Savers Computing Initiative issued a press release encouraging users to employ their computers' sleep or standby mode for an hour this Saturday:

During Earth Hour, the Climate Savers Computing Initiative is encouraging individuals to "click on" computer power management features, then "click off" (power down) their computers for the remainder of the hour.

It's a bit of a gimmick, but there's plenty of logic behind this goal, as I wrote last June.

(You'll note that while the Climate Savers site goes into great detail about the carbon dioxide emissions caused by inefficient computing, I didn't even touch that issue in the column. That was not an oversight: Some people may remain unconvinced by global-warming research, but I've never met anybody who wasn't interested in easy ways to fork over less of their paycheck to the electric company.)

The Climate Savers group--an organization founded by Google and Intel and now backed by such firms as Dell, HP and Microsoft--also commissioned a poll to see how many people were using the power-saving features built into their PCs. And as two Climate Savers reps explained to me in a briefing last week, the findings of this Harris Interactive survey weren't good.

While 74 percent of U.S. adults were aware of computer power management, the survey found that 46 percent incorrectly defined it. For example, 25 percent thought that turning on a screen saver counted (that will increase your electric bill, compared to letting the display go to sleep automatically), 25 percent thought "power management" meant managing the PC's performance and 15 percent identified it as not turning PC on and off too often. Twenty-one percent said they didn't know.

The Climate Savers site includes a page suggesting how to configure a Mac or PC to save as much energy as possible, with specific instructions for Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, XP and Vista, plus Mac OS 9 and X.

Unfortunately, Windows machines have earned a bad reputation for not implementing sleep mode correctly. These three recent reader e-mails are all too typical:

I have the power setting on my Dell PC set that after 15 minutes of non use the monitor turns off and after 20 minutes of non use, it goes into system standby. When I go to use my computer after that, there is no sound.
One of the reasons I bought my HP was for its energy efficiency. Unfortunately, even when I put it to sleep, it often wakes itself up just a few minutes later.
Have a desktop with Ultimate and laptop with Premium. The desktop does what I tell it and goes to sleep when I tell it to. However, the laptop seems to be from a different planet. For a test the "turn off display and go to sleep" times are 1 and 2 minutes for both plugged and battery. But the laptop must have found the fountain of youth because it never goes to sleep.

What's your luck been with getting Windows to sleep and wake up reliably? Have you found any troubleshooting tricks to fix problems like the ones those readers have reported?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 26, 2008; 2:02 PM ET
Categories:  Computers  
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