In previous articles we covered all the basic settings you can configure in a power plan. However, we barely scratched the surface of the subject, as Windows 7 (and Windows Vista) offers a lot of advanced configuration options, which can help get the best balance between performance and power saving. This article will cover all the important configuration items and help you customize power plans in detail.
Opening the Advanced Settings for Power Options
The Advanced Settings panel for power options can be opened only from the "Edit Plan Settings" window. Type "edit plan" in the Start Menu search box and, from the Control Panel list of results, pick "Edit power plan".
This opens the "Edit Plan Settings" window, which shows the basic settings for the active power plan. Click on the "Change advanced power settings" link.
This gets you to the window with "Advanced settings" for power options, which we are going to explore next.
Choose the Power Plan You Want to Configure
First, choose the power plan you want to configure, by clicking the power plans drop-down box and choosing the one you are interested in.
There are a lot of things that can be customized. If you have a laptop, netbook or tablet, you have two settings that can be configured for each item included in the power plan: "On battery" and "Plugged in". If you have a desktop, there will be only one setting available for each item included in the power plan.
Also, the number of configuration items that make up a power plan vary based on the type of computer you have and its manufacturer. For example, some configuration items are available only laptops, netbooks or tablets, such as: "Lid close action" under "Power buttons and lid" or "Graphic Power Settings". Also, some manufacturers may include additional configuration items in power plans, while others use only the standard items. Therefore we chose to cover only the most common configuration items, which can be encountered on most computers.
For each setting, click on the + button to uncover all the details. The values displayed are the defaults for the selected power plan.
Hard Disk Power Options
The first setting concerns the time after which the hard disk(s) should be turned off. More precisely, after how many minutes of unused time, should the hard disk(s) enter the sleep mode. Note that this option does not interfere with the external hard disks connected via USB or any other interface - only those found in the case of your computer.
It can happen that, if you have two or more hard disks in your computer, only some of them are turned off, due to not being used for a predefined amount of time. This setting can be really useful in saving battery time but, if you are too aggressive with your settings, it can also be a nag as you need to wait for the hard disks to turn off and on again when you try to access them.
Click on the displayed values to change them.
Desktop Background Settings - Enabling or Disabling the Slideshow
The desktop background slideshow that Windows 7 offers might not consume so much battery, but nonetheless we advise you to pause it when on battery. You’ll appreciate this setting when you’re at 10% battery life.
The options for this setting are Paused or Available. Pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?
Wireless Adapter Settings
This is about configuring how much power you want to save when using your wireless network adapter. There are four types of power saving modes available: Maximum Performance, Low, Medium and Maximum Power Saving. Before changing this setting, take into consideration that performance goes down with higher power savings. More precisely, choosing "Maximum Power Saving" will cause your wireless network connection to function at lower speeds.
If you don’t need a fast Internet connection, you can set this to "Maximum Power Saving". If you don’t need a wireless connection and you are running in battery mode, you should turn off your wireless adapter completely, as it will save quite a bit of power.
Sleep - Power Options
If you are not aware of what Sleep, Hibernate and Hybrid sleep are, you should first read this article: Difference between Sleep, Hybrid Sleep and Hibernation in Windows 7. This section is about configuring the time of inactivity after which the computer goes into these three power saving states.
There’s a fourth setting called "Allow wake timers". This is about allowing Windows to wake from sleep so that applications programmed to perform tasks at specific hours, can perform them in case your computer is in sleep mode. One example of this is to have your computer wake up to run a Microsoft Security Essentials scan.
The available options here are Enable and Disable. When on battery, we advise you to put this setting on Disable.
USB Settings for Power Saving
Many USB devices need power the entire time they are plugged in and used. Good examples are USB memory sticks or USB mobile Internet modems. If you enable the "USB selective suspend setting", each time a USB device is not used for a while, Windows 7 will put it in a "suspend" state which saves energy and battery time. This is a good setting to enable even for desktop computers.
Power Buttons and Lid
Starting and closing a computer is more power consuming than putting the computer to sleep and waking it up. Choose one of the options Sleep, Hibernate, Shut down or "Do nothing" for when you close the lid.
You can set the power button action to be either Sleep, Do nothing or "Shut down". Whilst the sleep button action can be Sleep or "Do nothing".
Processor Power Management
Windows 7 has the ability of determining the optimal performance level required from your computer’s processor, depending on the applications and processes that are running. Therefore, it is able to dynamically place your computer’s processor in a performance state that gives only the computing power it needs. In order to save power, you should change the "Minimum processor state" setting to a low value and leave "Maximum processor state" at 100%. This way, when you do little on your computer, Windows 7 will use the minimum processor state, thus saving energy. When Windows 7 needs a lot of computing power, it will automatically switch the processor to the maximum state.
You can also set a lower "Maximum processor state" if you want to get more juice from your battery. However, you should not set it to anything less than 100% when running your computer plugged in to a power source.
There is a third configuration item called "System cooling policy", for which you have two options: Active and Passive. Active cooling slows down the processor after speeding up the cooling fan. This helps cool your processor faster. The passive cooling slows down the processor before speeding up the cooling fan. Therefore power is saved by speeding up the cooling fan only when the temperature of the processor gets too high, making it the best approach for when running in battery mode.
Knowing that the display is the component that consumes the most battery, the time of inactivity after which the display should be dimmed or turned off is important. So, we recommend using small minute values while on battery. The first display setting is the time after which the display should be dimmed.
Next, set up the period of inactivity after which to turn off the display.
Since the brightness of the display determines how much power it consumes, we advise you to find the minimum value that is comfortable for you to see things, while running on battery.
The last display setting concerns the brightness of the display while dimmed. Lower values are better for saving energy.
This section is about deciding how your computer handles sharing media and playing video. When sharing media, you can: "Allow the computer to sleep, Prevent idling to sleep" or "Allow the computer to enter Away Mode". If you don’t know what Away Mode is, check out this article: What does Away Mode Do, Anyway?.
We recommend that, while plugged in, to set this on "Prevent idling to sleep" and while on battery, set this on "Allow the computer to sleep".
When playing video, you can set the computer to "Optimize video quality", "Optimize power saving" or Balance between the two.
Internet Explorer - Power Saving Features
There are several items that can be configured regarding battery notifications and behaviors. They do not help improve your battery time, they simply impact how Windows 7 acts while it reaches low battery levels.
The first item is about the action Windows 7 should take when it reaches the critical battery level. Choose Sleep, Hibernate or Shut down. When running your computer plugged into a power source, choose Do nothing. While running on battery, we recommend to use Hibernate because it uses the least amount of power of all power-saving states in Windows, except Shut down, of course. Also, never use Do nothing on battery, because the computer will simply turn off when running out of battery and you will loose any unsaved work.
The next two settings: "Low battery level" and "Critical battery level" are about you defining what it means to have a low or critical battery. It is best to set the "Low battery level" somewhere between 10% and 15% and the "Critical battery level" somewhere between 5% and 10%.
The setting "Low battery notification" is about whether or not you want to be notified by Windows, when this level is reached. Set it to On or Off, as you prefer.
Then, you can set the action executed when the battery reaches the low level you defined. Do nothing, Sleep, Hibernate or Shut Down are the actions you can choose. Usually this is the time when you should save your work and prepare for your battery to run out, so our advice is to use Do nothing for this setting.
When the computer reaches the so called "Reserve battery level", the operating system is prompted to start saving program and system data. Windows 7 allows you to configure this setting as well.
No matter what you do, do not set it to a value lower than 5%, as the operating system will need some power from your battery to save your data so that it doesn’t get corrupted or lost.
Graphics Power Settings
Usually, mobile graphic cards have a setting that allows you to extend battery life. For example, I have an ATI/AMD graphics card and I get the "ATI Graphics Power Settings" configuration item, which allows me to choose between "Maximize battery life" and "Maximize performance".
As you can see from this article, Windows 7 offers a lot of power saving settings to customize, allowing granular control over its energy saving capabilities. If you manage to mess up the settings of a power plan, you can also revert things back to the default values. If you want to learn how it is done, read the "Reverting to the Default Settings of a Power Plan" section of this article: Customizing Basic Power Plan Settings.
In case you have any questions on the topic, don’t hesitate to ask using the comments form below.
Customizing Basic Power Plan Settings
Save Battery Power While Browsing the Web in Internet Explorer 9
Understanding Power Plans & How to Switch Between Them
How to Create & Delete Your Own Power Plans in Windows 7