13 Ways to Save Power by Tweaking Power Plans in Windows

power plansWhen using a mobile device, spending energy as efficiently as possible is a must, so that you can use it as long as possible. This is why in modern versions of Windows, you can configure lots of advanced settings to get the best balance between performance and power saving. Read this article and learn 13 advanced ways to configure power plans in Windows, so that you can save as much power as possible.

How to Find the Advanced Settings of Any Power Plan

First, open the Power Options window, as shown in this article. Then, select the power plan you want to edit and the "Edit Plan Settings" window opens. Click or tap the "Change advanced power settings" link.

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This will open the window where you can configure advanced power plan settings.

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You can click or tap the power plans drop-down menu, to switch between power plans and edit more than the plan you have selected initially.

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There are a lot of things that can be customized. If you have a mobile device, you have two settings that can be configured for each item included in the power plan: On battery and Plugged in.

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If you have a desktop PC, there will be only one setting available for each item included in the power plan.

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Also, the number of configuration items that make up a power plan varies based on the type of computer you have and its manufacturer. For example, some configuration items like "Lid close action" in the "Power buttons and lid" section are available only on mobile devices. Also, some manufacturers may include additional configuration items in their power plans, while others use only the standard items found in Windows. Therefore we chose to cover only the most common configuration items, which can be encountered on most computers.

If you are not using Windows 8.1 on your PC or device, the order of the settings shown in our screenshots may be different than what you have. However, all the settings do the same things in all recent versions of Windows: Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1.

For each setting, click or tap the + button to expand it and show all the details. The values displayed are the defaults for the selected power plan.

Depending on your PC or device, you might see some settings being grayed out and a link that says: "Change settings that are currently unavailable". If that's the case for you click or tap on this link before moving forward.

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1. How to Require a Password on Wakeup

The first setting you can change is whether your computer will require a password when it wakes up or not.

Choose your computer's behaviour regarding the password requirement on wakeup, both when on battery and when plugged in.

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2. How to Save Power by Turning Off Unused Hard Disks

The Hard disk section lets you specify after how many minutes of unused time should the hard disk(s) be turned off. 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 device.

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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 the amount of time you specify. This setting can be really useful in saving power 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 on again when you try to access them.

3. How to Save Power when Using Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 9 introduced a setting named JavaScript Timer Frequency that slows down JavaScript execution in the browser. This leads to maximizing the battery life while unplugged.

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Two values can be set: "Maximum Power Saving" or "Maximum Performance".

4. How to Pause the Desktop Backgrounds Slide Show

You can set a slideshow for your desktop background, using the procedure shared in this article: How to Customize the Desktop Background in Windows 7 & Windows 8.

This desktop background slideshow might not consume that much power, but nonetheless it helps to pause it when on battery.

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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?

5. How to Maximize Battery Power when Using Wireless

The Wireless Adapter Settings section is about configuring how much power you want to save when using your wireless network card. 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. Unless you have the router near you, with a strong signal, you might not want to go for this setting, so that your transfer rates don't go down dramatically.

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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.

6. How to Save Power by Setting your Device to Sleep Faster

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. The Sleep section is about configuring the time of inactivity after which the computer goes into Sleep or Hibernate and whether you want to allow Hybrid Sleep or not. Please keep in mind that, in this section, you will see a different number of settings, depending on the type of device you have.

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There's also a setting named "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 even when your computer is in sleep mode. One example of this is to have your computer wake up to run a Windows Defender scan.

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The available options here are Enable and Disable. When on battery, we advise you to put this setting on Disable.

7. How to Save Power with USB Selective Suspend

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 will put it in a "suspend" state which saves energy and battery time. This is a good setting to enable even on desktop PCs.

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When you select the USB device that was placed in the suspend state, Windows will spend a few seconds to turn it back on, so that you can resume using it.

8. How to Save Power When Closing the Lid

Starting and closing a computer is more power consuming than putting the computer to sleep and waking it up. Is important to know this when you configure the actions for the power buttons and the lid.

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You can set the power button action to be either Sleep, Do nothing or Shut down, while the sleep button action can be Sleep or Do nothing. We recommend the Lid Close to be set on Sleep, the Power Button to Shut Down your system and the Sleep button, obviously, to make your computer enter the Sleep mode.

9. How to Set the PCI Express Slot to Save Power

PCI is a way your system's components communicate one with each other. However, to keep synchronization between components, the PCI interface needs to be always active, by sending an idle signal when there is nothing to communicate. This process, called a link-state, is energy consuming, and because it can make a difference on mobile devices, the PCI Express protocol comes with two low-power link states and the active link state. These link states are the options you have when configuring the PCI Express power settings. The low-power link states, will save your energy, but will slow down your system as you have to wait for the components to synchronize again when there is data to send and the interface is idle.

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You can choose between Off, that means you don't want to ever lose synchronization, but you will use more energy, "Moderate power savings" and "Maximum power savings". You must remember that more power savings mean less performance.

10. How to Set the Processor to Save Power

Windows has the ability to determine 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 will use the minimum processor state, thus saving energy. When Windows needs a lot of computing power, it will automatically switch the processor to the maximum state.

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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.

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There is a third configuration item called "System cooling policy", for which you have two options: Active and Passive. Active cooling means that your cooling fan will speed up and your processor will cool down while running at maximum speed. This way your system's performance is not compromised, but you will use more battery power. The passive cooling slows down the processor before speeding up the cooling fan, so your system could sometimes become cooler without even speeding up the fan and your processor will use less power, making it the best approach for when running in battery mode.

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If the cooling system for your processor is generally noisy, you can choose to opt for the passive cooling policy even when your PC or device is plugged in.

11. How to Save Power by Setting the Display to Turn Off Sooner

Knowing that the display is the component that consumes the most battery, the time of inactivity after which the display is dimmed or turned off is important. We recommend using small minute values while on battery. In Windows 7 the first display setting is the time after which the display should be dimmed. In Windows 8, this setting is not available because the display is set to dim automatically by the operating system after a few seconds of inactivity.

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Next, set the period of inactivity after which the display is turn off.

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Since the brightness of the display determines how much power it consumes, we advise you to use the minimum value that is comfortable for seeing things, while running on battery.

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The last display setting in concerns the brightness of the display while dimmed. Lower values are better for saving energy.

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In Windows 8.1 you get an additional setting, "Enable adaptive brightness", that uses a light sensor to adjust the brightness of your display.

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12. How to Save Power when Sharing Media

The section named Multimedia settings 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". In Away Mode, your computer acts just like when it is in Sleep but without shutting down running processes. If you want to know more about what Away Mode is, read this article: What does Away Mode Do, Anyway?.
We recommend that you set this to "Prevent idling to sleep" when the PC is plugged in and to "Allow the computer to sleep", when it is on battery.

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When playing video, you can set the computer to Optimize video quality, Optimize power saving or Balance between the two.

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13. How to Save Power When your Device has a Low Battery

In the Battery section there are several items that can be configured regarding notifications and behaviors.

The first item is about the action Windows 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 that you 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 lose any unsaved work.

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The next two settings: "Low battery level" and "Critical battery level" are about you defining what it means to have low or critical battery levels. In our experience we have learned that it works best to set the "Low battery level" somewhere between 7% and 12% and the "Critical battery level" somewhere between 3% and 7%. Do not set it to 1% or 2% because Windows might not have enough time to shut down your device before it runs completely out of battery.

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The setting named "Low battery notification" is about whether you want to be notified by Windows or not, when this level is reached. Set it to On or Off, as you prefer.

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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.

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When the computer reaches the so called "Reserve battery level", the operating system is prompted to start saving program and system data. Windows allows you to configure this setting as well. "Reserve battery level" should be smaller than critical battery, because when you reach the critical battery level you get a notification and you can still plug in your mobile device to a power source, but when you get to "Reserve battery level", your device will immediately enter the state you chose for the Critical battery action.

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No matter what you do, do not set it to a value lower than 3%, as the operating system will need some power from your battery to save your data so that it doesn't get corrupted or lost.

Conclusion

As you can see from this article, Windows has a lot of power saving settings that can be customized, allowing complete control over its energy saving capabilities. Don't hesitate to experiment with the tips shared in this article and share with us which power saving features helped you the most.
In case you have any questions on the topic, don't hesitate to ask using the comments form below.