Green Computing: Quick Energy Cutbacks for Your PC

This article provides a few simple ways to begin reducing your computer’s power consumption. The first consideration is whether you even need to have the computer on. But beyond that basic choice — on or off — you can perform the simple tasks outlined in this artilce to slow the rate at which you draw watts into your home computing enviroment.

Unplug peripherals
Any device plugged into your computer by universal serial bus (USB) uses your computer’s power just by the nature of its connection. If you have a mouse, touchpad, scanner, printer, or flash drive connected to your computer, it’s consuming electricity — maybe a tiny amount, but still some. Before you just plug out all the USB cables connected to your system, however, consider what they connect to — and use the Safely Remove Hardware Wizard in Windows to let them go gracefully. Here’s how to do that:

1. Double-click the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the Windows notification area. The Safely Remove Hardware dialog box appears, listing all peripherals currently connected to your computer.
2. Select the item you want to remove and then click Stop. The Stop a Hardware Device dialog box appears, as shown in the illustration, so you can confirm that you really do want to disconnect the device.
3. Select the item you want to remove and then click OK. The Safe to Remove Hardware balloon pops up above the notification area, letting you know that you can disconnect the peripheral safely. If the Safely Remove Hardware tool doesn’t seem to be working right in your version of Windows, check out the fix Microsoft has posted for this tool. Go to to find out more.

Dim the lights

Most of us like a nice crisp display, but you may be able to conserve some of the power your monitor uses by lessening the monitor’s brightness. You don’t have to trade eyestrain for a lower electric bill, though; you can find a happy medium. The brightness control is actually a hardware feature, which means that you need to look on the monitor itself to change the brightness on your desktop PC. Your monitor may have its own brightness-control buttons, or you may need to use the keyboard to find the brightness controls. Consult your monitor’s manual if you aren’t sure how to adjust the brightness. Your laptop may have a function key (labeled Fn) that you press along with another key to adjust the brightness. Typically, the characters on the Fn key are a different color from those on other (non-function) keys so you can locate a chosen key easily. Function-related keys on the keyboard have the same color as the Fn key, indicating that when you press Fn and then press one of these other keys, they perform specific tasks. When your laptop draws power from the battery, Windows dims the screen by default to conserve power. You can change the display settings as part of your Windows power management plan

Dump your screen saver

Once upon a time, screen savers really did save your screen from something. They were designed to keep the screen display moving to prevent a static image from being burned into the monitor when the computer was left inactive for long periods. Changes in monitor technology did away with the risk but not with the practice. Screen savers became fun photos of the kids, mazes, puzzles, or nature scenes to cool people down between meetings. Today, however, those cool screen savers are contributing to global warming because they keep your computer running when it could be blanking out and going to sleep. Here’s how to turn off your screen savers in Windows Vista and Windows XP:

1. Choose Start➪Control Panel.
2. Click Personalize. The Personalize Appearance and Sounds dialog box appears. Here, you can make all sorts of aesthetic changes to your Windows Vista setup, adjusting the color scheme and style of your windows, the mouse pointers, themes, sounds, and more.
3. Click Screen Saver. The Screen Saver Settings dialog box shows you the screen saver that’s currently active on your system. (See the illustration below.)
4. Choose None from the Screen Saver drop-down menu. 5. Click OK. In Windows 7, you nix the screen saver by following these steps:

1. Choose Start➪Control Panel.

2. Click Appearance and Personalization. The Appearance and Personalization dialog box gives you a range of settings that you can use to customize the look and feel of Windows 7.
3. In the Personalization area, click Change Screen Saver. The Screen Saver Settings dialog box appears.
4. Choose None from the Screen Saver drop-down menu.
5. Click OK to save your changes. Here’s one more procedure for good measure.

Do away with your screen saver in Windows XP by following these steps:

1. Choose Start➪Control Panel. If you’re using Windows XP, you see the screen shown in illustration above, earlier in this section. If you like the retro look of Classic Windows and selected that option in the past, look for the Display applet that appears in the Control Panel.
2. Click Appearance and Themes.
3. Click Choose a Screen Saver.
4. Choose None from the Screen Saver drop-down menu.
5. Click OK.

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