Energy Efficiency in Windows 7

As you might have guessed from some of my other posts, I’ve been doing a fair amount of work recently on Windows 7.  One thing I’ve been doing a bit of reading about is power management and if/how Win7 can influence our energy efficiency. 

Like may organisations we’re actively looking at ways to reduce the energy we consume, both in terms of within the work we deliver (i.e. designing buildings for our customers that consume less energy), and also the energy we consume as a company in our day to day operations – of which IT plays a part.

Having dig into it a little, Windows 7 has some interesting capabilities that should help us achieve our green computing objectives by reducing the power consumed by our desktop and laptop computers.  There’s some detailed info available from Microsoft directly so I won’t talk about it too much, but a few points are worth talking about.

A big part of a computers overall power consumption is the energy it uses when idle – not least because most computers spend a fair chunck of their lives in that state.  If you can’t turn them off or put them to sleep when idle, you should at least try to optimise tham a little.  Win7 helps by reducing the system resources that are used when idle, and reducing or postponing background tasks until the computer is being actively used.  It achieves this partly though increasing the number of background services that are only started when needed, cutting the amount of work Windows asks the computer to do.

In addition to managing core CPU, memory and disk usage, Win7 is also more intelligent about how it manages devices that are attached.  Displays, network adapters and Bluetooth radios can be scaled back to reduce power consumption, and in the case of displays Win7 natively supports ambient lighting sensors to optimise the brightness of the screen.

A big advantage for organisations managing a large number of computers is Win7’s improved support for management and diagnostics.  Group Policy can be used to set power policies, and a WMI provider allows for better scripting support through PowerShell.  This will allow a much more consistent application of power saving features across organisations.

Of course Win7, whilst an improvement, isn’t a sliver bullet that will solve all your problems.  There’s still a place for third party tools such as 1E’s NightWatchman. 

NightWatchman is actually a pretty good product.  Not only does it help you to shutdown computers overnight whilst gracefully closing applications etc, the backend components will also help you track benefits across your organisation.  It’s worth a look if you’re looking at cutting power consumption, whether for green or financial reasons.

Further info:
–  MS Win7 Power Management White Paper
MS Win7 Power Management Webcast (it’s level 200 so not too techie)
–  1E NightWatchman

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