Windows 7 Power Options and Sleep Modes Explained

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windows 7 power managementWhen Windows 7 launched, one of Microsoft’s selling points was that it was designed to help your battery last longer. One of the main features users will actually notice is that the screen dims before it turns off. There are many more small changes that allow you to save power, but as with everything in life, you get what you put in and it helps to have a manual.

In this article I will explain how to set up a custom power plan, how to access advanced features, and what they do. I will look at various power off or sleep modes in particular.

Customize Power Plan

To access your Windows 7 power management plan, go to > Start and type > power options in the search field. Under > Control Panel pick the top result, i.e. > Power Options.

windows 7 power management

Windows 7 offers three standard power plans: Balanced, Power saver, and High performance.

windows 7 power settings

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You can also create a custom power plan by clicking the respective link in the left-hand sidebar.

windows 7 power settings

To customize the individual setup of a power plan, click > Change plan settings next to its name.

In the window that follows, you can change several basic settings. If you’re using Windows 7 on a laptop, you will be offered different options for running the computer on battery or plugged in. The screenshot below shows the default settings, which can be restored by clicking the respective link in the bottom left.

windows 7 power settings

To make the most of your battery charge, keep the respective settings on the low side. The default settings are pretty good and on top of that I would recommend to reduce the screen brightness.

Access Advanced Power Options

For several more options, click the > Change advanced power settings link in the bottom left. In the new window that opens also click > Change settings that are currently unavailable to access the full range of advanced settings.

windows 7 power management

This is where customizing gets fun! You’re presented with a host of options, some of which can completely change the behavior of your computer. Let’s look into them in more detail.

  • Balanced: Here you can set whether a password is required after wakeup when on battery or plugged in.
  • Hard disk: Decide when to turn off the hard disk in battery or plugged in mode.
  • Desktop background settings: Set the slide show to be available or paused.
  • Wireless Adapter Settings: Choose between different power saving modes: Maximum Performance, Lower Power Saving, Medium Power Saving, or Maximum Power Saving.
  • Sleep: Make your computer go to sleep after a set time, allow hybrid sleep, make it hibernate after a set time, and allow wake timers. More details on these options below.
  • USB settings: Enable or disable USB selective suspend setting. See this article for details.
  • Power buttons and lid: Allows you to set custom lid close action, power button action, and sleep button action.
  • PCI Express: Set the Link State Power Management to off, moderate or maximum power savings.
  • Processor power management: Adjust the minimum or maximum processor state and system cooling policy. This option depends on your CPU and allows you to underclock your CPU.
  • Display: This includes the basic display settings and on top of that you can set the dimmed display brightness.
  • Multimedia settings: Adjust multimedia settings for sharing media or playing videos.
  • Battery: Here you can set levels for low, critical, and reserve battery, as well as set a low battery notification, and choose actions for low and critical battery levels.

In addition, you may see other system specific options, which I have not mentioned above. For example graphics cards (ATI, NVidia) usually offer custom power settings. Some of the settings are clear and simple. Others may require some more explaining.

Sleep Modes Explained

In the actual Sleep mode, the computer doesn’t turn off completely and still uses a lot of energy to power the RAM. Monitor and hard disk are turned off, but as soon as you touch the mouse, the computer wakes up.

Hibernate means that the computer essentially turns off, but first the RAM is saved on the hard drive. When you reboot the computer, the RAM is loaded from the hard drive, so that you can continue where you left. This procedure can take a minute or two.

Hybrid Sleep is a mix of sleep and hibernate. The computer will go into sleep mode, but it will also save the RAM to the hard disk. If the battery runs out or power fails while during hybrid sleep, the computer will reboot as if it had been in hibernate.

Wake Timers allow the computer to be woken from sleep or hibernate, for example in response to a scheduled task (set respective trigger condition). This can be used to run backups and other remote tasks during the night.

Additional Reading

Besides getting some more computing time out of a single battery charge, picking the right power settings can also save you money, as Matt shows in his article Does Saving Energy With Your PC Really Help Your Wallet?

Several more Windows 7 power management energy saving tips can be found in the following articles:

Are you worried about your power settings? What has worked best for you?

Image Credits: Digital Genetics

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