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Tricks & Tips

Posts Tagged ‘Power’



One reader asks, “How much does it cost to run my computer? How can I minimize this expense?”

  • Scenario #1
    You leave your high end gaming computer on 24/7.   This comes in approximately $325/year.  Average computer on 24/7?  $145/year.
  • Scenario #2
    You have a new, energy saving, small laptop you only use 2 hours a day.   This could cost as little as $5 a year.  Average computer on 8 hours a day?  $93/year.
    Based on $.10 per kilowatt – current approximate price for residential in Greenwood, SC

That’s a pretty huge difference above.  These are of course, opposite extremes.  It depends on your computer, and your use.  And especially if you use power saving options.

A typical desktop computer uses about 65 to 250 watts. Add another 35 watts for a flat screen (LCD) and 80 watts for old school large monitor (CRT).  In sleep or standby mode?  Just 1-6 watts!

How to Reduce the Cost

  1. Use power saving modes (keep reading to learn how)
  2. Use an LCD monitor instead of CRT
  3. Turn off your computer when done for the day
  4. Use a power strip to turn off your computer and accessories with one click

How to Setup Power Saving Modes
Energy Start already has a good tutorial on this setup:

Or, just run the following scripts on your computer for automatic setting changes:



One reader asks, “Should I turn my computer off at night?  Would it save enough in the long run to justify? What about wearing out the switch?”

If you leave it on…

  1. Automatic updates will run when you’re not there
  2. Your backup can complete when files aren’t in use
  3. Virus scans are completed and don’t slow you down during normal use
  4. Your computer is ready to go when you are

If you turn it off…

  1. Save energy / expense
  2. Potentially safer (not connected to the Internet)

Switching a computer on and off every day versus leaving it on all the time is highly debatable, but I think most agree now days that with current technologies, it doesn’t make a difference either way anymore.

I use my computer a lot.  I want it on when I’m ready to use it.  I leave it on 24/7.  For others that may only use their computer once a day or every other day, stand by or off may be a better option.


By Terry Kirby


Here are 10 ways you can greatly extend the use of your battery’s charge while on the go.  Extend, as in 30 minutes or more!

  1. Reduce screen brightness – This is huge.  The lower, the better.  Check keyboard icons for which buttons modify this. Probably hold the Fn key while pressing up or down, or one of the F keys (F6/F7?).  It all depends on your model.
  2. Tune the radio off! Most laptops have an external switch to turn off wireless and Bluetooth radios.  Again, probably an Fn + F key on the keyboard.
  3. Limit usage of external devices such as USB connected devices.
  4. Don’t open many applications at once.
  5. Exit programs you aren’t using. Programs that start with your computer are just pulling away at your battery.  Exit things like QuickTime, MSN Messenger, Google Desktop, etc.
  6. Keep it cool.  Increased heat it puts more stress on your laptop and starts up the fan.
  7. Use hibernation when not in use vs sleep mode.
  8. Use light programs such as Word, Excel, or internet browsing. Stay away from graphic intensive applications or even media players.
  9. Avoid playing games, music, or DVDs.
  10. Mute your sound.

Solid state drives are available in some new laptops.  They’re basically a huge flash drive instead of a hard drive at all.  As they don’t have any moving parts, some manufactures advertise up to 18 hours of usage.  Look for this option on your next purchase.

Need power while stuck in an airport?  A Microsoft employee started this wiki to detail power outlet locations.


USB Port for Your Car

June 19th, 2008

USB Car Adapter
You can get a USB adapter that plugs into your cigarette lighter in your car.  They can be extremely useful.  I just got one the other day and I love it.  Use it to power or charge your MP3 player, GPS unit, camera, etc.  My BlackBerry uses a standard USB cable so I charge my cell phone battery.  Don’t buy the proprietary $30 chargers for EACH device.  If your electronics have power options via USB, just power it with the cigarette lighter USB converter.

Wal-Mart, OfficeMax, and Radio Shack probably all have them.  I found several suppliers online for less than $5.  Here are some links if you prefer to shop from home:
http://tinyurl.com/5bx38h  (has light to indicate power, 2 USB ports)
http://tinyurl.com/636mat  (great photos and reviews,  no light and only single port)

(There are also some that convert a 110 home power outlet to a USB charger. That’d  be great for traveling / hotels.)


Battery Backup

May 22nd, 2008

UPS BatteryLet me get right to the point: You need a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply, aka. “battery backup”) on most electronic devices you own, especially your computer. If you value your investment, or the data you have collected, don’t skimp here.

Without a UPS, your computer or other electronic device plugs into your electrical outlet and is subject to whatever voltage comes down the line. Low voltage (brownout), high voltage (spike or surge), or other conditions feed right into your device. This can cause minor damage or complete failure.

A UPS plugs into the outlet first. It conditions and protects the power it supplies to your computer. And they work well.  If they don’t, most manufactures offer a warranty of coverage of ($25,000 or more) to compensate.

A UPS is commonly known to provide battery time to sustain your computer while the power is out. On a basic UPS you have 5-20 minutes, tops. This is enough time to save your work and shutdown. Or to prevent shutdown if your power is on the blinks. To provide sustained uptime, that would be a generator. 😉

Recently an office we support had a rare incident of continuous high voltage throughout the office. Initially walking in in the morning, all the computers were off but the lights were on. Odd, but we later determined the UPSes disconnected power to the computers to protect them. A couple of hours later, the power company found a problem on their line. Other medical equipment in the office, not on UPS were fried.

Don’t wait for a problem to occur to take this serious. The common manufacture for UPSes is APC. Office Max sells these for $40 – $100.

Here’s a pretty well written FAQ I found online: http://www.jetcafe.org/~npc/doc/ups-faq.html.