Windows 7 : Performance Tuning Your System - The Power Settings

10/1/2012 1:58:41 AM
The power settings under Power Options in the Control Panel provide features that enable you to adjust the performance of your system while conserving energy. To get to the power options for your system, click the Start button and select Control Panel. If the Control Panel opens in Category view, click the System and Security link. Then click the Power Options icon. The Power Options applet will open, shown in Figure 1. Click the down arrow beside Show Additional Plans to show the High Performance plan.

The Power Options applet provides the basic configuration for the power options on your system. The three plans listed, Balanced, Power Saver, and High Performance, are the default power plans for the system. You're able to alter the settings for the three default plans by either clicking the Change Plan Settings link beside the plan or, for the selected plan, clicking either Choose When to Turn Off the Display or Change When the Computer Sleeps from the left column. Clicking any of these links brings up the Edit Plan Settings dialog box shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1. The different options for power settings.

Figure 2. The basic options for setting the power conservation features of Windows 7.

Adjusting either of these options will alter the default plan you have selected. Clicking the Change Advanced Power Settings link brings up the Power Options dialog box, which includes the Advanced Settings tab shown in Figure 3.

With these options, you're able to drill down on individual options at a more granular level. If you change something that you think you shouldn't have, you can click the Restore Plan Defaults button to get back to where you were. Note that notebook computers have additional power options not typically available on desktops.

Figure 3. The Advanced power settings.

1. Create a power plan

If none of the default options meet your needs and you'd like to build your own power plan, click the third link on the left side of the Power Options applet, Create a Power Plan. Clicking this link brings up the window shown in Figure 4.

To make it easier, Windows lets you create your power plan from one of the three defaults. You're also able to name the plan on this page. After you've set the name of your plan, click Next. The next window allows you to set when you want to turn off the display and when you want to put the computer to sleep.

After you've configured these last two options, click the Create button. When you are back at the Power Options applet, your plan should be first on the list and selected.

2. System settings

Clicking the first two links on the left side of the Power Options applet, either Require a Password on Wakeup or Choose What the Power Button Does, takes you to the System Settings page shown in Figure 5.

Figure 4. The first step to creating your own power plan.

Figure 5. Options for power buttons and password protection.

With older computers, when you pressed the power button, the system would power off. With current computers, the power buttons take on a different role. Under the first heading in this window, Power Button Settings, you determine what happens when the power button is pushed. You're given three options, discussed here:

  • Sleep: If you select this option, the data you are working on will be stored in memory and to the hard drive. The system will run using very little power until you press the keyboard or move the mouse. On a notebook computer, when Windows notices that the system is running low on battery power, Windows will start writing the information to the hard drive. Upon restarting, the system will move all of the information from the hard drive to memory, just as the system was left originally. Usually, it takes 2 to 3 seconds to bring the computer back from Sleep. Sleep mode is not limited to notebooks. Most newer desktop computers also support it.

  • Hibernate: Using this option will take all of the information you have in memory and write it to the hard drive, then shut down the computer. Upon resuming, your system understands that there is a file on the hard drive that contains the picture of what was in memory, and the system copies the information from the hard drive to memory. This is a snapshot of what you had running when the system went into hibernation.

  • Shut Down: This selection will shut down the computer without saving any of the data you have in memory. Windows will prompt you to save your work before you shut down. This method does a graceful shutdown of Windows.

After you've determined which option you want, click the Save Changes button.

On the System Settings window, you're also able to set the password option for what happens when the computer wakes up. As indicated by the text next to each of the options, when your system wakes from Sleep, the user may be prompted for a password. Obviously, the more secure option is to use a password. However, if this is your home system and you are the only one with physical access to the system, it's sufficient to pick the second option.

Windows 7 includes a technology called ReadyDrive, which combines hard drives with flash memory to help with performance and power consumption. When the hard drive spins down to conserve battery life, some of the information can still be accessed from the flash memory on the hard drive. The flash memory consumes a fraction of the power compared to that of a typical hard drive. The advantage of ReadyDrive for notebook PC users is that Windows 7 can read data that is cached in the drive's flash memory without spinning up the drive, conserving battery life and extending drive life.


The settings described in this section are the most common settings based on the hardware. For instance, if you're using a laptop, you may have two additional or different options on the left side of the Power Options window: Choose What Closing the Lid Does and Choose What Power Buttons Do. These options are specific to the system and offer additional options for power management.

With all of the power options available in Windows 7, you should be able to conserve resources on your system while still making your system very responsive. The power options will probably benefit a portable user more so than a desktop user.

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