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Five PC Power Myths Debunked 551

Posted by timothy
from the ones-much-easier-on-wires-than-zeros dept.
snydeq writes "Turning off PCs during periods of inactivity can save companies between $25 and $75 per PC per year, according to Energy Star, savings that can add up quickly for large organizations. Yet most organizations remain behind the times on PC power management, in large part due to common misperceptions about PC power, writes InfoWorld's Ted Samson, who outlines five PC power myths debunked in a recent report from Forrester, ranging from the energy savings of screen savers, to the energy draw of powering up, to the difficulties of issuing patches to systems in lower-power states."
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Five PC Power Myths Debunked

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  • by cornercuttin (1199799) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:38AM (#26089885) Homepage
    this article was written by a self-aware PC who is tired of the human race's waste of time and energy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by halcyon1234 (834388)

      this article was written by a self-aware PC who is tired of the human race's waste of time and energy.

      Turn off the PC, save the world. And some money on your electric bill.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ServerIrv (840609)
        For my home computers this is great, but this won't work in a corporate environment. Say an employee loses 1 minute per day booting up a computer and logging into the network. That one minute adds up to over 4 hours per year (52 weeks * 5 days * 1 minute = 260 minutes -> 260 minutes / 60 minutes = 4.3 hours). If employers are paying their employees minimum wage then cool, otherwise they will only do this for a "save the earth" stamp on their door, not from a financial standpoint.
        • by plague3106 (71849) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:51AM (#26091109)

          See, your math is nonsense. Not that it's wrong, its just that you CAN'T combine all those minutes to get something productive. The minute I save each day isn't going to make a difference to the next day.

        • by Clanked (1156473) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:20PM (#26091567)

          That is under the assumption that workers use every single second on the job to be productive.
          You and I both know that isn't true.

          So a minute to boot up a computer, is not actually a minute lost. It can easily be made up later in the day if it is really that needed. (ex. Worker browses one less minute of /. in order to finish his job. THE HORROR!)

        • by online-shopper (159186) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:27PM (#26091705)

          That's why you use WoL to boot the system one hour before employees arrive, do a virus scan, check for updates, or other maintenance tasks.
          1 hour is generally enough time for updates and virus scan. Employees come into a machine ready to go, you get regular maintenance and everybody's happy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mcgrew (92797) *

          1. Turn on computer
          2. hang up coat, fill coffee cup
          3. log in
          4. ???????????
          5. Profit!!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by kimvette (919543)

          Ah, but that is immaterial. Employers should just dock their employees for the boot time. See http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/11/18/1754236&from=rss [slashdot.org]

        • by MrCrassic (994046) <<li.ame> <ta> <detacerped>> on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:56PM (#26092103) Journal
          Why can't computers have timers automatically configured to turn themselves on before the user enters the office?

          This is what I did in my last position, and it worked well. I was due to come in at 8:30am, so I turned off the computer when I had to go (or scripted a time for it to turn off if there was a process running), and configured the BIOS alarm to wake the computer up at 7:30am every weekday. Worked every time; the only thing I had to do was log in, but since credentials are cached, all of my background programs were started before I even had to type my user name.

          The only caveat is that I can't do this for Thinkpads for some strange reason.

          Lots of people are intolerant of even rebooting their computer during the day, but don't realize how infuriated they would get when their computer starts acting up because they didn't restart. Unless one works at a software development house, I doubt *most* users need their PCs on 24/7.

          Then again, I think I'm being naive for a repetitive intern.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by genner (694963)

      this article was written by a self-aware PC who is tired of the human race's waste of time and energy.

      Would it still be self-aware if we turned it off?

  • The units! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:40AM (#26089923) Journal
    They're all wrong! Ahh!!

    The average desktop draws 89 watts per hour. If it's left on overnight for 16 hours, it consumes 1.42kW. It's impossible for the power surge that occurs when powering on a PC to rival that figure: "You would be drawing energy at a rate of 17 kWh"

    Energy is kWh power is kW. "Energy at a rate" is power, and should be in kW not kWh.

    • by Yvan256 (722131) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:51AM (#26091107) Homepage Journal

      What do you mean, an european or an african kW?

    • by jsiren (886858) on Friday December 12, 2008 @03:14PM (#26094157) Homepage

      The average desktop draws 89 watts per hour. If it's left on overnight for 16 hours, it consumes 1.42kW.

      At which point the fire department shows up.

      (Public Service announcement follows)
      When surfing, always keep a keen eye on the current gauges!

      Remember: Only you can prevent computer fires!

  • Winter (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:40AM (#26089929)

    In the winter I leave my computers on. I don't think I am "loosing" any energy that way since it's used to heat my house.

    • Re:Winter (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MrSteve007 (1000823) on Friday December 12, 2008 @12:01PM (#26091261)

      The EPA awarded my company with one of their top awards this year for improvements to our facility, and energy efficiency. Overall we cut energy consumption 50%, but also used our energy more smartly, including a dedicated ducting system from our server room to the building entrances. We calculate that our servers put out between 8,000 & 12,000 Btu an hour. Most of our overnight heat now comes from the servers (which have to be on 24/7 for off site access), and we've reduced our server air conditioning loads by 80% annually. We're now beginning to implement this change into bank designs.

      In almost every application, it's ideal to shut off computers when not in use, but there are some business based situations where it makes sense to better harness waste heat from electronics, instead of fighting it with energy intensive air conditioners.

      http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=sb_success.sb_successstories2008_johnsonbraund [energystar.gov]

  • by theaveng (1243528) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:42AM (#26089963)

    >>>"Turning off PCs during periods of inactivity can save companies between $25 and $75 per PC per year"

    How am I supposed to download last night's episodes of Smallville and Supernatural if I have my PC turned off during the day? Jeez. Insensitive clod. ;-)

  • by SolitaryMan (538416) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:42AM (#26089965) Homepage Journal
    If you spend 10 mins per day turning you pc on and setting up your work environment, and 5 mins closing everything, the cost of your time spent on this task will negate $25 saved ten times.
    • by FauxPasIII (75900) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:54AM (#26090137)

      So suspend.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Firethorn (177587)

        But suspending doesn't drop power demand as much as shutting down; indeed, it could cut your savings in more than half if you have a yum-cha power supply. We're already looking at 15 cents of electricity a night in my area, it's getting into 'stupid green' territory. Heck, up here in the frozen wastelands any waste heat we eliminate has to be replaced via the heating systems - while NG and geothermal heat pumps are cheaper, again, you're chopping your savings in half or so.

        I'd argue greater savings could

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by oasisbob (460665)

          But suspending doesn't drop power demand as much as shutting down

          This varies a lot PC to PC.

          At work, I'm just now implementing power savings. The first strategy considered was to use a schedule and shut the computers off at night, and turn them on in the morning. I'm really glad we didn't go that way.

          Real-life measurements are crucial. One of our standard workstations (Lenovo 8808 + 17" LCD) draws 120W. With the monitor and PC in standby, the draw is only 3W.

          That's close enough for me.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:04AM (#26090285)

      Well 15 minutes of power on and power off is a bit exaggerated (unless you really misconfigure linux). Normally for most business PC it takes about 1 minute to power on and power off doesn't need to be counted as you can perform this action without you actually there you hit shutdown and it does its thing.

      That being said...

      >>> (20.00/60)*5*(48+(4/5))
      80.0

      Assuming 20.00 an hour average wage (40k per year)
      We divide this by 60 to give the rate per minute.
      Multiply this by 5 for the five work day week.
      Then multiply it by 48 and 4/5 for fifty work weeks (2 week vacation) a year and subtract one extra week and a day for holidays (New Years, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas) .

      So in theory it is more expensive to power on every day...
      However the human factor is not factored in even for your 10 minute days of inactivity. At the beginning of the day most people are not at 100%. They will power on the computer, take off their jackets, get some coffee, put their lunches in the kitchen, greet some people, clean their desk up a bit. Also any loss productive during 10 minutes can usually be made up.

      So you might as well power off at the end of the day and save some power and be better for the environment.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ElleyKitten (715519)

        Well 15 minutes of power on and power off is a bit exaggerated (unless you really misconfigure linux). Normally for most business PC it takes about 1 minute to power on and power off doesn't need to be counted as you can perform this action without you actually there you hit shutdown and it does its thing.

        I work on the help desk of a company with over 30,000 employees. It takes at least 5 minutes for our computers to boot up, and >10 minutes is not uncommon.

        However the human factor is not factored in even for your 10 minute days of inactivity. At the beginning of the day most people are not at 100%. They will power on the computer, take off their jackets, get some coffee, put their lunches in the kitchen, greet some people, clean their desk up a bit. Also any loss productive during 10 minutes can usually be made up.

        At some jobs, you can do that. At others (like mine) you're expected to be ready and working at your start time (there's a small grace period but not 10 minutes) and you can't do that if you're waiting on your computer to boot up, so that 10 minutes would have to be on your own time, coming in 10 minutes before you clock in. That doe

    • Any modern PC can S3 suspend.

      S3 suspend cuts power use by 95% and the PC resumes *INSTANTLY*.

      I can S3 suspend my laptop and have it run off the battery for over a week - open it up and I am back where I left off in about 2-3 seconds.

      There is no argument against having an IT policy MANDATING S3 suspend. Hell you can even automate it to do it by default every day at 6 PM unless the PC is in use (easily checked by screensaver APIs).

      • by netsavior (627338) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:29AM (#26090711)
        I have never had a PC or a Laptop which was able to reliably "Suspend" or "UnSuspend" Never in my life.

        Not with Windows or several Linux Distros. I would say at least 25% of the time the machine will not return and must be rebooted anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *

          Try a Mac. One of the things that initially impressed me most about my old iBook G4 was that sleep actually worked. (I have a Thinkpad X60 tablet now and while sleep mostly works, I never know whether it's going to suspend to RAM or to disk.)

      • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:33AM (#26090779) Homepage

        Any modern PC can S3 suspend.

        S3 suspend cuts power use by 95% and the PC resumes *INSTANTLY*.

        I can S3 suspend my laptop and have it run off the battery for over a week - open it up and I am back where I left off in about 2-3 seconds.

        There is no argument against having an IT policy MANDATING S3 suspend. Hell you can even automate it to do it by default every day at 6 PM unless the PC is in use (easily checked by screensaver APIs).

        I still have issues suspending/waking computers. Generally it works fine... But sometimes you run into odd issues.

        One client we support has a piece of software that hates waking from suspend. Pitches a huge fit. All sorts of errors.

        And I still have problems with some computers/OSes that really should handle S3 just fine simply choking on it. Won't resume reliably or whatever.

        The real problem I have with power saving options is rolling out the settings consistently across multiple computers. Last time I checked (and it has been a little while since I checked, so I could be wrong) there was no way to push out power settings with a GPO. Sure, you can set screensaver options... Turn off the monitor or something... But that doesn't get you a suspended computer. You can set options on the individual computer, in their motherboard settings... But that isn't easy to update/change across a network. You can throw together a pile of scripts to shut down machines...maybe try to use wake-on-LAN to power them back up in the morning...

        I'm not saying it can't be done. And I'm not going to say that you can't save any power by doing it. But there doesn't seem to be a simple way of managing these settings across a network yet. It still seems that power management is a hacked-together feature that was tacked on after the fact.

        I'd love to be able to push out a group policy that made all the computers on my network suspend after an hour idle.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by oasisbob (460665)

          Last time I checked (and it has been a little while since I checked, so I could be wrong) there was no way to push out power settings with a GPO.

          Almost true. Mostly true? Or used to be true. Or, in a perfect utopia, this isn't true anymore.

          There's a tool from Energystar called EZ GPO [energystar.gov] which lets you install an power managment agent on the client, and manage it using an administrative template. In my experience, it works pretty well. It's a bit weird though: for some configurations, the tool doesn't use the w

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Thank you!

      This is an "intangible" that is too often forgotten. I have my computer set up the way I want it. Not just in terms of installed programs, but in terms of what applications are open and how they are arranged on screen (and how they are internally arranged: e.g. toolbars, options, documents). This arrangement conveys information to me in much the same way that a "disorganized" desk actually contains important information for the user (the spatial arrangement of papers and piles allows the user t
    • by geekmux (1040042) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:08AM (#26090365)

      If you spend 10 mins per day turning you pc on and setting up your work environment, and 5 mins closing everything, the cost of your time spent on this task will negate $25 saved ten times.

      Takes you five minutes to close everything? Jeez, my users just flip the button on the power strip. Log off and shut down in 3 seconds or less...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thesolo (131008) *
      Mod parent up. My current setup at work, which consists of two desktop machines (one Vista, one Ubuntu) and one laptop (OS X), takes 20 minutes to get everything up & running from being shut off.

      It takes a lot of time to get them booted, load the various pieces of development software, open the projects up, find the pieces of code I need to work on, etc. Furthermore, the Vista PC (brand new Dell XPS) has annoying problems with being put to sleep; for example, when you wake it up, the audio stops w
    • by theaveng (1243528) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:11AM (#26090415)

      Good insight. With my salary a 15 minute loss would be $3000 lost per year. However shutdown time is not something I have to sit and watch, and it doesn't really take 10 minutes to bootup (more like 5), so that reduces the loss to one-third my original calculation - just $1000.

      That does exceed the $25 in power savings.

      This is why so few people choose energy efficiency. The money saved does not compensate for time/wages lost. Perhaps when oil hits $1000 a barrel, then people will be more mindful, but for now energy is just too cheap.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sunking2 (521698)
        Or you could make up the time lost by shaving 5 minutes a day off of the bullshit non work related stuff that you do every day. Like posting on slashdot, talking about last nights episode of Heros, or telling someone about your plans for the weekend. People don't choose to do it because they are lazy and possibly impatient. Not because they are trying to give the company the most for their time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gstoddart (321705)

        Good insight. With my salary a 15 minute loss would be $3000 lost per year. However shutdown time is not something I have to sit and watch, and it doesn't really take 10 minutes to bootup

        No, but by the time I open my source-coded control program, my mail, my IM client, the document I was editing, my development environment, my trouble ticket application, my folders to check the nightly builds, and all that other crap, this really would be many minutes of wasted time for me each morning.

        An IT mandated policy

    • Do they care? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:32AM (#26090761) Journal

      From my experience with some corporations, the way it works is more like:

      1. The left hand doesn't know, and doesn't want to know what the right is doing. If your department can save $10 bucks, but it costs everyone else 10 million in workarounds and lost productivity, who cares? You're the greatest anyway.

      2. Any attempts to rein in waste and such effects, just introduces one more layer who'll get their bonus for making you buy a tool that costs $10 less, but where you spend 100,000 more in salaries to do the same job. Occasionally it introduces a masked form of corruption too: they get more bonus for buying a $1000 pencil at 50% discount, than a normal one at 5% discount. In the former case they "saved" $500 per pencil. They're that great.

      3. Don't underestimate interdepartment power games. Making you curse and waste more effort for implementing my hare-brained cost-cutting schemes, is the gretest achievement some people can get. It's me having power over you. For some people it's a powerful drug.

      4. Theatre. Being seen as doing something beats doing the right thing. You can see that at all levels and in all domains: security theatre, cost-saving theatre, etc. Being seen as being teh great green saviour can beat actually saving money.

      5. In that vein, beware the new boss who just has to piss on everything to mark his new territory. The higher level, the more dangerous. These guys _have_ to show that they changed something. It shows vision, leadership, etc. So he'll cheerfully make an actual loss, just so he can put a good leadership and vision theatre.

      6. There's a whole caste of people across the pyramid whose goal in life is to not rock the boat and not be responsible for anything. It's better to comply with a dumb rule (even one that wasn't supposed to apply to your situation or domain) than to have anything be your personal decision, and responsibility if it fails. Applying someone else's rule is like having a papal indulgence: whatever goes wrong, you're not the one who'll be punished for it. These fine guys and gals would mindlessly enforce even turning off the computers _during_ work hours, if that's what the rules say.

      7. Don't underestimate the effect of rewarding failure. E.g., see the thing about "saving" money by buying a disproportionately _more_ expensive thing. E.g., in some places, keeping the people under you from doing their job can mean needing to hire more people, and if you get enough of them you get a promotion. E.g., being the guy who dumbly applies rules without thinking, cam actually get one a promotion or at the very least it's often enough to not get demoted or phased out.

      So, yes, I've seen places where they paid consultants in the range of thousands per hour, but would rather pay those to twiddle their thumbs for a quarter of an hour while a baroque configuration starts, than "waste" cents on leaving that computer idle over night.

  • by zippthorne (748122) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:44AM (#26090001) Journal

    Myth No. 1 really hurts to read. I'm not sure there is a single instance there where the units of power and energy are used correctly.

  • Lets see (Score:4, Insightful)

    by petermgreen (876956) <plugwashNO@SPAMp10link.net> on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:44AM (#26090003) Homepage

    Turning off PCs during periods of inactivity can save companies a substantial sum. In fact, Energy Star estimates organizations can save from $25 to $75 per PC per year with PC power management
    Lets assume each PC has a user who is paid at least $25000 per year. We can clearly see the savings on the cost of that employee and thier PC setup caused by this are negligable.

    he Forrester report does acknowledge that end-users have very little patience for downtime. However, it suggests that "potential user complaints can be mitigated by communicating the positive financial and environmental benefits of PC power management."
    Complaints or not the company is paying for any user downtime.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oasisbob (460665)

      Lets assume each PC has a user who is paid at least $25000 per year. We can clearly see the savings on the cost of that employee and thier PC setup caused by this are negligable.

      If you work for a company whose budget is a single line labeled "employees and stuff", you're probably right: nobody will notice

      However, for a small company with 100 workstations, implementing reasonable power savings can trim $7,500 a year off utility bills. That's nothing to sneeze at, especially if ThePowersWhoBe can be convinced

  • by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:45AM (#26090019)
    . . . as if millions of Folding@Home and Seti@Home clients suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AviLazar (741826)
      Last I heard monitors were the biggest cost on the average computer (not some twinked out machine). Given that - compromise - power down your monitor.
  • Word (Score:5, Informative)

    by IceCreamGuy (904648) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:46AM (#26090027) Homepage
    All through college I left my PC on 24/7, however now that I'm paying the bill I have thermal throttling and the other new power-saving standards all turned on, and I turn everything off (router, modem and all) entirely when I'm not using it. It's odd the way people look at it; at work some users say "Well I never leave it on at night because I know that it makes the computer die quicker" and some people say "Well I never turn it off because I want it to last longer." I think the truth is that modern hardware really can handle both philosophies and it's just a matter of convenience vs. power costs at this point.
  • by genner (694963) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:46AM (#26090029)

    "potential user complaints can be mitigated by communicating the positive financial and environmental benefits of PC power management."

    Now that just plain hilarious.

  • by ChienAndalu (1293930) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:46AM (#26090033)
    Sites like Blackle [blackle.com] suggest that a black screen saves energy. May have been true for CRT displays, but modern TFT Displays always have the backlight on, even on a black screen.
  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:46AM (#26090041) Journal

    Learn how to save $25 to $75 by purchasing the $279 dollar report that the article is hawking. No thanks. This article has no business even being on Slashdot. It isn't news, it is an advert.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gEvil (beta) (945888)
      Learn how to save $25 to $75 by purchasing the $279 dollar report that the article is hawking. No thanks. This article has no business even being on Slashdot. It isn't news, it is an advert.

      Only $75? I can save you $100!!! PayPal me $179 for the report today!
  • Bad economics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:50AM (#26090087) Homepage

    1.42kw for the computer to run overnight has a cost of around 10 cents to the company.

    Waiting 5 minutes for your PC to boot at the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour has a cost of around 55 cents to the company.

    It costs the company at least 5 times as much to have you boot your PC in the morning as it does to let it run overnight.

    • Re:Bad economics (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Timmmm (636430) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:06AM (#26090321)

      You're making the assumption that people work continuously whenever their computer is on, and do no work when it is off/starting up.

    • Re:Bad economics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jafiwam (310805) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:21AM (#26090575) Homepage Journal

      Any big IT department is also pushing out patches at night when the computer is on.

      The cost of a year of leaving the computer on (to get those patches) overnight is $75.

      How much is an infected and screwed up computer costing the company (because it didn't get patched quick enough)? Maybe half a day of IT guy's time? Maybe more... depending.

      There's lots of places companies can save some money by being more efficient, I think I'll look elsewhere for bigger gains first before compromising the ability to push patches during hours the office is closed.

      Heck, a "quit smoking program" for the company will probably save a whole crapload more in sick time, "smoke break" time and health insurance costs than electricity used the PC ever will.

  • by JeffSpudrinski (1310127) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:54AM (#26090133)

    I agree that you can save power with low-power (standby) modes on your PCs.

    However, as a network admin as a mid-sized company, I also have seen loads of frustrations where PCs (both laptops and desktops) don't come out of power save mode cleanly, requiring a reboot. Wake-on-lan is also a great concept, but also pretty buggy (again...in my limited experience trying to implement it). We also have issues where our client systems are using network applications with license pools (e.g. database applications or CAD packages). When a user leaves one of these applications open, then the PC goes into power save mode...it really freaks out when it comes back out of power save mode since the license server thought the system had released the license, but the client still thinks it has a licens in use. This situation usually results in the need to reboot, which frustrates the users to no end.

    I set all of our PCs here to lock and send only the monitor into low-power mode after 20 minutes or so. Then we don't have the problems with coming out of power save mode and having locked up or frozen applications (especially the aforementioned network applictions), but still save a good bit of power by allowing the monitor to be turned off automatically.

    Anyone have any idea what percentage of power is used by the monitor versus the PC itself? I don't have a clue, but I'd bet it's a pretty good percentage. There's also probably a big difference between CRT monitors and LCD monitors...again, my gut feeling, but I can't cite any numbers.

    Later,
    JS

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:00AM (#26090221)

    FTA: Modern computers are designed to handle 40,000 on/off cycles before failure

    With all the reboots required, that means I am limited to three Vista reinstalls?

  • by Daimanta (1140543) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:06AM (#26090313) Journal

    "Myth No. 5: My PC users will not tolerate any downtime for power management.

    The Forrester report does acknowledge that end-users have very little patience for downtime. However, it suggests that "potential user complaints can be mitigated by communicating the positive financial and environmental benefits of PC power management.""

    I love this kind of response. It's pretty much ignoring the problem. PC users will not tolerate any downtime for power management even if you "educate" them. This is trying to wave the problems away and it won't work.

  • by fermion (181285) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:13AM (#26090461) Homepage Journal
    These are the two that are the biggest problem due to power off, and power management, one the OS level, should handle this. I have all my machines automatically shut after a few hours in inactivity. But most virus checkers only have time of day settings, and there are no hooks from automatic shutdown to these important services that need to be run every day. Sure you can push an update, but that requires the machine be in sleep or hibernate, not shutdown. For small number of machines, this can be done manually once a week, but this is something that needs to be built into future OS if the OS is going to have weekly updates that require a restart.

    Then there is the issue of starting up for the day. Shutdown can happen automatically, but startup should be initiated by the user. Sometimes it does take several minutes to connect to online volumes or for MS to do whatever it does. I have seen a couple machines take a very long time to boot. Again, I think hibernate is a good compromise, but there must be hooks in the system to allow virus updates and other patches.

    All this means that all applications must be closed in case a automatic update occurs, something I almost never do on my machines. I put them to sleep, but my apps are open. On my MS Windows machine, this every once in while means I have to start all over again loading apps.

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Friday December 12, 2008 @11:51AM (#26091113)

    I would always leave my bedroom PC on in case I needed to FTP into it and get some data when I was away from home. Since then, though, I've learned that it's easy to power up my PC from anywhere in the world. Then I VNC into it, do stuff and shut it down.

    It really feels like I'm living in the future! Actually, my computer is set to auto-hibernate when there's no activity for a while, and WOL can wake it from this as well. These days I also wake my computer from work before I go home, and set it to download the previous night's Colbert torrent, so that it's ready when I get home. Now I need some sort of a USB-switchable power strip so that I could control the power of my other appliances, like lights and audio system.

  • by Bengie (1121981) on Friday December 12, 2008 @02:07PM (#26093209)

    " "Modern computers are designed to handle 40,000 on/off cycles before failure, and you're not likely to approach that number during the average computer's five to seven year life span."

    Too bad all major HD manufactures claim 10,000 power cycles, and many power saving settings will turn off a HD w/o doing anything else. Which means you may have many more than 1 HD power cycle per computer power cycle.

    "some studies indicate it would require on/off cycling every five minutes to harm the hard drive."

    over how much time, because if you did this continuously, you would kill a harddrive in less than 35 days since you would have eat'n all 10,000 average power cycles.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mollymoo (202721)

      Too bad all major HD manufactures claim 10,000 power cycles, and many power saving settings will turn off a HD w/o doing anything else.

      That number sounded wrong, so I checked some typical 3.5" desktop hard drives. These are the first three I looked at.

      Seagate 7200.10 [seagate.com] : 50 000 start/stop cycles.
      WD Caviar Blue [wdc.com] : 50 000 start/stop cycles.
      Hitachi Deskstar T7K500 [hitachigst.com] : 50 000 start/stop cycles.

      Since Seagate bought Maxtor and Hitachi bought IBM's storage division, those three are all the major manufacturers of desktop hard drives.

      Head wear is the limitation with stopping and starting typical desktop hard drives. Desktop drives typically park their

  • Selective power-down (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday December 12, 2008 @04:12PM (#26095029) Homepage

    I've traditionally left my machines running, to avoid thermal stress from power-cycling and mechanical wear on parts from spinning up from a dead stop. I've found the big savings comes from two things:

    • Power down the display when not in use. CRTs were the single biggest power-hog on a computer, and putting them into a low-power standby mode (trickle current to keep the circuitry warm for restart) was an instant 40% power savings. LCDs use less power, but since they don't have coils and beam guns that need to be kept warm I can turn them off pretty much completely.
    • Use an OS that knows how to properly idle the processor and chipset. Done right, you can cut 75% of the mainboard's power consumption without actually powering anything down.

    If I need more power savings, I might spin down the hard drives. But modern drives don't use that much power just to keep the platters spinning, most of their power consumption's driving the heads. Simply retracting the heads and not moving them lowers the drive's power consumption by a fairly big percentage, and that'll happen automatically when the system isn't accessing the disk. None of this requires any fancy sleep or hibernate or suspend magic.

    I have noticed one thing, though. My Linux systems go idle fairly cleanly. Nothing's happening, minimal CPU time gets used (mainly the regular cron process waking up to check whether there's anything to run, then going back to sleep) and the hard drive stays completely idle. Windows, OTOH, keeps pinging the hard drive every 5 seconds or so even when completely idle. It's not much, just enough to make the HDD light flicker, but I don't see that with Linux. It makes me wonder how much of the "You need to put your system to sleep!" hype is simply because Windows doesn't know how to idle properly?

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