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Managing the Windows 7 Environment : Configuring Mobile Computing

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7/16/2011 3:40:05 PM
Windows 7 includes several features that are particularly useful for laptop computers. For example, through Power Options in Control Panel, you can select a power plan and enable power-management features. Enabling a power plan gives the user a chance to conserve battery life and get the most out of mobility.


To see many of the power options, you must be using Windows 7 on a laptop computer. If you are running Windows 7 on a desktop, you will see many but not all of the features covered in the following sections.

1. Recognizing the Improvements to Power Management

Windows 7 builds upon the power-management features that were introduced with Windows XP with some the following enhancements:

  • Battery meter, which provides a notification icon in the system tray that details the computer's battery power

  • Power plans, which are collections of hardware and software settings optimized for a specific function

  • Sleep power state, which combines the speed of standby with the features of hibernate mode

  • ReadyDrive, which provides faster booting and resume times when used in conjunction with ReadyDrive-capable hard drives


These power enhancements were present with Windows Vista but I listed them here because I understand that many users and administrators did not switch to Windows Vista.

After looking at some of the features of Windows 7 Power Management, let's take a look at managing the different power options.

2. Managing Power States

In Windows 7, the Advanced Configuration Power Interface (ACPI) specifies different levels of power states:

  • Fully active PC

  • Sleep

  • Hibernation

  • Complete shutdown of PC

The sleep power state is a new power state introduced with Windows 7 that combines the features of hibernate and standby. When a computer enters the sleep power state, data including window locations and running applications is saved to the hard disk, and that session is available within seconds when the computer wakes. The computer can thus be put into a power-saving state when not in use but allows quick access to the in-process user session, so the user can begin working more quickly than if the computer were shut down or put into hibernation.

Hibernation falls short of a complete shutdown of the computer. With hibernation, the computer saves your Desktop state as well as any open files. To use the computer again, you need to press the power button. The computer should start more quickly than from a complete shutdown because it does not have to go through the complete startup process. You will have to again log on to the computer. Similar to when the computer is put into sleep mode, all the documents that were open when the computer went into hibernation are still available. With hibernation you can easily resume work where you left off. You can configure your computer to hibernate through Power Options or by choosing Start, then clicking the arrow and selecting Hibernate from the drop-down menu. This option will appear only if hibernation has been enabled through Power Options.


Unless you want to completely shut down the computer, configuring the computer to enter Sleep mode is typically the best power-saving option. You may need to upgrade your computer's BIOS in order to use advanced power modes such as sleep

The Hibernation mode may not be available on your Windows 7 laptop machine by default. You must make sure your firmware can support Hibernation. If it does not appear by default and your system can support Hibernation, complete the following steps to enable the Hibernate function.

Exercise 1: Enabling the Hibernate Feature

  1. Open an elevated command prompt (right-click on the command prompt and choose Run As Administrator).

  2. Click Yes at the dialog box.

  3. At the prompt, type powercfg -h on and press Enter. Entering the same command and using the Off switch would disable Hibernation on the machine.

  4. Close the command prompt.

Now let's take a look at the different types of power options that you can configure.

3. Managing Power Options

You configure power options through the Power Options Properties dialog box. To access this dialog box, access Control Panel => Power Options. The Power Options dialog box provides the ability to manage power plans and to control power options, such as when the display is turned off, when the computer sleeps, and what the power button does.

3.1. Configuring Power Plans

Windows 7 includes three configurable power plans: Balanced, Power Saver, and High Performance. Power plans control the trade-off between quick access to an existing computer session and energy savings. In Windows 7, each power plan contains default options that can be customized to meet the needs of various scenarios.

The Balanced power plan, as its name suggests, provides a balance between power savings and performance. By default, this plan is configured to turn off the display after 20 minutes and to put the computer to sleep after 1 hour of idle time. These times can be modified as needed. Other power options that can be modified include Wireless Adapter settings and Multimedia settings. Wireless adapters can be configured for maximum power savings or maximum performance. By default, the Balanced power plan configures wireless adapters for maximum performance. The Multimedia settings can be configured so that the computer will not be put into Sleep mode when sharing media. For example, if the computer is acting as a Media Center device, then you can configure the computer to remain on by setting the Prevent Idling To Sleep option so that other computers can connect to it and stream media from it even when the computer is not being used for other purposes.

The Power Saver power plan is optimized for power savings. By default, the display is configured to be turned off after 20 minutes of inactivity, and the computer will be put into sleep mode after 1 hour of inactivity. Additionally, this power plan configures hard disks to be turned off after 20 minutes of inactivity.

The High Performance power plan is configured to provide the maximum performance for portable computers. By default, the computer will never enter Sleep mode, but the display will be turned off after 20 minutes. When this setting is configured, by default the Multimedia settings are configured with the Allow The Computer To Enter Away Mode option, which allows the computer to enter into a new power state called Away mode. Away mode configures the computer to look like it's off to users but remain accessible for media sharing. For example, the computer can record television shows when in Away mode.

You can modify the existing power plans to suit your needs by clicking Change Plan Settings or you can use the preconfigured power plans listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Windows 7 power plans
Power PlanTurn Off DisplayPut Computer to Sleep
BalancedAfter 20 minutes1 hour
Power SaverAfter 20 minutes1 hour
High PerformanceAfter 20 minutesNever

Other Desktop options you can use are the Shutdown button and switching users. Let's take a look at these features.

4. Configuring the Power Button

Unless you decide to run your computer 24 hours a day, you will eventually want to shut it down. By default on the Start menu, you have a Shut Down button (this is called the power button). When you click this button, your machine will power off. But the power button does not have to be set to the Shut Down option. You can configure this button to Switch User, Logoff, Lock, Restart, or Shut Down.

You may have a machine that is shared by multiple users and it may be better for you to have the Switch User button on the Start menu instead of the Shut Down button. Configuring the Switch User option would make it easier on your users.

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