How Windows XP wasted $25 billion of energy - but will Vista be eco-friendly?

How Windows XP wasted $25 billion of energy - but will Vista be eco-friendly?

Summary: Treehugger examines how Windows XP wasted about $25 billion worth of energy and contributed 225 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere over the past 5 years.

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TOPICS: Windows
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Treehugger examines how Windows XP wasted about $25 billion worth of energy and contributed 225 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere over the past 5 years.

Microsoft has been touting Vista's new power saving features, saying that upgrading to Vista could easily save consumers and corporations $50 to $75 per computer per year in energy costs. The question, though, is what marvelous new code makes this miracle possible. The answer? They fixed three stupid mistakes that have cost the world billions of dollars and millions of tons of CO2 in the past five years.

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So what were these three mistakes? 

  • The default power-saving options for Windows XP were usually set to "High Performance"
  • It was too easy for applications to override sleep mode
  • Difficulty in administrating power saving features

It's very easy to underestimate the amount of power a PC consumes.  While someone who left their car running all night because it would allow them to get going quicker in the morning deserves a serious wedgie, leaving a PC and monitor on overnight really isn't thought of as being all that bad.  It is, but it's a socially acceptable form of waste.

Under Windows Vista these issues have been addressed, but is switching to Windows Vista an "eco-friendly" move?

Probably not.  First off, if you have to landfill your old PC and buy a new one to run Vista, then that's far from being a sane thing to do from an eco standpoint.  A far better solution would be to tweak a few XP settings and live with that, especially if your old PC is still up to the job at hand. 

If you do plan on upgrading your system (or systems), then consider disposing of the old systems in a thoughtful way - maybe by making a few power option tweaks and passing the system on to someone else who wants a PC.

Another problem is that a new PC isn't automatically going to be an energy saver compared to an older model.  For example, while AMD and Intel have worked hard to reduce the energy consumption of CPUs, GPU manufacturers have little or no regard for energy saving and have no shame about pushing the power requirements for new graphics cards to crazy heights.  These in turn need bigger and beefier PSUs, which waste even more energy.  Technologies such as AMD's 4x4 take energy wastefulness to new and dizzying levels.

My hope is that Microsoft will roll some of these power option fixes into the next service pack for Windows XP, and also that they work closely with OEMs and vendors to ensure that future PCs offer the best performance possible for the smallest environmental impact.

Topic: Windows

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36 comments
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  • M$ should be held accountable for global warming

    polluting the world and increasing the national debt!
    The Government should fine them billions for their negligence.
    Linux Geek
    • Hate to break this to you but...

      As much as you like to blame Microsoft for every little thing in the world, The responsibility here falls with the hardware manufacturer. A PC with any OS will still use the same amount of power because that it is how it is designed better known as engineering.
      lenohere
      • You're forgetting about power management

        Effective power management makes a huge difference.
        Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
        • Not always...

          [b]Effective power management makes a huge difference.[/b]

          Power managment is only effective when it's put into use. If you go to the power managment control panel item in ANY OS - Windows, Linux, OSX, etc... and you make it so everything is "Always On" - and make the "Always On" profile literally do that, then it ain't worth a hill of beans.

          The flip side of the coin, however, has to do with the hardware itself. When you've got brand new video cards that require 1 KW power supplies - that's 1000 Watts, or 10 100 Watt lightbulbs, you've got the real root of the issue. While CPU makers (Intel and AMD) have made major inroads in cutting power consumption, video card vendors have been going in the opposite direction.

          Case in point, Nvidia's recently released EXTERNAL video card gear was designed to be external due to the immense heat the puppy generates. And we both known heat is the result of more and more electricity being used to power the rigs.
          Wolfie2K3
    • Shut up, fool.

      You're embarrassing yourself, even if you're too stupid to realize it.
      Hallowed are the Ori
    • Linux Geek should be held accountable for greenhouse gasses

      as he's allways talking out his butt...
      John Zern
      • No...

        Greenhouse gases are the cause of my neighbor.
        i've been telling him for 36.8 years to get a new car.
        Graham Fluet
    • Explain to me what power management features Linux has

      Does it have group policy configuration or some equivalent form of energy management? Does it have the hybrid S3/S4 sleep state?

      If the answer to any of these questions is no, would you then suggest we start fining Linux distro companies?
      georgeou
      • It's not the click of a button, but here you go.

        http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/6699

        then again, what with Linux is a click of a button?
        nucrash
      • George, George...George...

        Kindly please quit feeding the damn troll... He's a moron. He's YET to post anything with a semblance of intelligence.
        Wolfie2K3
  • I don't care if my pc belches black smoke

    As long as it's fast.
    Protector
    • I agree

      Speed, speed, speed. People that talk about pollution should look at their heating sources before they look at their computer.

      I personally have 7 boxes including two 4-way machines and their little jet engines are music to my ears. As long as I pay my power bill then I employ people who might otherwise not be employed...just doing my part.

      Also speaking of computer power how many machines does Google have...something like 1 million fire breathing commodity boxes...

      Let's shut down the internet for a couple of days so we can save mother earth:)
      THEE WOLF
      • Google actually does their part on power savings

        http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/Ou/?p=268
        georgeou
        • That would be Ideal for some home systems

          Not your run of the mill setup, but for those of us who happen to have nine or ten systems and always testing them. Although what would really make me happy would be to get rid of those 50 or so Power Adapters. I need one for the laptop, one for the printer, one for the LCD, one for the router, one for the cable/dsl modem, one for the firewall device. I have to plug two or three power strips into a single UPS just because all of these smaller devices require so many varied adapters.
          nucrash
  • It will take software as well

    Too many programs don't like falling asleep, or have difficulty with AppServers or DB connection upon awakening.
    Unless it works well across the board, people will just turn it off.
    mdemuth
    • Microsoft's own SMS Advanced Client

      really screws up a system that has woken up from sleep mode. All dial up networking connections (including PPPoE) fail to work until the system is rebooted.
      d.gruntled
  • How about...

    Just turning the PC's in the Office off at night?
    Badgered
    • Powering off workstations

      is not a viable solution in environments that rely on overnight idle periods to distribute applications, security updates, etc without disrupting end users.

      Wake-on-LAN packets cannot route in some networks, and timed power-ons via the BIOS are troublesome to enforce throughout an enterprise.
      d.gruntled
  • Fer christ sakes...

    As if letting the machine set idle with Linux, OS X, etc. is any different. Man, you need to get a life.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Power management on Mac OS X ...

      ... is a lot better than XP.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes