How Windows 7 Will Cut Computer Energy Consumption

Windows7logoThere’s quite a few reasons to cheer Microsoft’s next-generation operating system, Windows 7, which launched today — it could drive down the price of computers, help you ditch Vista once and for all, and couldchange the dynamics of the memory business. But here’s another: Windows 7 has some nifty new power management functions that will help cut down on the energy consumption of your PC or laptop. It’s about time.

Back in June, Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie told attendees of the utility-focused Edison Electric Conference in San Francisco, Calif. that Microsoft had made a “big investment” into more sophisticated power management features for Windows 7. Mundie said Microsoft was working on features like adding smarter power management functions that can put a computer into a low-power state and wake it up again much more quickly than other operating systems.

While I haven’t tried out the new power management features, Microsoft details some of the more energy efficiency upgrades of Windows 7 here. The OS uses fewer background activities than a standard OS, so the processor doesn’t use as much power, it has a more energy-efficient DVD playback, automatic screen dimming, a more accurate battery-life indicator, and it powers off unused ports. The biggest benefit that the consumer will see is that your laptop will be able to run longer without plugging in.

But when it comes to fighting climate change, it’s an even bigger deal. Mundie said he expects Microsoft’s power management functions to start to dramatically decrease the energy consumption of computers starting in 2010, when the next cycle of products will make its way into the market. PCs, peripherals and printers are responsible for 60 percent of the energy consumption of overall information technology (25 percent from network infrastructure and 15 percent from data centers) and the IT industry is responsible for between 2 and 3 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions according to researchers at the Climate Group and Gartner. So bringing down the energy consumption of our own computers will be very significant.

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