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Power Options for Your Laptop

A challenge you face when shopping for a laptop is considering which features to sacrifice. If you go for a 600MHz Pentium III with a battery that lasts 3.5 hours, you can end up with a machine that weighs 8 pounds. If you travel a lot, you should look for a laptop that weighs as little as possible, perhaps no more than 5 pounds. If you find a fast, lightweight laptop that sports lots of memory and all the bells and whistles, you might have to sacrifice battery life. Of course, if a long-lasting battery is important to you, you can buy an additional battery. The bottom line is, all the bells and whistles on a laptop don’t do any good if your battery's dead. Fortunately, Windows 2000's (Win2K's) new power options can help you conserve battery life on your laptop.

Win2K comes with a couple of power-saving options. You can put your computer into either a standby mode or a hibernation mode, but your options vary depending on your hardware configuration. Not all computers support all power options. The available options will be visible automatically if your computer supports them. Generally, you place your computer in standby mode when you're away for a short period (e.g., you're out to lunch or are on a coffee break). If you're going to be away for an extended period (e.g., overnight), place your computer in hibernation mode.

Standby Mode
When you place a computer in standby mode, the system writes information to RAM and turns off the hard disks and the monitor to reduce battery consumption. Your computer is still running, but it's running in a state that saves battery power. Standby mode is essentially a sleep mode where your system is ready to wake up at any time. When your computer wakes up, you see your desktop exactly as you left it. All the programs that were open are still open. It's a good idea to save your work before placing your system in standby mode because the system writes information to RAM only, not to the hard disk, so if you lose power or your system crashes, you might lose data.

To configure the standby mode, open the Control Panel's Power Options program and click the Power Schemes tab, as Screen 1 shows. The default settings call for the system to enter standby after 20 minutes when the computer is plugged into a power outlet and after 5 minutes when running on battery power. Click Start, Shutdown, and you'll see the Stand by option in the Shut Down Windows dialog box, as Screen 2 shows. Click Stand by to put your computer in standby mode.

Hibernation Mode
The hibernation mode works a bit differently. When you hibernate a laptop, your hard disks and monitor shut down, as in standby mode, but the system writes any information in RAM to the hard disk and then shuts down the computer. To bring the machine out of hibernation mode, you must restart your computer. A computer emerging from hibernation starts more quickly than a normal system restart, and you see your desktop exactly as you left it when you put the machine into hibernation. However, emerging from hibernation takes a bit longer than emerging from standby because you restart your system.

You can configure your computer to go into hibernation either manually or automatically. To manually place your computer in hibernation, log on as an administrator, open the Control Panel's Power Options applet, click the Hibernate tab, click Enable hibernate support (as Screen 3 shows), and click OK. (The Hibernate tab won't be available if your computer doesn’t support hibernation.) Next, click Start, Shutdown. In the Shut Down Windows dialog box, you’ll see an additional option called Hibernate (see Screen 2). Click OK to place your computer in hibernation mode. Remember, you need to restart your system to bring it out of hibernation. Notice that your computer might require a large amount of hard disk space to hibernate because the system has to write the information in RAM to the hard disk. My laptop requires 192MB, as Screen 3 shows.

To hibernate your computer automatically, log on as an administrator and go to the Hibernate tab, as I described earlier. Check the Enable hibernate support option and click Apply. Click the APM tab (which isn't available on my laptop because it's ACPI-compliant), click Enable Advanced Power Management Support, and click Apply. Next, click the Power Schemes tab and select an appropriate time under the System hibernates option.

You can also password-protect your system from the Advanced tab. I strongly recommend passwords for both standby and hibernation modes if you’re at all concerned about security.

Laptops and Air Travel
Microsoft online Help reminds us that it's against Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations to operate a laptop during the takeoff and landing of a commercial airline flight. When you put a computer into either a standby or hibernation mode, there's a chance that the OS or some prescheduled program might wake the system, so Microsoft recommends that you turn off the computer completely to be safe. Several experts maintain that it's safe to use hibernation mode (but not standby) during a flight because a hibernating laptop is, for all practical purposes, off. Unless you manually turn it on, a computer won’t emerge from hibernation.

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