Tuesday, July 5, 2011

10 Ways To Go Green On Your PC

Let’s face it, hybrid cars, solar panels and wind farms are invading! The trend of going green is catching up to all of us whether we like it or not and we see it virtually everywhere. If you’re looking to save on your energy bill or want to do your part by conserving, this article has 10 tips that can help lower power consumption and reduce paper dependency with your desktop PC.

1.) Upgrade your computer’s hard drive to a green drive

While more and more OEM computer parts manufacturers are upping the ante on computer power supply wattage and more stream processors on video cards, some companies like Seagate are taking a step backwards and creating hard drives that eat up less power. The idea behind a green hard drive is that its spindle speed is less, like 5900 rpm, but is engineered to perform virtually on par with its faster 7200 rpm siblings. The way they do is by enhancing other functions like offering 32-64mb cache buffer or utilize the new SATA 3 (SATA/600) interface which offers blazing-fast file transfers. These hard drives come in usually larger sizes, between 500GB to 2TB sizes and can be used in external drive cases.

2.) Switch to an Eco-Friendly Power Supply

How did we not see this one coming? A computer’s power supply unit is the most important power-related component. That being said, companies like Antec have been releasing environmentally-friendly power supplies such as Antec’s Earthwatts 650W-series. The idea here is that yes, it still puts out 650 watts. However, it provides continuous, quiet, reliable and stable power and all the energy needed to power the PSU’s fan, circuits and other components are reduced. According to Antec, their Earthwatts 650w model is 80 PLUS compliant which means it eats up to 33% less energy than an equivalent power supply with zero reduction in performance.

3.) Speed up your PC!

While this sounds hardly relevant to going green, having a fast-performing computer is important for several reasons. First, a fast-performing computer equates to minimized waiting time. Minimized waiting time can increase your productivity of what tasks you need to get done quicker and not have to use unnecessary power. By fast-performing, I don’t mean raw CPU speed. What I mean is keeping your computer quick by performing consistent maintenance. (Just like how auto experts will say the best way to keep a car’s mileage up is by proper maintenance) For example, you can use C Cleaner, which is a free & powerful tool that removes old junk files left by browsers in your hard drive, clears the Recycle Bin, Recent Documents, Temporary and Log files. Another one is Puran Defrag which is a unique disk defragmenter as it not only defrags your hard drive, but also organizes your boot files so Windows starts up quicker. If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, Tune Up Utilities 2011 can clean and optimize your entire computer in one application!

4.) Set your computer to auto-shutdown

Yes, some tasks do take a while to finish completing and you don’t want to wait around. You can actually find many free programs, such as Switch Off to shut down your computer. This program can be set to shut down your PC at a certain day, time or once, etc. For example, if you’re waiting for a movie to finish downloading or Windows to complete defrag, you can set this program to auto-shutdown 2 hours from now instead of leaving it on all night and thus eliminating the need for excess power consumption from idling after said tasks are finished.

5.) Switch your PC to a smaller form factor or all-in-one

Looking to buy a new computer or something more space-saving? Desktop PCs are now being built with more utility in mind. For example, many desktop PCs such as the Mac Mini offer a small footprint but still have the main amenities of a PC while sucking up less power. Another emerging trend is the all-in-one PC such as Dell’s Inspiron One 2305 which has the computer components built inside the LCD monitor’s chassis thus also reducing its footprint and eliminating the need for a second power outlet. This type of consolidated computer is more for people who don’t need the raw power of a desktop and/or are looking to downsize and get more space.

6.) Turn off unused peripherals connected to the computer

You can save additional power by turning off unused peripherals attached to your computer such as scanners, printer docks, hard drive docks and that 12-port hub (with its own power cable) that you’re not even using half of its USB ports. Granted, the idea here is to turn off UNUSED items and not the ones you use on a daily or weekly basis.

7.) Switch to a laptop from a desktop

Yes, it’s been shown through sales that notebooks have steadily crept up to desktop computer sales in terms of number of units sold and yes it’s true they have surpassed desktop sales. The point is that if you’re looking to upgrade to a new system, you might want to consider picking up your next computer in a laptop form. Notebooks come in many shapes and sizes such as the good ‘ol 15.6”- 17” desktop replacement to the fun-sized 10” power-sipping cheap netbook. The big picture is that you should examine your purposes for buying a computer and determine whether a desktop PC is really needed. For example, if you’re planning on just checking email and chatting via Skype, a standard 14-15” notebook with a webcam eats up way less power and will take up much less space on your desk than a desktop PC that needs 2 power outlets and occupies half your table.

8.) Use your battery!

It’s funny that no matter how many times I visit a coffee shop, whether it’s Starbucks or Panera Bread, I always see customers walk in with their notebooks and look around for the nearest outlet. Unless you’re carrying a 17” monster laptop, most notebook computers now feature 4-8 hour battery run time depending on size and type of use. The point is that you can control how your notebook’s power is consumed by examining the Power Options (Power Plans) under Windows Control Panel. By reducing dependence on an AC outlet, you can minimize excess usage of electricity. (Case in point – I’ve actually seen groups of people in corners at a Starbucks huddled around one or two 6-outlet power strips that were brought in by a customer.)

9.) Turn off stuff that’s idling!

If you’re planning to go on vacation soon, be mindful of what things that can be turned off while you’re gone. First, that Wi-Fi router that’s going to be idling for 2 weeks while you’re on a cruise ship would not make sense to be kept running. (both for power and security reasons) Second, unplug your fax machine and printer/scanner if you’ll be gone for a while. (assuming it’s not required to be on for your work or other important matters) Basically, any devices that don’t need to be on should be turned off.

10. ) Quit printing stuff!

PDF 995 printer which can virtually print your web page(s) into a PDF file on your desktop. The idea is that it functions like a normal computer printer but instead can convert MS Word documents, web pages and other formats into a nice and neat PDF file that can be viewed later. So for example, if you’re a student needing to print 12 pages of a scholarly journal article with APA citations, you can “print” it to your desktop as an easy-to-read PDF file.
In addition, if you need to perform a Print-Screen capture but want to reduce printer paper usage, there are free programs such as Gadwin PrintScreen that enables full, partial or selective print-screen captures and can save them in different picture formats. Thus, you can save your important prt-scrn captures digitally and print the ones that are necessary.
Remember, going green doesn’t have to mean radical changes to your digital lifestyle. What really matters is consistency and focusing on utility regarding your computing needs. Technology has become so mainstream that cost differences (and speed differences) between notebooks and desktop computers have been reduced to a blur; in other words, you can’t say that you were forced to buy a bulky desktop PC because notebooks were just way too expensive or were too slow. Ultimately, it’s all about being able to identify an opportunity that can be exploited to help save you time and money.


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