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Windows Hard Drive Power Saving Features

Windows operating systems have built in features that try and help save power consumption on the hard drive. This article will look at Windows Vista and beyond since this is where the settings became more advanced and adjustable to individual needs.
Your system will come with a number of power plans. Some of these may be created by the system manufacturer while others like Balanced and High performance come from Windows. The former balances performance with energy consumption and is the recommended option while the later favours performance while using more energy.
When the system is sleeping the hard disk drive will turn off to help conserve energy and save power. There is one downside to this: the drive is turned off, so when you want to access data on it again the recall will not be immediate. Instead, you will have to wait for the drive to power itself up. You can often hear it come back to life thanks to the whirring that the mechanical parts produce as they start up again. The wait is only a couple of seconds though, so it is probably best to keep this as standard.
If you don’t want this, then it is possible to keep the hard drive active at all times. However, it is worth bearing in mind that it will increase your electricity consumption and increase the heat of your system, which over time could damage it. If you are running a laptop off the battery then keeping the hard drive running all the time will wear it down much quicker. The fans will need to be spinning to cope with the excess heat and using unneeded energy can wear down the hardware.
On Windows Vista and above if you want to change your power saving settings then open up the Start menu and search for Power Options. Here you will be able to change the power plan that your system uses and customise everything about it to your liking. For example, you can decide after how many minutes the hard disk will turn itself off. If you are using a laptop you can alter this depending on whether the power is coming from the battery or the plug. Other settings like how long it takes for the system to sleep or when the display should be dimmed.
On Windows XP you should go to the Control Panel, then Performance and Maintenance and then Power Options. In the Power Schemes window (this is what XP calls a power plan) you can choose to never turn off hard disks here.
If you do want to conserve hard drive power and send the drive to sleep after a set amount of time, make sure you make it a reasonable amount – going to sleep after twenty minutes of inactivity is probably a good amount, but only you are going to know what works best for your setup. If you never want your hard drive to sleep then just bear in mind that it could damage the drive and it isn’t doing any favours to your electricity bill.


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