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For Earth Day: Eco-friendly Tips for Your Computer

Posted In Utilities - By Techtiplib on Thursday, April 10th, 2014 With No Comments »

This article is about “Eco-friendly Tips for Your Computer” – one of the series written by PC experts (iOLO UpToSpeed) for everyday computer users that I would like to share with you. Each article is packed with easy tips and practical advice on the latest issues affecting computers to help you get the most out of your PC.

Keeping your PC Green

These days, many of us are looking for ways to conserve energy, both to help the environment and to save some cash: buying energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances, adjusting the thermostat, and trying to “reduce, reuse and recycle” where we can.

Here are some easy steps you can take to keep your PC green and energy-efficientBut we may be overlooking one thing that can be a huge energy drain, increasing our monthly utility bills and needlessly filling up landfills—our computers.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Western Sustainability and Pollution Prevention Network (WSPPN), Americans:

  • Generate more than five billion pounds of computer waste. (EPA)
  • Dump 82 percent of computers in landfills instead of recycling them; in 2007 alone, more than 40 million computers were dumped. (EPA)
  • On average, discard their PC after only 30 months of use. (WSPPN)

Here are some easy steps you can take to keep your PC green and energy-efficient: you can help protect the environment and save yourself some money at the same time.

Turn off your monitor

A monitor uses a lot of energy, more than you may realize—it accounts for roughly a third of the electrical usage of your entire computer.

Configure your monitor’s sleep feature to automatically power down when you’re away from the computer (look for “Power Options” in the Control Panel). This sleep mode still uses some energy, so at the end of the day or if you’ll be away from your computer for awhile, turn off the monitor.

NOTE: You also may want to consider lowering the brightness of your monitor; the brighter your display, the more energy it uses. And there may be an added bonus: some people have reported that a dimmer display reduces eye strain.

Turn off your screensaver

Screensavers were originally designed to protect older monochromatic monitors, a type of monitor that’s rarely seen anymore. Newer monitors, such as those that use LCD or LED technology, don’t need screensavers at all.

Animated screensavers can be fun but they consume as much energy as a monitor in use, not to mention wasting CPU and memory power and unnecessarily heating up your PC, which in turn requires more fan power to keep it cool: it’s a domino effect that all adds up to a needless drain of energy.

Turn off the screensaver. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), turning off the screensaver can save you from $25 to $75 a year on energy costs. This may not seem like a lot, but think of it a different way: it’s like getting a $50 check for your birthday every year just by turning off something you don’t need—your screensaver.

Use energy-saving modes

Many people leave their computers powered on around-the-clock—often, this is to avoid a lengthy boot-up process, but sometimes we want to leave our PCs on so we can access them remotely or so that automated maintenance processes can run.

TIP: If you find yourself frustrated with how long it takes your computer to boot up, it may be time to clean it out: your PC’s startup process can easily become clogged with a lot of programs you don’t really need. Read more about how you can speed up your PC’s start-up time.

One way to combine energy conservation with the convenience of an “always-on” PC is to enable standby or hibernate mode (also one of the “Power Options” in Windows). With these energy-saving modes, you can set your PC to ‘sleep’ after it’s been idle a certain amount of time, and the computer will only ‘wake up’ when you return or when it’s running maintenance tasks.

So what’s the difference between standby and hibernate?

  • Standby: With standby mode, your PC uses very little power; some is still used, but the power to items such as your monitor and hard drive is cut. When you come back to your PC, you’ll be up and running quickly, but your computer will be using more energy than the hibernate mode.
  • Hibernate: With hibernate mode, your PC is not using any power at all. Of the two, this mode definitely saves the most energy, but the time it takes for everything to power up will be a bit longer.

TIP: An always-on PC not only uses energy; it can also take a big hit on performance. This is because a PC that’s always powered on saves data into memory—and when your PC is low on memory, everything suffers.To avoid this memory overload, restart your computer every few days and defragment the memory about once a month. Defragmentation reclaims valuable memory and improves PC efficiency, stability, and speed: performance goes up, energy usage goes down. Read more about how memory defragmentation improves performance.

Keep your PC tuned

For any of your appliances, proper maintenance reduces waste, and the same holds true for computers. Much like a car, a properly tuned computer can run more efficiently: a lean PC uses less electricity and performs much better.

Over time, PCs get bloated and inefficient: settings become outdated as you add and remove programs, clutter is left behind from web surfing, resource-hogging startup commands are needlessly running. This PC detritus that builds up through daily use acts like “friction” on your computer—and the end result is that everything your computer does requires more effort, takes more time, generates more heat, and wastes more power.

TIP: The common problems that can overtax your computer’s resources and waste energy can be easily resolved with a good PC tune-up software program. Read more about how PC tune-ups can reverse performance problems.

And an added benefit: by keeping your current PC in good running condition, you’ll also be able to hold on to it longer, saving you the costly expense of a new computer.

Recycle your old PC

Eventually the day will come when you’re ready to say goodbye to your old computer. When that happens, rather than throwing your PC away and adding to the world’s growing waste problem, why not recycle it? Research by the EPA found that in 2007 only 15% of discarded computers were recycled. And many of the computers that ended up in landfills could have benefited our community by being donated to charities, schools, or other non-profit groups.

If you’re not sure where you can recycle or donate your computer, the non-profit organization TechSoup provides links to recycling and refurbishing resources that accept computer donations:

NOTE: Before you give your computer away, it’s critical that you securely delete all your personal information. Just deleting files, or even formatting the drive, isn’t enough—someone using easily available software can still recover the files. (Read more about why deleting files doesn’t permanently erase them.) To securely delete your information, use data wiping software, which uses overwrite technologies that prevent data from being recovered.

Buy green

If you’re in the market for a new PC, do some research before you buy: many computer manufacturers, including Dell, HP, Acer, and others, now offer “green” models that use less energy, have more reusable/rechargeable components, or use recycled material.

And your best bet may be to choose a laptop over a desktop. In order to optimize battery usage, most laptops have energy-efficient features built-in: a laptop can use up to 50% less electricity than a desktop machine.

TIP: If you only use your computer at home, you could consider setting up your laptop like a desktop, with a “full size” monitor, mouse, and keyboard attached.


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