Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Easy Ways to Go Green with Your Computer

Not everyone can afford to install solar panels or get a new Prius this Earth Day, but there is one place you can go green without spending an arm and a leg or radically changing your lifestyle: your computer. Chances are you spend the majority of your day sitting in front of the keyboard, and a few small changes can go a long way toward reducing its negative impact on the environment. As an added bonus, doing your part for the environment will save you money, too. This Earth Day, we've rounded up a few simple ways you can go green with your computer.

Shutdown Your Computer Without Losing the Perks of an Always-On PC
Green Computer

Obviously, computers require electricity to run, so shutting down, sleeping, or hibernating your computer when you're not using it conserves energy. Every modern operating system has its own settings for conserving power, so the first thing you should do—if you haven't already—is open the power settings of your green computer and set them for optimal energy use. Set your computer to put your monitor to sleep, spin down your hard drives, and put your computer to sleep when you're not using it. Even better, since your computer uses less power when hibernating than when sleeping, set up your computer to hibernate rather than just go to sleep.

One of the biggest turn-offs (no pun intended) about shutting down or sleeping your computer is that you miss out on some of the finer things your computer provides even when you're away. For example, if you're downloading a large file, you may want the download to continue even when you're away. Likewise, we've covered tons of ways to remotely access your computer, all of which no longer work if your computer's turned off. Luckily you can continue using your computer during these times but still conserve power the rest of the time.

For example, Windows users should check out previously mentioned WinOFF, which shuts down, restarts, and hibernates your computer (among other things) after a certain amount of time, at a specific time, or when your CPU goes idle so that your computer automatically shuts off at times you don't need it.

If a download is what you're waiting for, many peer-to-peer clients, like the popular BitTorrent client uTorrent, can shutdown your computer when a download completes so you can get your file and save energy, too.

Between WinOFF and built-in shutdown features common to many apps, we've taken care of the the download problem—but what about when you want to access your computer remotely? If it's shut down, you can't very well get to it, can you? Actually, you can, assuming you set up Wake-on-LAN on your computer. Once Wake-on-LAN's enabled, you can turn your computer on over the internet from anywhere—so there's no reason not to shut down your computer when you leave the house.