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Microsoft Windows 7 Saves the Planet?

The company claims switching to their latest operating system will require 30% less energy.

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Switching operating systems may not be the first thing you think of when brainstorming ways to reduce your carbon emissions, but Microsoft wants to change that and has announced that it’s latest baby, Windows 7, will help you cut carbon emissions significantly. IT accounts for only 3-5% of global carbon emissions, according to the press release, but of that percent, Microsoft wants to lead the way to a brighter future for our planet.

According to the press release: “Microsoft has revealed that it is working on a major project with Reading University designed to highlight the energy savings that companies can realise by switching to its latest Windows 7 operating system. Windows 7 operates using about 30% less energy that its previous operating system Windows XP–savings that when multiplied globally are likely to lead to significant cuts in carbon emissions.”

Criticisms have been published about such claims, namely by the Guardian, which states, “The company has introduced a new low-light mode as an alternative way to
save energy without plunging the machine into sleep mode. If this, as
seems likely, ends up persuading users that they don’t need to bother
with sleep mode, or the inconvenience of waking the machine up again,
then it sounds like a retrogressive step,” and “Most commentators say the power savings claimed for Windows 7 won’t
amount to much until the new system is run on new hardware configured to
take advantage.”

But, the Easy Eco Blog posted tips on how to make the most of Windows 7’s energy-saving features:

To tune Windows 7 powering savings:

  1. Click Start, Go to Control Panel, and then select Power Options.
  2. Select Power Saver and customize the settings for the length of time you want the system to stay on after you’ve finished using the computer.
  3. Go to the Change Advanced power settings and select Hybrid Sleep. Hybrid Sleep ensures you will not lose any documents if you forget to save them.
  4. If you have an older hard drive, you can set it to sleep after 15 minutes of inactivity. Newer hard drive have that built in.  USB Selective Suspend sleeps your USB connected devices, try it out, as some devices will not support it. Notebook users can set Maximum Processor State to a lower value to save energy but run slower.  Display controls when your monitor dims, set it to 5 minutes or so.”

So it’s a mixed bag as to whether Windows 7 will really save the planet — with hardware and software both playing a role in reducing carbon emissions, we’re just waiting for the right matching hardware to step up.

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About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.

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