Saving Battery Power On Your Windows Vista Laptop

Windows Vista puts great demands on your computer's resources, and when you have a laptop that can translate into a quickly-depleted battery. Vista Battery Saver is a free program that helps curtail Vista's power-hungry behavior when you're on the go.
Published: Aug 2, 2007
Author: Jordan Running
Related OS: Vista
System Tray

If you've purchased a new laptop PC this year, chances are good it came preloaded with Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows Vista. One thing everyone agrees on about Vista is that, compared to its predecessor Windows XP, it's a resource hog, putting significantly more load on your processor and memory. That's okay when your PC draws its power from a wall socket, but when you're on the go, the more work your computer does, the faster it will drain your battery.

The obvious solution is to reduce the amount of work your computer does by disabling some of Vista's more power-hungry features. But instead of doing this manually, we'll use a tool called Vista Battery Saver. It's an open-source program that automatically controls two of Vista's most memory- and processor-intensive features: Windows Sidebar and the Aero user interface (the latter is what gives you those pretty transparency, blur, and animation effects). What Vista Battery Saver does is turn on all of those nice eye-candy features when your laptop is connected to AC power and then, when you unplug and are running on battery power, turn them off when your battery gets below a certain level.

Vista Battery Saver menuVista Battery Saver is brand new and still in beta, but if that doesn't scare you off, go ahead and download it from CodePlex. After you've installed it, you can find it under All Programs > Accessories under your start menu (I wish more programs correctly categorized themselves as Accessories like this). When you start it, depending on whether or not your laptop is plugged in, nothing may happen. VBS is running, though, and you should be able to see its green battery icon (not to be confused with Vista's own green battery icon) in the notification area in the lower-right corner of your screen. Now you'll want to configure it to match your preferences. Right-click on the icon and click Open and the preferences page will appear.

Vista Battery Saver preferences

The options are pretty self-explanatory. The phrase "on battery" refers to when you unplug your laptop and are running on battery power, and you can choose to disable Aero or the Sidebar whenever that happens, or only when the battery falls below a level of your choosing. You can also choose which power plan your laptop will use when you're plugged in and not, and whether or not Vista Battery Saver will start automatically when you boot up (I recommend this). When you're finished, click Apply.

Once you've got it configured to your liking, VBS will just sit in your tray, automatically managing your settings. When it turns Aero or the Sidebar on or off, you may notice your screen blink or flicker--this is normal. Since the program is still in beta, it's not perfect, and sometimes behaves unexpectedly, but keep an eye out for improvements as the product matures.

About Jordan Running

Blogger since 1999, Jordan Running went pro in 2005 and never looked back. Sometimes programmer, occasional photographer, and serial tinkerer, he decided to to switch to Linux in 2001 but just hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.

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