How Windows XP Wasted $25 Billion of Energy

Microsoft has been touting Vista's new power saving features, saying that upgrading to Vista could easily save consumers and corporations $50 to $75 per computer per year in energy costs. The question, though, is what marvelous new code makes this miracle possible. The answer? They fixed three stupid mistakes that have cost the world billions of dollars and millions of tons of CO2 in the past five years.

First, Microsoft never put power-saving options high on the list of default specs. In order for XP to run smoothly, with all its bells and whistles going, desktop machines had to run in "high-performance" mode, the equivalent of flooring your Honda at every green light. So the defaults were often set to "High Performance." Even when they weren't, consumers generally chose the setting themselves, not realizing that it had any affect on power consumption.The second mistake was a flaw in the much touted "sleep" mode. Sleep mode saves a ton of power, it is a very good idea, and essential, especially for portable devices. Studies of Windows 95 and 98 had shown that users hated to turn computers off because the boot times were so long. Sleep mode was supposed to be the answer to this. The problem is that Windows XP lets any program override the sleep function. So if you have an anti-virus program running in the background, it might not allow the computer to sleep. This flaw is the cause of countless failed laptop batteries, and the complete avoidance of the sleep function by desktop users.

The third problem was administrative. Systems administrators in offices across the nation find it too confusing or difficult to control power saving functions for all computers on the network. So, instead, they let individual users decide. The result: millions of computers, and even monitors, stay on 24 hours a day and even sometimes during weekends, with absolutely no power-saving functions on.

Vista proposes to fix all three of these problems thus "saving" the world lots of money and energy. But that money and energy that they're saving us is the exact same money and energy that they've been wasting for the last five years.

A recent article at Foreign Policy's blog calculated (very generally) that Vista's power save functions could easily save the world $5 billion yearly and prevent the release of over 45 million tons of CO2. So, assuming that the same would have been true if the power saving initiatives had been released with XP, or any of the service packs that followed, Microsoft's silly mistakes have cost the world roughly $25 billion dollars and resulted in the release of 225 million tons of CO2. Um...Oops?

We're glad they're making the changes now, but we sure do wish they'd made them five years ago.


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