PC Tips: Use Sleep Mode to Save Money, Skip 'Safely Remove'

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Every now and then I come across great PC tips and share them with you. A few months back I told you how to put Linux on a USB drive (and why you'd want to), and how to bypass Windows Updates. Today I've found some interesting research on using Sleep Mode (vs. leaving a PC running), plus a great tip on how to quickly remove USB devices without hassling with the "Safely Remove Hardware" routine.

Leave Your PC Running? Put It to Sleep and Save Cash

When it's time to turn in for the night, what do you do with your PC? Turn it off? Leave it running? Put it in standby (aka sleep) mode?

There are different schools of thought on which is best. For example, some feel that the startup and shutdown processes create extra wear and tear, and therefore opt to leave their machines running 24/7.

According to Iolo Labs, which recently completed some studies on the subject, sleep mode wins the day (make that night). Their findings:

1. When you put your PC to sleep at night instead of leaving it running, you save $2 per month.

2. When you put your PC to sleep at night instead of turning it off, you save at least 25 minutes per month (in startup and shutdown time, I'm guessing), while spending only an extra five cents monthly.

I'm waiting to hear back from an Iolo rep on whether hibernate mode was considered in this study, as that would save you some startup/shutdown time and save you money as well.

(When your computer is in standby, it continues to draw a bit of power. In hibernate, however, it's effectively off.)

In any case, I think there's something to be said for pocketing an extra $24 annually just by putting your PC to sleep at night. And as someone who has long been annoyed by annoyingly long boot times, there's much to be said for resuming your work session almost immediately, right where you left off.

Safely Remove USB Drives Just by Unplugging Them

Most Windows users have become conditioned over time to never unplug a USB flash drive or hard drive without first clicking Safely Remove Hardware in the System Tray.

Why is that necessary? In theory, it's to ensure that Windows isn't busy reading from or writing to the drive when you remove it, something that could result in corrupted data or even a damaged drive.

As it turns out, however, you can safely sidestep Safely Remove Hardware with little to no loss of performance. In fact, this option may already be enabled on your system, and you just didn't know it. Yep, you may have been wasting extra clicks all this time.

Do this:

  1. Plug your USB drive into your PC, then open Device Manager. (Note: These steps are based on Windows 7. Things might look different in previous versions of Windows.)
  2. Expand Disk Drives, then find the entry for your removable drive. On my system, for example, it's called "USB2.0 Flash Disk USB Device."
  3. Right-click that entry, then click Properties.
  4. Click the Policies tab; you should see something like the screen below.
  5. If the first option, Quick removal, is already selected, you're good to go. As noted in its description, "you can disconnect the device safely without using the Safely Remove Hardware notification icon." If Better performance is selected, switch to Quick removal and click OK.

So, what are giving up by disabling write caching? According to the test results posted at 7tutorials, almost nothing. The performance impact was negligible. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I think it's worth a few milliseconds to avoid the hassles of having to mess with Safely Remove Hardware all the time.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: hasslefree@pcworld.com. You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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