Upgrading from XP to Vista can save power and pesos, study says

Canadian companies still using Microsoft Windows XP operating system may be sucking more power off the grid than if they were to upgrade to Windows Vista, says a new Microsoft-commissioned study.

Both operating systems use almost identical amounts of power when the PC is in use.

However Vista’s default power-saving features could make a big difference to a company’s utilities bill and carbon footprint, according to the study by London, Ont.-based analyst firm Info-Tech Research Group.

“Businesses running a fleet of Windows XP desktops and laptops can actually reduce their power consumption costs and carbon dioxide emissions by half,” says Jennifer Colasanti, Info-Tech research consultant and study lead.

The main power savings came from Vista’s power management features.

Vista computers are automatically put in low-power Sleep Mode when sitting idle, she said, and network administrators can use Group Policy to manage power saving settings across an entire company.

Savings for companies using Vista equate to an average of $11 savings per system, per year, states the study. It estimates that for a company with 5,000 computers the energy bill savings add up to more than $46,800 a year.

ITBusiness.ca attempted to get a price quoted for a 5,000 user license on a Vista Ultimate upgrade, but Microsoft could not provide one at time of press.

Microsoft commissioned the study to quantify power savings offered by Vista, according to Elliot Katz, senior product manager, Windows client at Microsoft Canada.

Vista, he said, was designed with the goal of having notebook batteries last longer.

“All of the attention to detail we paid in that regard turns into power savings, even when the computer is plugged in.”

Info-Tech used a Hewlett-Packard dc7700 desktop and a nc6400 notebook loaded with XP and Vista in a dual-boot configuration to conduct the study in their London test lab.

The power savings were measured only from the performance of the box, not the monitors connected to them.

The systems were tested in both high-power modes, such as playing an MP3, and low-power modes, such as on “standby.”

The difference in power use was marginal, within a couple of watt-hours.

“Both operating systems consumed relatively the same amount of power,” Colasanti explains.

The savings Vista offers come from its default settings triggering the low-power sleep or standby mode more often.

This means companies can reduce their energy usage while their “users don’t have to do anything and neither does IT,” she adds.

Vista is also designed to run on newer computers that tend to be more energy efficient, says Steve Kleynhans, a research vice-president at Gartner Inc. an IT consulting firm based in Stamford, Conn.

He agress Vista’s power management functions are improved over XP’s.

“The key thing is they’ve made it easier to implement and use,” he says.

Less power consumption also has a positive impact on the environment, according to Deborah Kaplan, executive director of Zerofootprint Inc., an environmental consulting agency in Toronto.

For instance, she says if just one-tenth of the 22 million computers in Canada switched from XP to Vista, it could cut the same amount of emissions in a year as removing 6,500 cars from the road.

The Toronto-based company wants people to recognize that making small changes such as what OS they use can make a difference.

“We’re trying to empower individuals and show them small changes will make a difference in the aggregate,” Kaplan says.

Zerofootprint’s ecological-living social networking site plans to show users how to cut their emissions with the help of Vista in the near future, she adds.

Companies that use XP are more prone to be wasteful by not taking advantage of its power saving options, according to the study.

It notes that instead of Vista’s default power saving features, in XP users must navigate through advanced power management menus on each computer.

Administrators can’t access the settings without help from third-party software.

Even when sleep mode is activated, XP doesn’t reliably detect when a computer is idle, says Microsoft’s Katz.

Vista can do this by paying attention to keyboard usage, processor activity, and what peripheral devices are doing.

Vista also includes a Wake-on-LAN feature. This allows computers to automatically boot up in the middle of the night for regular updates to be installed, then power down afterwards.

Microsoft Canada’s Katz says his company is able to deliver its product to customers entirely by digital means. So there’s no need to worry about the environmental impact of purchasing thousands of Vista licenses.

“There’s not only no packaging, but no transportation used either.”

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