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How Windows XP contributes to global warming

And a tool that can tackle power management over the network

April 18, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that no more than 10% of all PCs in use by organizations have power management enabled, and as a result are wasting large amounts of electricity and contributing to greenhouse gases. One major culprit may be Windows XP.

Unlike the Vista operating system, Windows XP does not give system administrators the ability to natively manage power settings on PCs over a network. That may be hindering adoption of the power management functions available in the operating system.

But XP isn't going away anytime soon, and EPA believes that PC power management is an obvious way to save power. It has gone as far as develop a source tool, EZ GPO (Group Policy Objects), and has made it freely available for download. This tool gives system administrators the ability to control power management over the network. It's not needed for Vista, which has these management controls included.

Steve Ryan, who manages EPA's Energy Star program for office equipment, says PCs are "an untapped opportunity" for power management. The EPA plans to conduct a campaign to try and encourage system administrators to take action.

The EPA estimates that a typical 1,000-PC environment can save $40,000 annually by activating power management, which would reduce power use by 400,000 kWh -- enough electricity to light 220 homes annually. From a greenhouse gas perspective, it reduces gas emissions by 300 tons, or the annual emissions of 50 cars.

But a history of bad experiences with power management turned IT administrators off to the option, and prompted them to order systems with power management disabled. "It became a collective industry practice to disable the features," he said.

But, Ryan said, advances in tech mean there's no current reason for not using power management. PCs, the hardware, chips and software are much better today, and even if an issue pops up with the client, "there is nothing that is going to cripple your network or do any kind of damage."

Several years ago, the EPA hired Terra Novum LLC, an environmental consulting company in Watertown, Mass., to develop EZ GPO. Thomas Bolioli, its president, says there is reluctance on the part of IT administrators to use third-party tools to manage power.

IT departments don't pay the office electric bill, said Bolioli, and installing third-party code on a server often involves an approval process that may discourage administrators from even trying.

Bolioli said he was among those who urged Microsoft to include power management in the group settings in Vista. "I want Microsoft to put my tool out of business," he said.

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