Living with Vista – part I: power management

I’ve been running Vista in various locations at home & work for a few months now and I though it was time to write about my experiences.

Part of my day job recently has been looking at power saving, and putting machines to sleep (S3 standby) after a certain period of inactivity. In Windows XP this has been pretty unreliable mostly due to the ability of applications to veto the power broadcast message and hold up sleep.

Vista was supposed to change all this. Not only were drivers supposed to be more robust but applications only have a 2 second limit to respond to an impeding sleep request before Windows is yanked out beneath them. There is now also "hybrid sleep" (a mix of S3/S4) that is supposed to protect your data even if things do all go horribly wrong.

However, all is not well in the fantasy land of Vista sleep. At work I have a number of machines that work well (HP 7600, 7700 and tc4400). They go to sleep when they’re supposed to, they wake up when you ask them to and everything works once they’re back up and running.

At home I have one rather special homebuilt machine (I’ll be posting about it soon) and a HP tc4200 and neither are very happy with sleep. First, the tc4200: it’s a minor point but the wireless card refuses to work after S3 sleep. Only a reboot will fix it.

My homebuilt machine is a disaster zone when it comes to sleeping. It’s basically a Core 2 Duo built on a Gigabyte GA-965GM-S2 (which is really just an Intel chipset). No extra video cards, no peripherals… nothing fancy. When it sleeps, it spends about 10 minutes thrashing the hard disk (WDC WD2500KS SATAII) before restarting itself. Windows then refuses to start and only a quick trip into safe mode fixes it.

After several hours fiddling with power management settings, I now finally have it vaguely sleeping reliably. If you have problems with Vista sleep, try some (or all) of the following:

– Disable "allow USB devices to wake PC" (or similar wording) in the BIOS.

– In Vista device manager, go into the properties of your USB keyboard and mouse (don’t bother if you have PS2 ones) and in the power management tab uncheck the option to "Allow this device to wake the computer".

– Go into the "Power Options" control panel and create a new power profile. Once it’s setup click on "change plan settings" then "change advanced power settings". In here change the following:
1. Sleep > Allow Hybrid Sleep > OFF
2. USB settings > USB selective suspend settings > DISABLED

For me, at any rate, my machine now sleeps ok. When it resumes there are some niggles though: the NIC won’t pick up a DHCP lease (so now I have to set it to static), the numlock state isn’t remembered, it throws an error about an unrecognised USB device (when there isn’t once plugged in) and the fingerprint reader won’t unlock my session.

But hey, it sleeps :)

I still have some thoughts on the good and bad of living with Vista and I’ll post them up in the new few days – along with a surprise!