Tuesday, June 28, 2005

On-The-Go Tips

When it comes to computers, it's all about power, and notebook computers are no exception—it's just that power has a few more meanings on these PCs.

Set Power Options

On a desktop, power options are about convenience—how long should the system idle before starting the screen saver?—but they have a much more profound effect on laptops, namely on battery longevity.

You'll find Power Options in the Control Panel, and within it, several mobile-use–specific battery options, including Portable/Laptop, Super Power Saver, and Max. Battery. You can tweak these settings beyond the presets to determine how long the system waits to turn off monitors and hard drives, and when to stand by or hibernate (depending on whether it's plugged in or on battery power)

Use External Monitors

Laptop screens, especially on small, thin-and-light notebooks, can cause eyestrain with all-day, every-day use. You may want to connect a second monitor to your laptop to use instead of, or in conjunction with, the LCD screen that's already on the machine. As long as the graphics card can handle it—most laptops' can—Windows will make it very easy for you.

To start, plug the second monitor into the laptop's output port or docking station. Then find the hot key to send what's on screen to the external monitor. Depending on the notebook, pressing the hot key (typically, Fn plus an F-key) will either page through configurations much as Alt-Tab pages through your open windows, or simply activate the configurations, blanking the notebook display and activating the external monitor, then activating both.

You can also use the external display in concert with the internal display to extend your viewable display area. Right-click on the desktop and select Properties, then choose the Settings tab. You'll see both monitors represented in the dialog box. If the second monitor is grayed out, right click on it and select Attached. Set the screen resolution and color quality for this second display. Windows generally assumes that the external display is to the right, but if it's on the other side, just drag the on-screen representation to match your layout.

With that monitor still selected, make sure there's a check in the box labeled Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor. Choose Apply and your desktop will take advantage of the additional screen space. It's that simple. You can now drag applications back and forth between the two displays.

Split the Difference Between Standby and Powering Down

When you go through a normal shutdown (clicking on Start then Shut Down), you're given a set of options, including Shut down, Restart, Stand by, and, if you've enabled it on your Win XP system, Hibernate. Hibernation saves the current state of your system to disk, so the system can completely power down but be restored to the same state when restarted. The battery doesn't drain in this state, but restarting won't be as quick as from Standby mode.

If the Hibernate option doesn't appear in your shutdown options, launch Power Options from the Control Panel, click on the Hibernate tab, and check the box labeled Enable hibernation.

Go Straight to Hibernate

Go straight to hibernate

We told you in the General Tips section how to create a shortcut to shut down your Windows system automatically. But you can create a simple command-based shortcut to do the job. Right-click on the desktop and select New | Shortcut. Type this case-sensitive command into the dialog box: rundll32.exe PowrProf.dll, Set


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