You can do a lot with settings and new habits, but at some point, you've got to start looking at the hardware. After all, computer manufacturers have made huge gains in energy efficiency in recent years.
The CPU, also known as the microprocessor, is one of the top energy users in a computer setup. It makes sense, since it's basically the hub of the system. If you're still running a Pentium 4, upgrading to a newer model can make a big difference. Here are few approximate CPU wattages, for comparison (comparing apples to apples within Intel, because different companies can use different criteria to report wattages; note that AMD processors have also increased in efficiency):
- Intel Pentium 4: 100 watts
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6600: 50 watts
- Intel Core 2 Duo E8500: 35 watts
- [source: Won]
Upgrading a processor will run you in the area of $200, so it's not a tiny investment. But cutting your CPU's energy consumption by two-thirds can make a significant difference in your system's overall power draw, and you'll make up some of that investment in energy savings, especially if you work from home and have your computer on all day.
Up next, an obvious but often overlooked system upgrade for improving energy efficiency…