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Energy Efficient Computing at Northwestern


Faculty, staff, and students who use the University network.


In keeping with Northwestern University's commitment to minimize its impact on the natural environment by reducing energy consumption, Northwestern University Information Technology (NUIT) has created energy-savings guidelines for your computing equipment.

Policy Statement:

The following are energy-savings practices recommended by NUIT to help reduce energy consumption on campus. Please consult with your local IT support before you implement any of these changes.


  • Turn off your monitor or enable "power saving" functions. Turning off the monitor when you are not using your computer will help conserve energy. The life of a monitor is related to the amount of time it is in use. If you will be away from your computer for an extended period of time, placing your monitor in a 'power saving' (or sleep) mode is as efficient as turning it off.

    For Windows users, use the steps below to configure energy-saving settings:

    1. From the Start menu, select Control Panel.
    2. Double-click Power Options.

      1. Select the Power Schemes tab.
      2. Select a time to turn off the monitor from the Turn off monitor: drop-down menu.
      3. Select a time to turn off the hard disks (if permitted) from the Turn off hard disks: drop-down menu.
    3. Click the Apply button to save your changes.
    4. Click the OK button to close the Power Options Properties window.

    For Macintosh users, use the steps below to configure energy-saving settings:

    1. Launch System Preferences.
    2. Click Energy Saver.

      1. Select the Sleep tab.
      2. Move the Put the computer to sleep when it is inactive for: slider to the appropriate time (if permitted).
      3. Move the Put the display to sleep when it is inactive for: slider to the appropriate time.
      4. Check the Put the hard disk(s) to sleep when possible: checkbox (if permitted).
    3. Select Quit System Preferences from the System Preferences menu.
  • Disable your screen saver. Screen savers keep the computer in use and generate energy. The best solution is to turn off your monitor. Please consult your local IT support if you work in a public area where your screen is easily viewable by others. Screensavers are sometimes employed with low timeout values so that sensitive data cannot be viewed by others. Likewise, password-enabled screensavers may be appropriate in some environments.
  • Turn off peripherals, unless you are using them. This includes printers, PDA devices, fax machines, and scanners, all of which consume large amounts of energy. Check with your local IT support person to see if any of these peripherals can go into a power-saving mode.
  • If your computer is not being backed up nightly, you may be able to turn it off. Check with you local IT support person first. You will need to allow Windows to install security updates, which may require a reboot.
  • If you have computer equipment that is not being utilized, the University offers recycling and disposal services to formally remove these computers and peripherals.


  • Reduce printing by using the "print preview" option. Review your document onscreen instead of printing it.
  • Use a copier, rather than a printer, to make multiple copies of a document.
  • Avoid printing hard copies of e-mail messages.
  • Maximize printing by using both sides of the paper.
  • Load your printer with paper that has already been printed on one side and use new paper for final versions.
  • Use e-mail communications as an alternative to paper memos and fax documents.

New Purchase Recommendations

  • Always think "energy-efficient" when making new purchases and buy equipment certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "ENERGY STAR" program. ENERGY STAR is a program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency, and ENERGY STAR-rated equipment will improve the University's energy and financial performance. According to Northwestern policy, all University equipment purchases must be ENERGY STAR-rated.
  • Laptop computers consume less energy than a mini-tower or full-sized desktop machine.
  • Networking/sharing a printer is a more energy/cost-efficient solution than purchasing multiple personal printers. Consider purchasing a printer capable of printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. If you are looking for a personal printer, inkjet printers consume much less electricity than laser printers.
  • If available, consider buying "Green Computers." Several computer equipment manufacturers are currently developing PCs which are not only highly energy-efficient but are also manufactured in a resource efficient, and less polluting, manner; and are designed and built for eventual recycling.
Original Issue Date:

November 2005

Revision Dates:

December 2005

January 2009

December 2016

Additional Information:
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