How to Understand and Use the New Power Settings in Windows 8/8.1


One of the noticeable things about Windows 8/8.1 systems is how quickly they turn on or off. Provided that your hardware supports it, there is a new power management scheme. Microsoft calls it “Connected Standby”. It is a different way of managing power compared to the conventional “Sleep” or “Hibernate” states. 

The new way to manage power has characteristics familiar to users of tablets and smartphones. Turning a system off does not completely disconnect power from the system but leaves it in a state that can resume almost instantly. The system remains in a very low power state but maintains an Internet connection and constant access to the cloud.  If you carry your PC to a new locale, the system will automatically look for a new Wi-Fi connection. According to Microsoft, apps such as Skype, Lync, and others in the Windows store, notify the user in real-time of an incoming request or call while the system is in Connected Standby. Apps may also deliver push notifications to alert the user to news events, weather alerts, or instant messages.

Windows 8.1 app notificationsSince notifications in the middle of the night may not be welcome, Windows 8.1 introduces something called "Quiet Hours" that allows the user to define a period of time each day where notifications and background tasks should be suppressed. Quiet Hours can be configured in Settings under Apps -> Notifications. Click the thumbnail to see an example of this new Windows 8.1 setting.

Only recent hardware will support Connected Standby. For example, I have a laptop that is three years old, which I have updated to Windows 8 from Windows 7. It does not support the new power management but it still boots up and shuts down more quickly than it did when it was running Windows 7.

If you have a Windows 8 system but are not sure if it supports Connected Standby, you can check what settings are available by using the command line.

  1. Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey+R to open a Run box
  2. Enter “cmd” (without quotes) to open a command prompt
  3. Enter “powercfg /a”  (without quotes)
  4. Available power states will be shown. 

In Windows 8.1, right-click the new start button, select “Command Prompt”, and go to step 3 above.

Connected Standby actually consists of a number of stages. If you are interested in the details, Microsoft has published a 34-page Word document describing Connected Standby. A download link for the document is on this Microsoft page.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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