Green downloads: Eco-minded apps

Edison shows how much energy and cash you save by suspending systems sooner. (Credit: CNET)

We admit that as it's St Patrick's Day, we've got green downloads on the brain, but if your taste runs more to a green environment than Guinness, check out this sampling of energy-saving applications.

Edison for XP and Windows Vista is the newest one-stop app for monitoring how much energy and money you save when you tighten up your computer's sleep and shut-down schedules. A slider lets you decide after how many minutes you want to shut down your computer's display and hard drive during the peak work day. You can program differing criteria for off-hours. Manual customisation is also possible if you need to ease into greener computing.

How many extra pages do you generally recycle after printing a page from a website? We all agree, it's better for the environment if you can avoid inking up those unwanted extras in the first place. The free GreenPrint World and premium GreenPrint Home Premium can help.

Vista users wishing to shrink their energy footprint a size can get started with Vista Battery Saver, a freeware app that disables certain Vista features, particularly when your power reserves dip below a predefined threshold. This app is especially useful for owners of Vista laptops who are running on limited battery.

A perpetually running computer is an energy-dumping computer. Luckily, even if you're too lazy to shut your computer down yourself, freeware like Auto Shutdown can schedule shut-downs for you. Not only that, this app gives you five modes for taking your rig offline and lets you program hot key combinations to launch the sleep or "off" mode of your choice without opening the program's interface.

If you've got Google Desktop, Google's Energy-saving gadget will monitor your power savings from your Google Desktop dashboard. You'll have to make some concessions, of course, like letting your computer hibernate or shut down after shorter intervals of idleness, but seeing that you spared enough energy to power a jumbotron at the footy may cause you to rethink just how valuable 24/7 access to the computer is to you.

Technician geeks get another take on computer energy usage in SpeedFan, a fast and free, but complex program for accessing fan speeds, temperature and voltage in PCs with hardware monitor chips. This application won't appeal to, or even make sense, to most average users, but the data-rich app will be a jackpot for some.

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