Windows XP SP3 Power-save Issues

Ever since I installed SP3 last year during a lull in my fall classes, I noticed that the power saving state on my display wouldn’t always work. Eventually, it didn’t work at all. If I opened the dialog to configure power saving modes, clicked apply, and then closed the menu, power savings would return to normal–until the next reboot. It was infuriating at best, especially if I forgot to turn my monitor off and left for a half hour or more. I’d return, the monitor would still be on, and the screensaver would be happily chugging away.

Thankfully, I believe I fixed the problem.

After digging around for a little while, I stumbled across this forum thread on Microsoft’s Technet. Most of the recommendations didn’t apply; the oft-repeated suggestion was to update video drivers, which I’ve done numerous times to no avail. But, I came across this statement posted by “ozzyco”:

hi again.

I semi solved my issue by creating a new power scheme (i.e. ‘Save As’) and naming it myself… it seems to work now, turning off after 15 minutes as I wanted it to.

Hope this helps..

I decided to modify his suggestion slightly. Rather than creating a new power scheme, I simply changed the “Turn off monitor” setting to 5 minutes, down from my usual preference of 10-15 minutes, saved the setting, and ran with it for a day or two. It appeared the changed setting has persisted through a couple of reboots, and I’ve since changed it back to 10 minutes. So far, the change seems to have held.

If it’s not a driver-relate issue, it’s possible that there exists a problem with how the power scheme dialog saves its settings. Altering the settings and then returning them back to their previous state appears to fix this issue when all else fails. Though, I would still recommend checking out the link (above) to Technet, particularly if the problem persists.


It looks as if the issue returned after two days. I honestly can’t seem to isolate any commonality between my usage patterns that would contribute to this behavior. I’m going to try setting it from safe mode–though I don’t see how that would possibly help. I have been planning on re-imaging my system, so I may elect to do that in a week or so, then reapply the service pack. What a peculiar bug!

Based on further experimentation, it appears that this bug does indeed resurface after two days regardless of the settings. I still have not tried resetting it from safe mode. Worst-case, I may just re-image this system as I have been planning, and then reinstall SP3. How annoying.

Update #2

I’ve reset the monitor power-off settings from within safe mode. I did notice something peculiar, though: If you attempt to overwrite a previous power profile, you wind up with this error:

Incidentally, the dialog won’t let you delete custom profiles, either. Pity things like this are buried so deeply in the registry; it might be possible to actually figure out what’s going on!

Update #3

It looks like altering the setting from safe mode fixed it (why? Honestly… why?!). The only thing I can figure is that 1) SP3 must’ve changed how the monitor power saving states are stored in the registry and 2) the only way to correct it is to ensure the drivers responsible for powering off the monitor aren’t loaded. It doesn’t make any sense. Considering how convoluted the registry is, I’m not surprised.


4 Responses to “Windows XP SP3 Power-save Issues”

  • Wow… that’s an odd issue. I’m pretty sure you run Nvidia and they’re usually really good about their drivers (as opposed to AMD…) I believe that if it was something as extreme as that, Microsoft would throw out a patch or hotfix. It seems almost certain that this problem is on Microsoft’s end of the equation…

    I personally haven’t gone to SP3 yet on my system, and don’t intend to.

  • Benjamin writes:

    It’s been going on for about six months, and it finally irritated me enough today to try resolving it.

    I’ve had the same NVIDIA board for about 3 years now, and it’s never given me a lick of trouble. What’s entertaining, though, is that power save states work fine in Win 7, Ubuntu, Gentoo, and XP x64. Yet, recently, the instant I return to XP SP3, it refused to set sleep mode on the monitor.

    I guess it never bothered me that much, because I could simply press the power button whenever I expected to be gone for a while. For the last week, things have been a little different; my usage patterns have grown somewhat sporadic–especially in the evening–and I’ll leave the system for more than 10 minutes at a time to take care of other things (or read). It’s nice not to have to babysit the monitor, and it’s amazing how something as trivial as a sleep state will drive you insane when it doesn’t work.

  • Benjamin writes:

    Added a couple of updates.

  • Benjamin writes:

    Added one last update.

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