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Are Screensavers Still Necessary?

I see this all the time: People have it fixed in their consciousness that they “must” have a screensaver on their computer in order to protect and preserve their monitor.

That was then…

And I know where this comes from – when computers first came out they used cathode ray tubes (CRTs) for monitors. CRT monitors were subject to something called “burn in.” When CRTs displayed a single image for a long period of time, that image would get “burned into” the screen. It was a weakness of that technology.

One way around this problem was to turn off the monitor – but people didn’t like that option since CRTs required some time to warm up.

We found that we could “spread out” the burn in effects if we utilized all of the surface of the screen by moving images around – thus balancing out effects of the burn in. And thus, the screensaver was born.

This is now…

Fast forward to today… where LCD flat panel displays pervade the marketplace. A good thing about LCDs is they take no time to “warm up” and… they are immune to burn in! Yet, screensavers still exist. The “need” for screensavers passed away when CRTs disappeared, yet the use of screensavers has persisted, probably out of force of habit.

Note: LCDs are however susceptible to something called “burn OUT” but burn out takes many years to occur and you’ll probably be on to your next computer and monitor by the time that happens.

So, The Question Is…

…is there still a purpose for screensavers?

And, many people are concerned about how much energy is being used while their computer is not in use – is there a way to mitigate the energy consumption of our computers while they are idle?

My answer is “yes” to both questions.

Screensavers for Security

screensaver require password on resume

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First, you can program your screensaver to require a password when returning to your computer. I see this mainly in business settings where security is a concern. In your screensaver control screen, select an idle time and then select “require password.”

Save Electricity

Second, if you are concerned with energy use, you can “do your part” by making your computer “green” by setting your monitor to turn off after a given amount of time. Your monitor draws anywhere from 80-150W, when your monitor has been turned “off” (its actually in a stand-by mode) its only drawing about 1W.

windows 7 power options

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Really quick, here’s how: In Windows7, search on “power options” select “change plan settings” and then make changes as required.

Note: I do NOT advocate turning off your hard drives as a way to save electricity. You may notice an option to turn off your hard drive after so much idle time in the power management section in your computer. Starting up the hard drives requires a burst of energy that is counterproductive to your aim to reduce use of electricity. Additionally, it slows down the “apparent speed” of your computer – you will experience a delay in your computer’s response while the hard drive is “woken up” and spins up to operational speed.

But wait!

One thing to keep in mind, screensavers will actually utilize MORE CPU power, thus increasing your computer’s electrical use.

There’s a balance to be sought here: You want your computer to be responsive and “there” when you want it – but you also don’t want to be burning up all kinds of electricity in the process.

To strike a balance between availability and electricity use, you might want to have your screensaver come on after 10mins of inactivity, and then have the monitor turn off after 30mins.

Your turn! What do you have to say??