Saving Power on Intel Hardware Using Powertop

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PowerTOP is a Linux tool that finds the software component(s) that make your laptop use more power than necessary while it is idle. As of Linux kernel version 2.6.21, the kernel no longer has a fixed 1000Hz timer tick. This will (in theory) give a huge power savings because the CPU stays in low power mode for longer periods of time during system idle.

However... there are many things that can ruin the party, both inside the kernel and in userspace. PowerTOP combines various sources of information from the kernel into one convenient screen so that you can see how well your system is doing, and which components are the biggest problem.


For PowerTOP to work best, use a Linux kernel with the tickless idle (NO_HZ) feature enabled (version 2.6.21 or later). Currently, only 32-bit kernels have support for tickless idle; 64-bit kernels are expected to gain this feature in version 2.6.23.

This only applies to Feisty. Also note that you need kernel 2.6.21 or above.

Install the following prerequisites

sudo apt-get install build-essential libncurses5-dev libncursesw5-dev

Download the latest powertop source from here

Put the source in /usr/src and unpack using

sudo tar -xvf powertop-1.9.tar.gz

Compile using the following command

cd powertop-1.9

sudo make

sudo make install

You can also use "checkinstall" instead of "make install" to create a simple .deb for easier removal.

If you are using Gutsy you can use the following command to install

sudo aptitude install powertop

Run powertop using the following command

sudo powertop

Powertop Output shown as follows

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3 Responses

  1. kakku says:

    How about a how-to on how to patch gutsy kernel, to force-enable HPET. Would be a nice tutorial for beginners like me.

  2. e4c5 says:

    Powertop is a remarkable piece of software. It’s an year since this excellent article was written and by now most distributions ship with at 2.6.23 – sometimes even newer so installation is a lot easier. You don’t need to bother with a kernel update.

  3. Ernst says:

    I’m currently using ubuntu 10.4, and powertop can now be installed as a debian package, so there’s no need to build it yourself anymore.

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