This is the advanced guide to Linux power saving. Advanced in the sense that I’ll walk you through the process of learning about the different modules used by your kernel; also how to apply the different power management settings supported by your hardware.
Part of the hacker mindset is to learn, explore & think outside the box which can sometimes lead you to a whole new world of opportunities & at other times can cause you trouble if you’re not careful enough 😉
Alright, so first of all you need to know the devices which are present in your system (e.g graphics card, wireless adapters, etc.) and the modules they use that support power management options.
One way find that out is to use the command: lspci -v
The command shows you a lot of details but as you can see above, I’ve an integrated intel card running the kernel module i915 & the Wireless Atheros card running ath9k module.
Okay so what you need to do next is learn more about the options supported by these modules.
You can do so by using the following command: modinfo -p [module name]
In my case these are the parameters supported by the module (ath9k) used by my wireless card.
As you can see, there’s the flag ps_enable which can be activated to enable power management options. By default it’s not activated, and even when I try to enable it through powertop it doesn’t seem to work. So in order to make sure that feature works I’ve to enable it by explicitly stating it in my boot settings.
We’ll get to that part (enabling @boot settings) a bit later but first let’s see the power management options supported by my intel card.
The module i915 has a lot of features but I decided to just focus on the power saving aspect of it.
As you can see there’s 4 main features (i915_enable_rc6, i915_enable_fbc, lvds_downclock, enable_pc8) that you can enable in your boot settings to make them work properly. By default some of these features are probably disabled because it is known to cause problems with certain types of hardware. Therefore you should be cautious about which feature you plan on enabling & double check to see if everything works out fine.
As you can also see in the description of these parameters, most require 1 for enabling, 0 to disable, etc. so use them accordingly.
Let’s get started on setting up these parameters on our boot settings. Personally I use grub as my bootloader which is the default bootloader on a lot of other popular distros like Ubuntu, Mint, etc.
The default location for grub cofig file on my distro is in /etc/default/grub
Open that config file in your favourite text editor make sure you have root priviledge.
Go to the line that says:
There would probably be some parameters set in that line already, but to enable our power management parameters we have to do it like this:
[module name].[module function]=value
Each of the supplied parameters have to be separated by space.Therefore the settings in my grub file looks like this:
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet intel_pstate=disable ath9k.ps_enable=1 i915.i915_enable_rc6=1 i915.lvds_downclock=1 i915.i915_enable_fbc=1 i915.semaphores=1″
After you make the changes don’t forget to use the command update-grub otherwise the parameters won’t be set.
Also as you can see from the settings in my grub config file, I’ve set the parameter intel_pstate=disable
From what I’ve heard intel_pstate driver has issues with certain processors or the implementation doesn’t really work that well for the case of power management, etc.
I’ve disabled pstate & I configured tlp to clock the speed of my cores according to the speeds that I want.
These are the configurations on my tlp config file located in /etc/default/tlp
I’ve set the minimum frequency of the core down to 800 & I think by default it used to be around 2000. After reboot the changes should take place & you might notice less heating or power usage from your cpu aswell.
Also currently I run 3.14 kernel (did notice slight power improvements), and having made all these changes my power usage dropped to 9W (lowest) & averaging on about 10-11W.
So that’s it for my Linux power saving guide, I hope I’ve been able to share what I’ve learned & hope that it helped some people. If I had this knowledge earlier I’d have been so much happier, would appreciate any feedback.