The right way to Measure Your PC’s Energy Draw

cristi180884Computers are powerful machines. These devices, which most of us have on our desks or laps, can do some incredible things. From intense video editing and rendering of images to PC gaming, social media and all kinds of work, PCs and laptops are technological wonders.

Given that our devices are capable of such performance, the question arises: How much electricity do these things consume? How do you also measure the power consumption of your computer? We have a quick fix for you and we will discuss when and why it is important to know how much juice this box is drinking.

How to measure power consumption using software

If you want to know how much power your PC or laptop is drawing from your wall, the process is relatively simple. However, it requires additional hardware and tools for the software. Software is ideal for instantly getting an idea of ​​how your individual PC components use electricity. However, they only provide an estimate of electricity consumption over relatively short periods of time.

To get an idea of ​​how much power your PC is using, check out OuterVision, a free power calculator. This service is very detailed, works for both laptops and personal computers, and is used by computer hardware professionals and enthusiasts alike. The basic test allows users to estimate the power consumption of their device's monitor, memory, optical drive, graphics card, memory, CPU, and motherboard, taking into account the total time they spend using the computer and gaming or rendering.

Image of the OuterVision website.Daniel Martin / screenshot

Advanced users and experts can perform all of the above tasks and calculate power consumption for fans, liquid cooling kits and pumps, PCI cards and express cards, CPU usage, multiple sets of graphics cards and all connected technologies such as controllers and keyboards, mice, USB devices and LED systems. You can even calculate power consumption by overclocking your graphics card and CPU, comparing how efficient different components are, and determining how much power your computer really needs.

Another great software option is Sidebar Diagnostics, which shows an enhanced version of Windows' native Resource Monitor and lets you view data about your PC's power usage, as well as your GPU, network, and active drivers. Open Hardware Monitor is another free option to consider as it monitors your computer's voltages, load and clock rates, temperature sensors, and fan speeds.

How to measure power consumption via hardware

Buying hardware that can accurately measure the total power consumption of your PC doesn't come cheap. However, if you need to ensure that you have timestamped data and that it is measured within a 0.5% margin of error, hardware is the only way to go.

If you want the best readings of all your computer's power usage, you need to measure the connection from an electrical outlet to an external power meter such as a P3 Kill-A-Watt Power Usage Monitor. With this power meter you can accurately measure the power consumption of your PC. It's available at Amazon, Home Depot, hardware stores, and other retailers for around $ 20 to $ 40.

Image of the Kill-A-Watt meterDaniel Martin / screenshot

For more detailed information, you'll need something like the HOBO UX120-018 Plug Load Data Logger, which costs a whopping $ 239. However, users get an instant view of 120V plug-in load variables in real time, as well as time-stamped and accumulated load data for detailed energy analysis. This device also measures and records the power and energy consumption of your PC.

Is that important?

Perhaps you are just wondering about the power consumption of your rig out of curiosity. In addition, there are a couple of great reasons you might want to know what kind of power your system is using. One of the most common is updating your PC.

Certain hardware components, such as B. New high-end graphics cards may require a powerful power supply. Before you buy that brand new, expensive graphics card, make sure that you don't need to update your power supply either.

Also, if you find that you need to update your power adapter, it is important to know your exact power needs. The increase in power consumption will affect other components of your PC, and even the circuitry in your home can take this into account.

Any upgrades that you make to your PC result in a change in power consumption. If you use more important high-performance components to improve your gaming performance or rendering capabilities, your PC needs more power. This will likely lead to changes in your electricity bill.

While a modestly built PC or laptop shouldn't make a significant difference to your monthly expenses, a purpose-built gaming rig probably will. More power also leads to more heat and noise, as your system's fans are turned on to prevent overheating. If heat or noise is a concern, it can be another reason to keep track of your PC's power usage.

If you are planning on doing massive upgrades and avoiding bugs and downtime, or if you are wiping pennies on your electricity bill, keeping track of your PC's power usage will help.

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