What Power Plans Are & How To Switch Between Them In Windows

Using a mobile device is very handy, especially if you travel a lot, but these devices are limited by the amount of energy their battery can provide. For this reason, paying attention to the power plan you are using and its settings, can make a huge difference in how much battery time you have available. Fortunately, Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 provide us with the necessary tools to see which power plans are available, what's the active power plan and easy ways to switch between power plans. Here's how it all works:

What Is A Power Plan?

A power plan is a collection of hardware and system settings that manages how your PC or device uses power. The power plans available depend on the kind of PC you have and whether its manufacturer did or did not customize the default power plans available in Windows.

Some power plans are designed to deliver high performance while compromising battery life while others are made so that you get as much battery life as possible, while compromising the performance of your Windows PC or device.

You can see all of the available power plans in the Power Options window.

How To Start The Power Options Window In Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

In Windows 7, open the Start Menu and search for the word "power". In the list of search results look for Power Options in the Control Panel section of results.

In Windows 8.1, search works just as well. On the Start screen, type the word "power" and, in the list of search results, click or tap Power Options.

In Windows 10, type the word "power" in the search field on the taskbar and click or tap the Power Options result.

Another way that works in all Windows versions, is to open the Control Panel, then go to Hardware and Sound and select Power Options.

If you are using a mobile device, you are probably familiar with the small battery icon in the notification area, on the right side of your taskbar.

In both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, when you click or tap it, a small window named the battery meter is shown. There you can see how much battery power is left and choose between two power plans. However, when you click or tap the More power options link at the bottom of this window, you will get to the Power Options window, where you see all the available power plans.

In Windows 10 you'll see a small window like the one below. Here you can adjust the screen brightness and, if the charger is unplugged, you can enable/disable the Battery saver mode. However, when you click or tap the Power & sleep settings link, you won't get to the Power Options window like in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

You'll get the Power & sleep window in which you can set the time until the screen turns off, or the time until the device goes to sleep when plugged in and when on battery. If you want to open the Power Options window you'll need to click or tap the "Additional power settings" link.

In Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, another quick way to get to the Power Options window is to right click (or press and hold) the Start button. Then, click or tap Power Options in the menu that is displayed. To open this menu you can also use the keyboard and press Windows + X.

Once you have opened the Power Options window, you can see the power plans that exist on your computer or device. There are always only two plans listed in this section.

When you click or tap the down arrow corresponding to "Show additional plans" you will discover all the available Power Plans.

You can switch between them, by clicking or tapping the preferred power plan.

On some systems you will see a different number of power plans. That's because computer manufacturers can add their own custom power plans, made specifically for the device you are using. They can also remove the default plans existing in Windows and replace them with one power plan created specifically for your device. Obviously, you can also create your own custom plans, with the settings you want.

What's Different Between The Default Power Plans In Windows

A power plan contains both the hardware and system settings that influence your computer's power management. By default, Windows has three power plans: Power Saver, Balanced (the one recommended by Microsoft) and High Performance.

The most visible changes made by Windows when you select a power plan are regarding the screen brightness, the time until the display is dimmed and then turned off, and the time until your computer is put to sleep. These changes are also different depending on whether your computer is using the battery or it is plugged into a power supply. Below is a comparison between the settings of each power plan, for each of the two modes: on battery and plugged in.

One thing you should keep in mind is that the tables above do not show all the things that are managed by a power plan, only the most visible things to you as a user. In other articles we will cover the more advanced settings managed by a power plan, in which you can learn all the technical details.

How To Change The Active Power Plan In Windows

In Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, a quick way to change the active power plan is to click or tap the battery icon in the notification area, to open the Battery meter window. There you will be able to choose between two power plans.

In Windows 10, if you press the battery icon you'll be able to enable/disable the Battery saver mode or you can adjust the screen brightness. If you want to change the active power plan you'll need to open the Power Option window.

No matter of what Windows version you use, if you want to choose among all of the available power plans, you can do this in the Power Options window.

Another way this can be done on a on a laptop or a tablet, is to use the Windows Mobility Center to switch among all the available power plans. For more information about how to use Windows Mobility Center read this article: How To Make The Most Of Your Laptop With Windows Mobility Center.

After you have made your selection, in the battery meter you will see a change in your battery's estimated life. In Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 you'll see something like this.

And in Windows 10 you'll see something like the in image below.


Now that you know what power plans are, which are the default power plans in Windows, what are the most important differences between them and how to switch between power plans, let us know if you have any questions. Do you find it easy to switch between power plans? Are they working as you would expect? For more articles on Windows, check out some of our related guides and if you have any suggestions, questions or problems, do not hesitate to use the comments form below.