By default Windows uses a power plan to save energy. It can do this by auto turning off the display when there is no activity for a given period and also do a similar thing to put the computer to sleep. If you don’t move the mouse and touch the keyboard within this period, Windows thinks you’re away and will perform the selected action in an attempt to save some power. However this is not always the case and sometimes you might not be at the computer but don’t want it to shut off the display or go into standby for a little while.
You can of course go to the Power Options applet in Control Panel and either create or edit a power plan that never goes into standby mode or turns off the display. The problem is if you forget to set it back to your chosen power plan, Windows obviously won’t set these options back by itself and you’re left power settings you might not want on a permanent basis. Luckily some software has an option to do this while it’s running such as a video player disabling the monitor shut off function when a movie is showing.
Not all software has this option so to solve the problem, simply use a third party utility to temporarily prevent the computer from going into standby. Here’s a selection of small tools that can help.1. Insomnia
This simple little tool will simply prevent your computer from going into standby while it’s running. Insomnia actually tries to disable sleep mode while it’s open and then puts the setting back to what it was previously on close. It has not been designed to and will not prevent your screen shutting off.
There are separate 32-bit and 64-bit versions available and you simply run the executable which opens the small window above. Although you can minimize the window to the tray, it is meant to stay on screen to remind you that your computer cannot currently enter sleep mode.
Caffeine works in a rather simple way to try and prevent your computer going into standby, the screen from shutting off or even the screensaver kicking in. This is to simulate a key press once every 59 seconds so Windows is fooled into thinking you’re using your computer when in fact, you aren’t.
The key it pretends to press is the F15 key which is virtually never used on any keyboards, although you can change this to Shift and the number of seconds can be edited from the command line if you want. Caffeine is a tiny 13K executable and it places an icon in your tray which you double or right click to enable or disable it.
Caffeinated is a clone of a similar Mac OSX tool called Caffeine and stops your computer going into standby. The program uses a Windows function called SetThreadExecutionState which software applications use to tell the operating system they are in use and prevents the computer sleeping.
Although it’s a portable tool, there is an option to start with Windows and also a default duration to keep the computer awake can be configured of 5 minutes to 5 hours or indefinitely. The .NET Framework 3.5 is required and the author says he has only tested Caffeinated on Windows 7.
Noise is a very basic tool that simply sends a keystroke to the system every 60 seconds so Windows believes someone is actually pressing a key on the keyboard and therefore doesn’t run the screensaver or enter sleep mode.
Run the tool and double click on the tray icon to open the tiny dialog box, then enter a key which the program will send once a minute. Letters and numbers in combination with the Shift key can be used, not Ctrl or Alt etc.
5. Don’t Sleep
Don’t Sleep is a small, simple and yet powerful tool and is able to prevent a system shutdown, standby, hibernate, log off and also stop the screensaver or monitor turning off. Every option on Don’t Sleep is very straight forward and if you want to prevent the computer from going to standby for example, just make sure that the Standby check box is checked and click the Enabled button.
There is also a configurable timer function that you can set when to automatically disable the blocking or force the computer to shutdown or sleep after time expires. The Options button will allow you to setup a timer to start blocking when the program starts or the system resumes from standby.
A useful addition is the Mini-HTTP feature which can be used to remotely configure Don’t Sleep through a web browser. You can enable it by clicking the Don’t Sleep menu bar and select “Enabling the Mini-HTTP feature”. Once enabled, you can access the settings by typing http://IP.Address:8080/ in any web browser. It is also possible to use the login feature to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the Don’t Sleep settings.
Don’t Sleep is a very useful tool which does the job and takes very very little resources and is less than a 100K executable. It’s free, portable and works on all Windows including both 32 and 64 bit.