By default, Windows uses a power plan to save try and save power. It can do this by 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 or touch the keyboard within a specific period of time, Windows thinks you’re away and will perform the selected action to conserve 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 while. You can of course go to the Power Options in Control Panel and create or edit a power plan that keeps the computer and display on. Or you can go to Settings in Windows 10 and simply change or disable the sleep timers for the current plan.
If you don’t revert the chosen power options back, you’re left with settings you might not want on a permanent basis. Some software has the ability to keep the display or computer on while running such as a video player or video encoder but not all software has this option.
A simple solution so you don’t have to touch any power plans or sleep settings is to use a third party utility that temporarily prevents the computer or screen from going into standby. Here’s a selection of free tools that can help, they were all tested on Windows 10 64-bit.
This simple little portable tool will 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. Do note Insomnia has not been designed to and will not prevent your screen from going to sleep.
There are separate 32-bit and 64-bit versions available and you simply run the executable which opens the small window shown above. Although you can minimize the window to the tray, it is meant to stay on the screen as a reminder that your computer cannot currently enter sleep mode.
Caffeine works in a rather simple way to try and prevent your computer from going into standby, the screen from shutting off, or the screensaver kicking in. This is to simulate a keypress once every 59 seconds so Windows is fooled into thinking you’re typing on your computer. The pretend keypress is the virtually unused F15 key although you can change it to Shift or another key if there’s a conflict with your applications
A number of options can be edited from the command line or placed in a desktop shortcut. They include the keypress interval (in seconds), use the Shift key or virtually any other key or mouse press, prevent sleep but allow the screensaver, watch for a specific desktop window, and various ways to enable or disable Caffeine. The tray menu has two timers for setting how long Caffeine can be activated or deactivated.
There are two variants of Insomniate available; the standard version and the simple version. The only difference between them is the standard version has a user interface with a countdown timer where you can prevent sleep for a specific period of time. Both are portable executables.
Insomniate works for the screensaver, putting the screen to sleep, and also putting the computer to sleep. Just run the simple version and let it sit in the tray for it to work all the time. To use the timer, run the standard version, set the countdown, and press the play button. There appears to be no information about how Insomniate prevents sleeping but it does seem to work perfectly fine in Windows 10.
StayAwake is a relatively old tool from 2012, but it appeared to work just fine in the latest Windows 10 64-bit operating system. It can prevent the screensaver from starting and stop the screen or computer from being put to sleep. StayAwake does this by fooling Windows and telling it the mouse cursor has moved zero pixels.
Simply launch the portable executable and double click the tray icon to enable or disable StayAwake’s function. Right click the tray icon and go to Settings to enable a hotkey, display balloon notifications, or use alternative mode. This is a fallback option in case the normal mode doesn’t work and moves the cursor a few pixels every second.
PreventTurnOff is a small but powerful tool that is able to prevent system shutdown, standby, hibernate, log off, and also stop the screensaver or monitor turning off. Every option is very straight forward and if you want to prevent the computer from going to standby for example, just make sure that the Standby checkbox is checked, click the Enabled button and press To-Tray so the program minimizes.
There is also a configurable timer function that you can set when to automatically disable the blocking or force the computer to shut down, log off, or sleep after time expires. The Options menu will allow you to setup a timer to start blocking when the program starts or the system resumes from standby.
6. Don’t Sleep
Don’t Sleep is by the same developer as PreventTurnOff and is essentially a more advanced version of that tool with some extra options. In addition to the features in PreventTurnOff, this program can send the computer to sleep on a mouse/keyboard event and it has more trigger based events that can prevent sleep mode being enabled.
Don’t Sleep can also block sleep until the laptop battery is below xx%, disable sleep until CPU usage is below the threshold, and disable sleep until the network load is under a certain threshold. Both PreventTurnOff and Don’t Sleep are portable and also have a useful Mini-HTTP feature which can be used to remotely configure the program through a web browser.
7. Coffee FF
Coffee is a little different from most of the other tools here because it can prevent the computer from going to sleep during certain trigger events. The main trigger is network activity and Coffee can prevent sleep while network speed is above a certain threshold. The other useful function is preventing sleep while a specific program is running. Once the program closes, the sleep timer will be enabled again.
If you want to disable the network trigger and just use the process trigger, set the download/upload speeds to 0, go to the Programs tab, and select a running process from the list. A third option to block sleep mode is to do so for a specific number of minutes, you can set that in the bottom left of the main window. Coffee was created by Steven Cole but subsequently updated by FireFly, hence the FF in the name. Portable and installer versions are available (portable is a RAR file).
This last utility is incredibly easy to use because it has no user interface or options of any kind. You just run the program and let it do its job. NoSleep fools the computer into believing you are using it by moving the cursor a single pixel to the left and then a single pixel to the right every 30 seconds. This blocks sleep mode for the screen and the computer as well as the screensaver.
There are two versions of NoSleep in the download. The only difference is v2.0 is made using .NET so requires .NET Framework 4.5 or higher. Windows 10, 8 and probably Windows 7 users will have .NET 4.5+ installed. The other older version was made in the AutoIt scripting language and can be tried on machines without .NET although it’s reported that this version is less reliable.
Final note: As we mentioned at the beginning, most video playing software will prevent the computer from turning off the display or sleeping because obviously it’s trying to show video content. An alternative to these tools is to simply load a video into your favorite player, mute the audio, and minimize the window. This doesn’t work with the Windows 10 “Movies & TV” player but Windows Media Player does work.