Microsoft announced that starting with Build 16176 of Windows 10, the operating system will throttle the background tasks using the most efficient operating modes of modern processors.
Windows 10 "Power Throttling"
Microsoft seems to have taken the power efficiency of its operating system and applications more seriously lately. In the company’s previous announcements, the company has claimed that Edge can beat Chrome and Firefox by significant margins in battery efficiency.
Modern x86 processors, such as Intel’s Skylake and Kaby Lake chips, have brought some higher efficiency modes such as Speed Shift technology. This allows for the operating system to give the control over the chip’s frequency and voltage back to the processor, where it arguably belongs. The processor should know best when to modify its voltage and frequency, as long as it also has a view into what the applications are doing.
Microsoft also said it will enable the Power Throttling feature for other processors soon as well--potentially referring to both AMD processors as well as Qualcomm’s ARM-based Snapdragon 835. ARM chips have historically been highly efficient, especially in idle modes, so it will be interesting to see just how efficient an ARM-based laptop can get later this year when it's using the Power Throttling technology.
How Power Throttling Works
Naturally, as with any kind of throttling, Microsoft needs to be careful not to deteriorate the user experience. You may be able to get extremely efficient idle Windows machines, but if your apps are slow to respond when being re-activated from the background, that isn’t very helpful.
Microsoft said that it has built a sophisticated detection system to see which apps are actively used by the user and which aren’t, to ensure that user experience isn’t being disrupted by the throttling.
Foreground applications, music players, as well as apps that do “important work” (which the company said it can infer by noticing how the user interacts with certain applications), shouldn’t be affected by the throttling. However, Microsoft asked Insider Preview users who have the latest build to submit feedback if they think the detection system isn’t working well enough.
More importantly, the company is also allowing users to choose how much they want the Power Throttling feature to affect their desktop experience. You can use a “Power Slider” to choose “Battery Saver,” “Recommended,” or “Best Performance” Modes.
Additionally, users can choose the Recommended or Battery Saver mode and opt-out of the system the applications they don’t want throttled at all. You can follow the instructions below to do so:
Go to Battery Settings (Settings > System > Battery).Click on “Battery Usage by App”.Select your app.Toggle “Managed by Windows” to “Off”.Uncheck the “Reduce work app does when in background” checkbox.
Microsoft added that certain benchmarks may also be throttled by the Power Throttling mode, so it would be best to run them with Power Throttling disabled or with the laptops plugged in. Power throttling doesn’t apply when laptops are plugged in, because it doesn’t make much sense to use it then.
The company also said that developers will be given access to APIs later this year so they can have more fine-grained control over how their apps throttle when the mode is activated on a user’s computer.
It’s not clear whether or not Edge has already been using an early version of these APIs before, when it was benchmarked against other browsers. However, it will be interesting to see if Chrome and Firefox can also take advantage of these APIs.