Fix power management with a BIOS update

I was running APM (Advanced Power Management) before I switched over to ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) on a fresh install of Windows 98. Both times, however, I have experienced extreme difficulties getting either of these power management configurations to work properly. The system seems to hang after I try to resume after suspend mode, and sometimes it just stalls for no apparent reason after the monitor shuts off, if I disable Suspend to disk and Suspend system. — Al

Answer: The power management functions can be finicky on a machine loaded with Windows 98. A lot of things – hardware, software, drivers — can get in the way of perfect operation.

Sounds like you know what you’re talking about, but let’s go over what this technology is for first, so the rest of the world can catch up.

Power management is, in generic terms, a reference to how a computer manages the electricity running through it. That power comes from one of two resources — either a power supply that’s plugged into the wall, or a battery.

The management of batteries onboard laptops is very important because power conservation is necessary to prolong the life of the battery, especially if you’re working on a last minute coconut report on an airplane on the way to a convention in Guam.

On a desktop machine, you wouldn’t think power would be that important, but it is. It has everything to do with your valuable time. If you’ve ever cursed about the time a computer takes to boot up, you’re concerned about power management.

There is a dream that one day no computers will ever have to be rebooted. Instead of simply turning off a computer, it would just go to sleep. Sleep in computer terms is simply low-power mode.

The technology – in the Microsoft world – to allow this to happen is called OnNow. The idea is that the system will come alive when a fax comes in or when the hard disk needs to be defragmented.

This happens via a power management specification developed by Microsoft, Intel, and Toshiba, called ACPI (for Advanced Configuration and Power Interface).

ACPI replaces a technology called APM (for Advanced Power Management), which was the less-than-advanced power functionality of Windows 95. Windows 98 installs APM if a system doesn’t support ACPI. ACPI will also be part of Windows 2000 and XP.

Once installed, it enables the operating system to control the power given to each device attached to the computer. Monitors and hard drives can be turned on and off. The system can go to sleep or into suspend mode. ACPI also allows computer builders to produce computers that power up as soon as you touch the keyboard.

As I said, Windows 98 has this built into it, but just loading the operating system doesn’t make a computer OnNow-ready. The system’s motherboard must be ACPI-ready and the motherboard’s BIOS must also support ACPI.

The motherboard is a large circuit board inside a computer that all the various bits of the computer plug into. Think of a mother walking down the street, wrangling three children and a dog at the same time, and you get a good idea of a motherboard’s role within a computer.

The BIOS (for Basic Input/Output System), is the built-in software that is on a small chip on the motherboard. That chip’s software controls the computer’s boot-up process and contains all the information about a computer’s various parts.

For OnNow to work, a BIOS also must be ACPI-aware.

Given Al’s complaint, I immediately went to the ASUS home page on the Internet. I looked up his motherboard model and checked out the BIOS upgrades on the ASUSTek Computer Support web page.

The latest upgrade for the P2B motherboard was version 1006 released in October of 1998. The earlier upgrades are also listed on that page. If you browse through the notes, you’ll see a variety of references to ACPI problems that were fixed.

There are easy-to-follow instructions on that page on how to flash (or upgrade) the BIOS.

For all non-Al readers, check with your motherboard maker or system manufacturer to get the latest BIOS upgrade. Not all motherboards support ACPI.

Of course, it may be that this is not be the only possible explanation for Al’s problem. There are also Windows 98 bugs to contend with. Microsoft details a few other power management fixes on its support Web site.

There’s a support wizard (a step-by-step problem solver) that troubleshoots four common power management problems. It’s at Windows 98 Troubleshooters.

There’s also an article in the Microsoft knowledge base that mentions the monitor problems you describe.

There are three scenarios detailed.

  1. The 3D Maze screen saver (3D Maze.scr) is loaded.
  2. Your display resolution is set to 800×600 or higher.
  3. You are using a Matrox MGA Impression Lite, Plus, Plus 220, or Ultima video adapter and driver.

To solve each of these problems, do the following:

  • Disable the screensaver.
  • Try a different resolution other than 800×600.
  • Update your Matrox driver, should the video adapter be causing the problem.

You may have to register for support on-line if this Web address doesn’t work for you. Go to Microsoft Support to do that.