How to Manage Windows 10’s New “Power Throttling” to Save Battery Life

Windows 10 now performs “Power Throttling” of applications, even traditional Windows desktop programs and background processes. By limiting the CPU available to background applications, Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update can increase battery life on laptops and tablets. You can tell Windows not to perform power throttling for certain processes if this causes a problem.

Why Windows Now Slows Some Programs Down

Modern CPUs have a variety of power states, and can use a low-power mode that is much more energy efficient. When you’re using an application like your web browser, Windows would like to get maximum performance out of your CPU so the application works as fast as possible. However, when applications are just running in the background, Windows would like to put the CPU in its low power state. That background work will still get done, but it will happen a bit slower and the computer will use less power to do the work, increasing your battery life.

To ensure maximum performance for the applications you’re actually using, Microsoft has “built a sophisticated detection system into Windows”. The operating system identifies applications in the foreground, applications playing music, and other categories of important apps, ensuring they won’t be throttled.

If an application doesn’t seem to be important to the user, Windows marks it as available for power throttling. When only these less important processes need to use the CPU, Windows puts it in a low power state. On previous versions of Windows, the operating system wouldn’t be able to transition to that low power state because it treated those background processes the same as foreground processes. Windows now has a way to tell which are important.

This detection process may not always work perfectly, so you can check which applications are marked for Power Throttling and tell Windows they’re important if you don’t want the operating system slowing them down.

This feature is designed to boost battery life on portable PCs, so it’s not used on desktops or on laptops when they’re plugged in. It’s only used when a PC is running on battery power.

How to Check Which Processes Are Power Throttled

Use the Task Manager to check which processes are power throttled on your system. To open it, press Ctrl+Shift+Esc or right-click the taskbar and select “Task Manager”. Click the “Details” tab to view a detailed list of the processes running on your system. If you don’t see the tabs, click the “More details” option first.

In the Details pane, right-click the headings and click “Select Columns”.

Scroll down through the list and enable the “Power Throttling” column. Click “OK” to save your changes.

You’ll now see a Power Throttling column here, which will give you information about each process’s power throttling state. You can drag it around to reposition it, if you like.

If Power Throttling is disabled on your system—for example, if you’re on a desktop PC or laptop that’s plugged in—you’ll just see “Disabled” in this column for every application.

On a portable PC running on battery, you’ll likely see some applications with power throttling “Enabled” and some applications with it “Disabled”.

We saw this in action with Google Chrome. When we had Google Chrome minimized in the background, Windows set Power Throttling  to “Enabled” for the chrome.exe processes. When we Alt+Tabbed back to Chrome and it was on our screen, Windows set Power Throttling to “Disabled” for it.

How to Disable Power Throttling System-Wide

To disable power throttling, just plug your portable PC into a power outlet. Power Throttling will always be disabled while the PC is plugged in.

If you can’t plug in right now, you can click the battery icon in the notification area, also known as the system tray. Adjust the power slider to control Power Throttling and other power usage settings.

At “Battery saver” or “Better battery”, Power Throttling will be enabled. At “Better performance”, Power Throttling will be enabled but will be less aggressive. At “Best performance”, Power Throttling will be disabled. Of course, the Best Performance setting will increase power usage and lower your battery life.

How to Disable Power Throttling for an Individual Process

You can also tell Windows to disable Power Throttling for individual processes on your system. This is particularly useful if the auto-detection feature fails and you find Windows throttling important programs, or if a specific background process is important to you and you want it to get maximum CPU resources.

To disable Power Throttling for an application, head to Settings > System > Battery. Click “Battery Usage by App”.

If you don’t see a “Battery” screen here, your PC doesn’t have a battery—which means Power Throttling will never be used.

Select the application you want to adjust here. If an application has “Decided by Windows” underneath it, that means Windows is automatically deciding whether it should be throttled or not.

Uncheck the “Let Windows decide when this app can run in the background” and “Reduce the work app can do when it’s in the background” options here. Power Throttling will now be disabled for that application.

While we’re using Google Chrome as an example here, we don’t recommend disabling Power Throttling for it or any other process unless you have a good reason to do so. This setting will only slow Chrome down when it’s running in the background and will have no effect when you’re actively browsing. The result is improved battery life with no drawback.

In fact, if Power Throttling works properly and never slows something down when you care about it, you should never have to tweak it at all.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.