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Setting Up For Laptops

This page should contain links to pages needed for configuring a laptop for the best experience. Setting up a laptop is in many ways the same as setting up a desktop. However, there are a few key differences. When setting up a laptop with Arch Linux, the following points should be taken into consideration:

  • #Power Management Power Management for laptops refers to optimizing the system to last as long as possible on a single battery charge. This can be accomplished by a variety of tweaks.
    • #Suspend and Hibernate : the operating system can be manually suspended either to memory or to disk, allowing for an (almost) complete shutdown of other hardware.
    • Hard drive spindown : the system can be configured to automatically turn off the hard disk after a specified interval of inactivity.
    • Screen shut off : the laptop screen can be configured to automatically turn off after a specified interval of inactivity (not just blanked with a screensaver but completely shut off).
    • CPU frequency scaling : the processor(s) can be configured to automatically step down to a lower frequency at lower loads.

All of these points are important to take into consideration when getting a laptop set up the way you like. Fortunately, Arch Linux provides all the tools and programs necessary to take complete control of your laptop. These programs and utilities are highlighted below, with appropriate tips tutorials.

Note: the following links may be useful:

Power Management

Power management is very important for anyone who wishes to make good use of their battery capacity. The following tools and programs help to increase battery life and keep your laptop cool and quiet.

Battery State Monitoring Utilities

Battery state can be read using ACPI utilities from the terminal. The command line utilities that ACPI functionality is provided via the acpi package. A simple battery monitor that sits in the system tray is batterymonAUR which can be found in the AUR.

Tip: More information can be found in the ACPI modules article.

Suspend and Hibernate

Manually suspending the operating system, either to memory (standby) or to disk (hibernate) sometimes provides the most efficient way to optimize battery life, depending on the usage pattern of the laptop. While there is relatively straightforward support in the linux kernel to support these operations, typically some adjustments have to made before initiating these operations (typically due to problematic drivers, modules or hardware). The following tools provide wrappers around the kernel interfaces to suspend/resume :

which are described in more detail in Suspend.

Automatic tweaks for battery life

As opposed to manually initiated actions like suspend/hibernate, a number of tweaks can be made to prolong the battery life of the laptop under low/idle usage.

  • cpufrequtils provides CPU frequency scaling, a technology used primarily by notebooks which enables the OS to scale the CPU frequency up or down, depending on the current system load and/or power scheme.
  • Laptop Mode Tools provides a comprehensive suite of tools to tweak a large number of power saving settings through well documented config files.
  • PowerTOP is a handy utility from Intel that displays which hardware/processes are using the most power on your system, and provides instructions on how to stop or remove power-wasting services. Works great for mobile Intel CPUs; provides the current CPU state and suggestions for power saving. Also works on AMD systems, but does not provide as much information about the CPU state.
  • Powernowd is a program for powering down CPUs dynamically, which can be run either on an AMD-based system or an Intel-based system. However, cpufrequtils detailed above provides a more modern alternative, as seen by the fact that powernowd was created before the ondemand governor existed.

Some of these tweaks are specific to certain makes.

  • Lapsus is a set of programs providing easy access to many features of various laptops. It currently supports most features provided by asus-laptop kernel module from ACPI4Asus project, such as additional LEDs, hotkeys, backlight control etc. It also has support for some IBM laptops features provided by IBM ThinkPad ACPI Extras Driver and NVRAM device.
  • Battery tweaks for Thinkpads can be found in the tp_smapi article.
  • TLP for Thinkpads is a set of scripts, which set many powersaving options according to the current Powersource. TLP is intended to be used on Thinkpads, but most settings should work on other laptops too.

Other tweaks

Note: Not only are the following tweaks _may_ not needed if using one of the more comprehensive suites such as Laptop Mode Tools or Pm-utils


On some laptops, powertop suggests enabling the CONFIG_PCIEASPM kernel option. It can be found under "Bus options (PCI etc.)"->"PCI Express ASPM support". This option is marked as experimental in the current kernel (2.6.35) and allows the PCI-e links to enter a power saving state.

According to [1], this option might degrade performance a bit, but on an Acer 3820TG laptop, it can reduce power consumption by about one third or even more.

More experience with this setting would be appreciated, so please share them here!

It seems like the option is going to be enabled by default in kernel 2.6.36; if so, the information here will be obsolete soon. However, if your system should be able to make use of this power management feature but you are receiving messages like like the following (check /var/log/everything.log*):

disabling ASPM on pre-1.1 PCI-e device.  You can enable it with 'pcie_aspm=force'

then add pcie_aspm=force to your kernel command line.


Granola is a daemon that monitors the cpu usage and uses the cpufreq-userspace module to lessen power usage without any noticeable difference in performance. To use it, first install from the AUR:[2], the default settings will work for most setups. You will need to load the cpufreq_userspace module, as well as the cpufreq scaling governor for your CPU at startup. Edit /etc/rc.conf: For most generic cpus:

 MODULES=( ... cpufreq_userspace acpi-cpufreq ... )

For Intel Atom or Pentium 4 cpus:

 MODULES=( ... cpufreq_userspace p4_clockmod ... )

Then add Granola to the DAEMONS array:

 DAEMONS=( ... granola ... )

and reboot.

To test if it worked, run:

 cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/cpuinfo_cur_freq
 cpufreq-info #if you have cpufreq-utils installed

and check that the cpu frequency is below maximum.


When often en route working with your Notebook without WLAN-Access around, it might be expedient to add a little script to your system startup that automatically turns off your WLAN-Hardware to keep it from searching for Access Points and wasting power on this, when not connected:


essid="`iwconfig wlan0 | grep ESSID | awk {'print $4'}`"
	if [ "$essid" == "ESSID:off/any" ] ; then
		sudo iwconfig wlan0 txpower off

[edit, if wlan0 ain't your WLAN-device]

Start the script according to your DE/WM options by '(sleep xx && /path/to/script)' depending on how long it usually takes to connect to your Access Point, 60 seconds are a good default value. It will check if you're connected, turning off the device if not.

sudo iwconfig wlan0 txpower on

will bring it back up, as, of course, a reboot will.

Disk-related tweaks

Disable file access time: every time you access (read) a file the filesystem writes an access time to the file metadata. You can disable this on individual files by using the chattr command, or you can enable it on an entire disk by setting the noatime option in your fstab, as follows:

/dev/sda1          /          ext3          defaults,noatime          1  2


Note: disabling atime causes troubles with mutt and other applications that make use of file timestamps. Consider compromising between performance and compatibility by using mount option relatime instead, or look into mutt work-around for noatime.

To allow the CD/DVD rom to spin down after a while, run the following:

/usr/bin/hal-disable-polling --device /dev/scd0

Note, however, that HAL has long been deprecated.

Similar functionality is available in the newer udisks:

/usr/bin/udisks --inhibit-polling /dev/sr0

More tweaks

These are some generic suggestions that will work with most laptops.

Add the following to /etc/modprobe.d/modprobe.conf:

options usbcore autosuspend=1

Add the following to /etc/sysctl.conf

Note: laptop-mode-tools automatically rewrites these values based on the values LM_BATT_MAX_LOST_WORK_SECONDS, LM_AC_MAX_LOST_WORK_SECONDS (both multiplied by 100) resp. LM_SECONDS_BEFORE_SYNC, which are set in /etc/laptop-mode/laptop-mode.conf. However, that only happens if the three "Enable laptop mode" variables in the same file are set accordingly — left to 0, it resets the values to kernel defaults (500 / 0) for the corresponding scenario regardless of /etc/sysctl.conf.

Add the following to /etc/rc.local (and make sure it gets executed at boot time)

/usr/sbin/iwpriv your_wireless_interface set_power 5

Source: here

Hard drive spin down problem

Documented here

To prevent your laptop hard drive from spinning down too often (result of too aggressive APM defaults) do the following:

Add the following to /etc/rc.local

hdparm -B 254 /dev/sdX where X is your hard drive device

You can also set it to 255 to completely disable spinning down. You may wish to set a lower value if you move your laptop around as lower values park the heads more often and reduce the chance of damage to your hard disk while it is being moved. If you do not move your laptop at all when you are using it, then 255 or 254 is probably best. If you do, then you might want to try a lower value. A value like 128 might be a good middle-ground.

Add the following to /etc/pm/sleep.d/50-hdparm_pm

if [ -n "$1" ] && ([ "$1" = "resume" ] || [ "$1" = "thaw" ]); then
	hdparm -B 254 /dev/your-hard-drive > /dev/null

and run chmod +x /etc/pm/sleep.d/50-hdparm_pm to make sure it resets after suspend. Again, you can change the value 254 as you see fit.

Now the APM level should be set for your hard drive.

For some laptops, the option -S to hdparm can also be relevant (sets the spindown time for the drive). Note that all these options can also be configured using the laptop-mode tools. This will allow you to set a high value when on AC and a lower value when you are running on battery power.

Tweaking the scheduler

For multicore and hyperthreading-enabled processors you may use sched_mc_power_savings and sched_smt_power_savings options respectively to make the scheduler keep idle as many cores as possible. To enable these options you can do

echo 1 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/sched_mc_power_savings


echo 1 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/sched_smt_power_savings

Echoing 0 will disable them. Also laptop-mode can be used to control shed_mc_power_savings (see the appropriate config file in /etc/laptop-mode/conf.d).

Screen brightness

To change your display brightness, first check /sys/class/backlight:

   # ls /sys/class/backlight/

So this particular backlight is managed by an Intel card. Keep in mind that different cards might manage this differently! It is called acpi_video0 on an ATI card, for instance.

Check current value:

   $ cat /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness

In this case, the backlight managed by echoing values into /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness:

   # echo "400" > /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/brightness

If you get a response along the lines of "invalid argument" then you didn't honor the maximum brightness. Obviously you cannot go any higher than your screens maximum brightness. The values for maximum brightness and brightness in general vary wildly among cards. This Intel card, for instance, can go up to 976 while the ATI can go up 9. Obviously these values don't say anything about maximum effective brightness.

Check your maximum brightness:

   $ cat /sys/class/backlight/intel_backlight/max_brightness

If your laptop's Fn keys don't work or Gnome/KDE fail to correctly set the brightness using their power daemons, you can try appending acpi_backlight=vendor to your kernel line in your bootloader.


To get your touchpad working properly, see the Touchpad Synaptics page. Note that your laptop may have an ALPS touchpad (such as the DELL Inspiron 6000), and not a Synaptics touchpad. In either case, see the link above.

Hard disk shock protection

There are several laptops from different vendors featuring shock protection capabilities. As manufacturers have refused to support open source development of the required software components so far, Linux support for shock protection varies considerably between different hardware implementations.

Currently, two projects, named HDAPS and hpfall, support this kind of protection. HDAPS is for IBM/Lenovo Thinkpads and hpfall for HP/Compaq laptops

Just Check Hard Disk Active Protection System. hpfallAUR can be installed from the AUR.