Super UserDoes Linux generate more heat than Windows on laptops?
[+37] [8] Alfred Zhong
[2012-08-09 18:08:37]
[ windows-7 linux laptop temperature ]

I just received my new Lenovo Ideapad Y580 and I want to dual boot with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 12.04. I made a bootable USB stick and booted into Ubuntu. When running Ubuntu, the air coming from the laptop's vent feels much hotter than when running Windows 7. Has anybody else observed this?

I have noticed the same issue with Linux Mint 13. I am going to try Fedora 17 as well. I would like to know if Windows runs cooler than just Mint and Ubuntu, Linux generally. Is there something else I should be doing in Linux that Windows is automatically doing?

What makes this a problem exactly? - David Schwartz
(8) Have you actually measured the difference? - Tom Wijsman
There's another issue. I have a Lenovo Y560p (similar to yours) and there's a nasty little bug that got introduced to the kernel back around 2.6.38. If you run top, you'll notice that there's a process called kworker that is taking up anywhere from 15% to 50% of your CPU. It's related to this bug:… The workaround is in that thread but it's not perfect. - rost0031
[+32] [2012-08-09 19:18:19] darnir

In short your answer is Yes. Linux in general will generate more heat and give you less battery life as compared to Windows.

I am running Arch Linux with XFCE and very few background processes, yet is usually heats up much more compared to my Windows 7.

@Blogger's answer that it depends on your distribution is true only to a certain extent. As has been pointed out in the comments, it depends more on your particular usage. A lightweight Ubuntu will consume much lesser power than a heavy KDE Gentoo system.

The biggest reason for this is as @Dougvj mentioned, most device drivers and applications are optimised only for Windows. These companies pay very little attention to the Linux Kernel. As a result, the drivers are usually poorly written and maintained. This in fact was the reason for Torvalds to publicly abuse [1] NVIDIA when asked about bad support from Hardware Companies.

The various small tweaks that you must do will vary not only on your processor but your Motherboard and GPU too. You could try using tools like acpid, laptop-mode-tools, cpufreq and others.

One major reason for Linux consuming more battery life and generating more heat is that while the kernel supports CPU Frequency Scaling [2] the vanilla kernel does not have it enabled by default. Hence, enabling CPU Frequency Scaling should help you reduce the heat by a small extent. You can read more about CPU Frequency Scaling on this Arch Wiki [3] article too.


Don't you mean "the vanilla kernel doesn't have it enabled by default"? - Thomas Padron-McCarthy
"True to a certain extend" is, I feel, misleading. Power consumption is independent of distribution; it's dependent on what software you are or are not running. It's perfectly possible to have a very lightweight Ubuntu consume less power than a heavy KDE Gentoo. Distributions may have different default settings and programs, but innately there is no difference. - BinaryMage
@ThomasPadron-McCarthy: True. My bad. Missed that word. - darnir
@BinaryMage: Very true. However, I meant to compare the default versions of each. The reason I said "to a certain extent" is exactly what you state. A Heavy Gentoo could consume more power than a light Fedora. I'll add these explanations to my answer. - darnir
@darnir Indeed. No disagreement intended, I just thought adding clarification would be a good idea. Thank you. - BinaryMage
I think there are too many variables here for blanket statements like "Yes" or "No". Anecdata suggests to me that Linux is more efficient, but then I have only compared the run times of my laptop with both OSes, so it may be entirely different for your setup. - Simon Richter
From what I have seen in the last 5 years over multiple systems is that in general Linux systems will generate more heat. A bare-bones Arch system without X-Server generated as much heat as my Windows 7 with Aero enabled. - darnir
Okay, may I please know why certain people thought this was not a good answer and downvoted it? - darnir
[+14] [2012-08-09 18:41:05] Dougvj

Usually yes. The problem is usually not Linux per se but that hardware manufacturers especially non intel GPUs do not provide optimized drivers or documentation for Linux, most effort is placed in optimizing for Windows. You can look up tricks for your specific hardware configuration and often you will be able to improve power usage in Linux.

Thanks, it's my first time to use Linux on a laptop although I used it on Desktop for a long time. So I didn't notice this problem before. This is an Intel i7 processor. Would you point me to some source of power optimization - Alfred Zhong
@AlfredZhong williambrownstreet highlights Powertop in this review, you might also refer to some individual issues on akubuntu as the solutions will probably apply across distros (i.e. using Jupiter in Enlightenment environments) - mfg
My latest laptop has an Nvidia Optimus dual graphics, which is totally unsupported by Nvidia. With a standard linux kernel, at boot, both the integrated Intel GPU and the Nvidia component are running, and power consumption (and heat dissipation) are high. I installed bbswitch to disable the Nvidia part, and power consumption falls dramatically (probably not higher than with Windows at all) - philfr
[+4] [2012-08-09 18:29:03] blogger

That depends also on distribution you are using. Linux Mint eats a lot of power while minimal distribution like Crunchbang would consume less.

There was also a "bug" in linux kernel that generates more heat, but i don't know if it was patched until linux mint 13.

How about Fedora and Ubuntu? - Alfred Zhong
@AlfredZhong Probably along the lines of Mint. - BinaryMage
[+2] [2012-08-11 12:11:03] Gary Gatling

I own a Y470. It is very similar to your machine. You might want to look into using the "powersave" governor when you are not doing anything that requires all that CPU power.

like: cpufreq-set -c 0 -g powersave; cpufreq-set -c 1 -g powersave; and so on for all 8 CPU cores.

When you need performance, you can switch to "ondemand" or "performance" for a faster system. I made shell scripts just for that purpose and made launchers on my panel to easily switch governors.

I think the main problem might be the hybrid graphics with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX660M . You probably need bbswitch/bumblebee to use your Discrete GPU (NVidia) and turn it off when not in use. This helps "a huge amount" with the heat.

Because you own a Y580, you also need "acpi-handle-hack"

If you are going with centos or fedora, I made some packages if that helps you out...

Good luck. acpi-handlep-hack on the techies site above has code for the Y580 motherboard. I just need to update the instructions on that page to mention that fact...

[+1] [2012-08-12 03:05:01] Miles Yucht

It seems like it really can vary. I'm running Arch Linux and the i3 window manager, and I have temps in the mid 40s Celsius, which is consistently cooler than when I run Windows.

[0] [2012-08-11 19:33:11] Vadi

As everyone said, it depends on what you are using. Ubuntu for example in it's most recent version put a lot of work into making the defaults on Ubuntu be much more heat friendly [1].


[0] [2012-08-11 21:13:53] Keith

Yes and no. Most Linux distros are made for desktops, and if you just install a desktop-tuned Linux distro it will not have all the power management enabled and thus use more power. On Windows, the OEM tunes it for maximum battery life, using all the power-saving features of the hardware. However, if you know how you can install Linux and tweak it for laptops, such as enabling frequency scaling, device power management (many drivers now have that as a build option), etc. You will probably have to compile a custom kernel. Basically, you have to integrate it with the hardware the same as the OEM. I believe there are some Linux laptop vendors that have done this already.

Consider that all Android phones run Linux. It's not really true that Linux uses more power, it is only that most Linux installs on laptops are not well integrated.

[0] [2012-08-12 13:55:47] Observer

I've been using ubuntu since hardy & jaunty. Hardware support is getting better, but apm is sorely dated.

The challenge for linux is that new hardware is usually poorly supported while old hardware while supported are dated.

Other times, your hw is no longer supported by e latest kernel by e time its support is stable n working.

Latest kernel or latest hw, take ur pick.