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DPMS - Display Power Management Signaling

Reduce Power Bill

Linux Desktop: Using DPMS to reduce your power-bill (Linux Reviews)

DPMS is used to communicate between your monitor and computer to make your computer turn off your monitor when you have been neglecting it for a given period of time. DPMS is the interface to the Energy Star power saving functions for your monitor. Basically it lets your monitor suspend and power off automatically from inactivity.

In the Monitor section add:

Option "DPMS" "true"

Next, in the ServerLayout section add:

Option "StandbyTime" "10"
Option "SuspendTime" "20"
Option "OffTime" "30"

change your DPMS settings on the fly

xset dpms 300 600 900


You can find it under Peripherals -> Display. It is the third tab labeled Power Control

Special Notes: Nvidia users... Seems the latest drivers (The 6111 series atleast) don't support the standard DPMS setup. I had to add the following to my Device section as well:

Option "DPMS"


  (**) Option "dpms" "true"
  (**) NVIDIA(0): DPMS enabled

A Primer on Screen Blanking Under Xorg

BlankTime is "fake" screen blanking: it makes the screen black but the backlight and power supply stay on. It doesn't actually do anything to reduce the power usage. Think of it as a really boring screen saver. The timeout defaults to 10 minutes.

In more recent Xorg versions, like the 7.2 that comes with Ubuntu's "Gutsy Gibbon", BlankTime is gone, and instead there is a Screen Saver section, which includes the options prefer blanking, allow exposures, timeout, and cycle. It works differently, too: prefer blanking actually switches the monitor to powersave mode (the alternative, if you turn it off, is an ugly X cross-hatch pattern) and there doesn't seem to be any way to get the old "fake blank" behavior back. I don't know what the difference is between timeout and cycle; the manual page doesn't say, nor does anyone else. Gutsy sets them both to 600 seconds.

Standby Time

   In a CRT, this turns off the electron gun, but leaves everything else powered on so that the screen can recover quickly. The timeout defaults to 20 minutes. 

Suspend Time

   This turns off the monitor power supply in addition to the electron gun. By default this timeout is set to 30 minutes. 

Off Time

   This turns off all power to the monitor and is the most power conservative state. By default this happens after 40 minutes. 

The default values are built into X, and need not appear anywhere else. That's why, if you grepped for timeouts, you may not have found them.

They can also be set via xset. You can set the blank timeout with:

xset s blank xset s 300

will tell X to use screen blanking after the system has been idle for 300 seconds (five minutes).

xset dpms 0 360 420

disables DPMS standby and sets the DPMS suspend time to 360 seconds and the off time to 420 seconds. In theory, this combined with the previous xset commands would first blank the screen at five minutes; then at six minutes, the display would go to suspend, turning off another minute later.

Timeouts can also be specified in the X configuration file: /etc/X11/xorg.conf. In the "Monitor" section, you need a line like:

Option          "DPMS"

Then, in the "ServerLayout" section (for Xorg 7.2 and later, make a separate ServerFlags section instead), include lines like this:

Option          "BlankTime"     "4"
Option          "StandbyTime"   "0"
Option          "SuspendTime"   "0"
Option          "OffTime"       "5"

Caution: note the numbers are all small. xorg.conf needs times specified in minutes, not seconds as with xset.

Hint: when debugging timeouts, try setting them to unusual numbers like 765 or 666 instead of 300 or 600. That makes it easier to be sure whether you're seeing your own numbers or something coming from a system setting somewhere else.

Testing the monitor blanking modes. This will blank the screen (or activate the screensaver program, if you're using one) after a delay of one second. You need the delay because X gets a little confused about the order of events; it will blank the screen but immediate un-blank it, thinking the activity of your typing the command happened recently enough to come out of screensaver mode.

sleep 1; xset s activate

To turn the screen OFF after a delay of one second. You can also use standby, suspend, or on instead of off.

sleep 1; xset dpms force off

Sometimes it turns out that Xorg actually doesn't use DPMS when it's supposedly using DPMS, at least on a lot of systems. xset dpms force off merely makes the screen black; the backlight stays on.

Verify that the backlight does indeed turn off with: (vbetool's dpms options also include on, standby, suspend and reduced.)

vbetool dpms off

vbetool is part of the pm-utils package:

Summary: Power management utilities and scripts for CentOS
Description: The pm-utils package contains utilities and scripts for CentOS useful for power management.

Linux Online - DPMS

DPMS (Display Power Management Signaling) is a standard to reduce power consumption in monitors. Typically, both the monitor and the video card must support the DPMS standard in order to receive any benefit from it. DPMS specifies four modes of operation (in order of increasing power savings): "Normal", "Standby", "Suspend" and "Off". Two signal lines, "Horizontal Sync" and "Vertical Sync" provide a method for signaling these four different states to a DPMS monitor.

A good technical resource on DPMS is available at

Power Management Methods

If you have a DPMS-compliant monitor, you might want to try enabling support for it under the Monitor section of your XF86Config file:

Section "Monitor"
	Option	"DPMS"

To manipulate the DPMS functions, you can create/modify the following items in the ServerLayout section.

Section "ServerLayout"
	Option "BlankTime"	"10"	# Blank the screen in 10 minutes
	Option "StandbyTime" 	"20"	# Turn off screen in 20 minutes
	Option "SuspendTime"	"30"	# Full hibernation in 30 minutes
	Option "OffTime"	"40"	# Turn off DPMS monitor

It's worth noting that BlankTime is not actually a power saving level at all. The screen is sent a "fake" blanking effect and defaults to activate after 10 minutes. Alternately, it can indicate the number of minutes until the screensaver should activate. It has nothing to do with DPMS.

Of course, all of this can also be activated "on-the-fly" by using xset. If you don't have access to your system's XF86Config file, a good place to put these commands would be in your ~/.Xsession or ~/.xinitrc file.

bash$ xset -dpms			# Disable DPMS
bash$ xset +dpms			# Enable DPMS
bash$ xset s off			# Disable screen blanking
bash$ xset s 150			# Blank the screen after 150 seconds
bash$ xset dpms 300 600 900		# Set standby, suspend, & off times (in seconds)
bash$ xset dpms force standby		# Immediately go into standby mode
bash$ xset dpms force suspend		# Immediately go into suspend mode
bash$ xset dpms force off		# Immediately turn off the monitor
bash$ xset -q				# Query current settings

If instead you're using the Linux console (not X-Windows), you'll want to use setterm(1):

bash$ setterm -blank 10			# Blank the screen in 10 minutes
bash$ setterm -powersave on		# Put the monitor into VESA power saving mode
bash$ setterm -powerdown 20		# Set the VESA powerdown to 20 minutes

How do I completely disable DPMS?

Here's what I've tried, with no success:
1. Deleted acpi RPM package (didn't think this would have anything to do with behavior; it didn't).
2. Commented out xorg.conf Option "dpms" in Monitor section.
3. Deleted xorg.conf Option "dpms" in Monitor section.
4. Typed Option "dpms" "false" in xorg.conf Monitor section.
5. Typed Option "DPMS" "false" in xorg.conf Monitor section. (Case sensitive?).
6. Typed Option "dpms" 0 0 0 in xorg.conf Monitor section.
7. Edited /etc/gdm/-all- Default shell scripts (Init, PostLogin, PreLogin, PostSession):
7a. Included xset -dpms
7b. Included xset dpms 0 0 0

None of those worked, and every time, Xorg.0.log has:
(II) Loading extension DPMS
(II) SAVAGE(0): DPMS capabilities: StandBy Suspend Off; RGB/Color Display
(**) SAVAGE(0): DPMS enabled

Is it possible the S3 Savage driver has DPMS enablement hardcoded?

Any ideas how to get DPMS disabled?

LinuxPlanet - Tutorials - Power Saving for the Workstation, Part 2 - Automatically Suspending to RAM

In the KDE Control Center, drill down through Peripherals, Display, to the Power Saving tab. Check the Enable Power Saving checkbox and set time for "Switch Off Monitor." In a non-KDE environment, find "Display Power Management." That's what automatically turns off DPMS when the system is idling.


DPMS (Display Power Management Signaling) is a standard from the VESA consortium for managing the power supply of video monitors for computers through the graphics card. The most common use is to shut off the monitor after the computer has been idle for some time.

There are multiple settings that influence monitor power savings:

  • xorg.conf: The monitor section can contain a DPMS option:
Section Monitor
       Option "DPMS"
  • xorg.conf: The ServerFlags section can contain a NoPM option:
Section "ServerFlags"
       Option "NoPM" "true"
  • xset can be used from the command line to turn DPMS on/off:
xset -dpms
xset +dpms
  • KDE sometimes has a control panel for power management where DPMS can be selected.
  • Often the BIOS also has options for power management

But probably DPMS will work if you add the DPMS option to the Monitor section and make sure that the NoPM section is not placed in ServerFlags. You can also add the following lines to ServerFlags in order to control when the display should be turned off:

Section "ServerFlags"
      Option  "StandbyTime"   "1"
      Option  "SuspendTime"   "2"
      Option  "OffTime"       "3"

Installing and using MythTV: Troubleshooting.

Screen goes blank but returns when mouse is moved or keyboard is used

Edit your /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 or /etc/X11/xorg.conf file, and look for:

   Section "ServerFlags"
       #DontZap # disable <Ctrl><Alt><BS> (server abort)
       #DontZoom # disable <Ctrl><Alt><KP_+>/<KP_-> (resolution switching)
       AllowMouseOpenFail # allows the server to start up even if the mouse doesn't work
       Option "blank time" "0"
       Option "standby time" "0"
       Option "suspend time" "0"
       Option "off time" "0"
       Option "NoPM" "1"

Also, look for:

   Section "Device"
       Identifier "device1"
       VendorName "nVidia Corporation"
       BoardName "NVIDIA GeForce 256 (generic)"
       Driver "nv"
       Option "DPMS"

In this case, you would need to either delete the Option "DPMS" line, or change it to # Option "DPMS" to comment it out. The next time you start XFree this change will take effect.

Finally, check:

   Section "Monitor"
       Identifier "monitor1"
       VendorName "Plug'n Play"
       HorizSync 30-85
       VertRefresh 50-160
       # Sony Vaio C1(X,XS,VE,VN)?
       # 1024x480 @ 85.6 Hz, 48 kHz hsync
       ModeLine "1024x480"    65.00 1024 1032 1176 1344   480  488  494  563 -hsync -vsync
       # TV fullscreen mode or DVD fullscreen output.
       # 768x576 @ 79 Hz, 50 kHz hsync
       ModeLine "768x576"     50.00  768  832  846 1000   576  590  595  630
       # 768x576 @ 100 Hz, 61.6 kHz hsync
       ModeLine "768x576"     63.07  768  800  960 1024   576  578  590  616

Ensure that there isn't an Option "DPMS" in the Monitor configuration.

HOWTO Automatically turn off your monitor - Gentoo Linux Wiki

Configure XOrg to use DPMS.

File: /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Section "Monitor"
    Option "DPMS"

Section "ServerLayout"
    Option "OffTime" "20"

Nvidia drivers

If you use nvidia-drivers you need to add the following to the "Device" Section.

Option "DPMS" "TRUE"

DPMS Specification

DPMS monitor specification

The DPMS standard (Display Power Management Signaling) was developed to extend the useful life of PC monitors as well as to conserve the relatively high amount of energy used by monitors when not required.

The DPMS compliant video controller and the DPMS compliant monitor use the Horizontal sync and Vertical sync signals to control the power mode of the monitor. Because there are 2 signal lines, it allows 4 modes of operation. Normal, Standby, Suspend and Off. The DPMS compliant video card will toggle the sync lines on or off to select the power mode and the monitor will react as follows:

Horiz Vert Mode
ON ON Normal
OFF ON Standby---RGB guns off, power supply on, tube filaments energized, (screen saver mode)
ON OFF Suspend---RGB guns off, power supply off, tube filaments energized.
OFF OFF Pwr off----Small auxiliary circuit stays on to monitor the HS/VS signals to enable power on when data needs to be displayed on the screen.

Typical recovery times. (Picture on screen)

H-sync V-sync Power used Recovery time
ON ON <120 watts* None
OFF ON <110 watts 2-3 secs
ON OFF <15 watts 2-3 secs
OFF OFF <5 watts 8-10 secs

* The actual wattage will vary with the screen size of the monitor.

(14/15" = 85-100W----16/17" = 95-120W----20/21" = 110-140W )