Syracuse University

SU News

Green computing: training computers are revamped instead of replaced

April 21, 2010

Will Wallak
(315) 443-5887

Campus computing recently got a little greener after 30 training PCs in two computer training rooms were rebuilt and put back in use. Syracuse University’s Energy and Computing Management (ECM) department chose this sustainable computing option because it bypassed the need to purchase new desktop hardware, while also saving University resources and energy. 

The six-year-old PCs, located in Steele Hall and the ECM computer training rooms, were outfitted to run as “virtual client” machines. This type of environment means a dedicated copy of the Windows operating system, word processor, Internet browser and other necessary programs are no longer installed on each PC. Instead, a “virtual server,” located in a separate secure room, provides all computing horsepower and software to each training machine. By serving computing resources on demand or as needed, resources and software are available for use elsewhere when the machines are not being used. 

“Repurposing the existing PCs rather than buying new machines is less expensive, more flexible and more eco-friendly,” says Stephen Rieks, associate director of systems and services at ECM. “The user experience is essentially unchanged. The only difference users may notice now is that these training room PCs are configured to run either Windows XP or Windows 7. Otherwise, users will see little difference in computing speed or other capabilities. Overall, it’s just a much more efficient model.” 

Updating some of these training PCs to run Windows 7 is part of the University-wide conversion plan to upgrade all faculty and staff PCs to Microsoft’s latest operating system, says Rieks. 

“Extending the useful lives of these training PCs further enhances campus sustainability,” says Melissa Cadwell, marketing manager for SU’s Sustainability Division. “Refurbishing and reusing existing items significantly decreases the amount of campus waste generated and resources consumed. It’s a win-win situation all around.” 

Small changes to the converted computers’ software settings and some hardware upgrades have reduced the time and labor necessary to maintain each training environment. “The hard drives in some of the PCs were replaced with more energy-efficient compact flash memory cards–the same cards used in some digital cameras,” Rieks says. “Plus, all of the PCs in both training rooms are configured to automatically power off daily at 6 p.m. So if someone forgets to shut down a machine after training, it will shut itself down.” 

SU has been using virtual desktop environments since early 2003, and the trend to go “virtual” is expected to increase over time. Other SU virtual PC installations that Rieks recently completed include remote closed circuit television monitoring systems for the Department of Public Safety and Physical Plant. 

For more information about the converted training PCs, contact the ECM help desk at 443-4363. For information about other SU green campus and sustainable initiatives, visit SU’s Sustainability website at or contact the Sustainability Division at

Recent News