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PowerTOP is a Linux utility that can monitor and display a system's electrical power usage. It is useful as a hardware monitoring and diagnostic tool. It is among the most powerful battery stretching utilities for notebook computers.



Several kernel options must be enabled in the kernel for PowerTOP to work properly. These include: CONFIG_DEBUG_FS, CONFIG_TRACING, CONFIG_BLK_DEV_IO_TRACE, CONFIG_TIMER_STATS (was removed in kernel 4.11), CONFIG_CPU_FREQ_STAT, and CONFIG_CPU_FREQ_STAT_DETAILS (removed in 4.11, and rolled into CONFIG_CPU_FREQ_STAT).

CONFIG_TIMER_STATS has been removed from kernel, see https://patchwork.kernel.org/patch/9561519/

For newer Intel Core series of processors (based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture or newer) enable the powercap sysfs driver via CONFIG_POWERCAP and CONFIG_INTEL_RAPL.

Optionally, for wireless power saving enable: CONFIG_TRACEPOINTS.

KERNEL Enable support for PowerTOP in the kernel
Power management and ACPI options  --->
   CPU Frequency scaling  --->
      [*] CPU Frequency scaling
      <*>   CPU frequency transition statistics
      [*]     CPU frequency transition statistics details
   -*- Device power management core functionality
   [*]   Power Management Debug Support
   [*]      Extra PM attributes in sysfs for low-level debugging/testing

Kernel hacking  --->
   [*] Kernel debugging

   Generic Kernel Debugging Instruments  --->
      [*] Debug Filesystem
   [*] Collect kernel timers statistics
   [*] Tracers  --->
      [*] Support for tracing block IO actions
KERNEL Intel powercap sysfs driver
Device Drivers --->
  [*] Generic powercap sysfs driver --->
    <M>   Intel RAPL Support

If the above options have not properly been enabled Portage will display warning messages at the end of the emerge. If help is required for upgrading the kernel while enabling the above options, be sure to see the kernel upgrade article!

USE flags

USE flags for sys-power/powertop tool to diagnose issues with power consumption and power management

X Add support for X11
nls Add Native Language Support (using gettext - GNU locale utilities)
unicode Add support for Unicode


After setting USE flags, emerge PowerTOP:

root #emerge --ask sys-power/powertop


PowerTOP does not have any configuration other than passing options via the command-line.


Calibration can be performed in order for PowerTOP to gain an understanding of the system:

root #powertop --calibrate
During the calibrating process the attached screen and network adapters are turned off and on again.



user $/usr/sbin/powertop --help
Usage: powertop [OPTIONS]

     --auto-tune         sets all tunable options to their GOOD setting
 -c, --calibrate         runs powertop in calibration mode
 -C, --csv[=filename]    generate a csv report
     --debug             run in "debug" mode
     --extech[=devnode]  uses an Extech Power Analyzer for measurements
 -r, --html[=filename]   generate a html report
 -i, --iteration[=iterations] number of times to run each test
 -q, --quiet             suppress stderr output
 -t, --time[=seconds]    generate a report for 'x' seconds
 -w, --workload[=workload] file to execute for workload
 -V, --version           print version information
 -h, --help              print this help menu

For more help please refer to the 'man 8 powertop'


Could not find a Makefile in the kernel source directory

After an emerge a message similar to the following message may be displayed:

CODE Post emerge warning message
* Could not find a Makefile in the kernel source directory.
 * Please ensure that /usr/src/linux points to a complete set of Linux sources
 * Unable to calculate Linux Kernel version for build, attempting to use running version
 *   CONFIG_DEBUG_FS:    is not set when it should be.
 *   CONFIG_TRACEPOINTS:         is not set when it should be.
 *   CONFIG_BLK_DEV_IO_TRACE:    is not set when it should be.
 *   CONFIG_TIMER_STATS:         is not set when it should be.
 *   CONFIG_TRACING:     is not set when it should be.
 * Please check to make sure these options are set correctly.
 * Failure to do so may cause unexpected problems.

This warning indicates the PowerTOP ebuild has attempted to verify a successful operating environment for the PowerTOP software package. In order to be sure PowerTOP will work as intended, at the end of the emerge process, a check is ran against the current kernel source configuration. In the case of the above message two warnings were provided:

  1. No kernel sources have been detected. This can happen as a result of running an emerge --depclean or failed to have a specific kernel set using the eselect kernel command.
  2. Since no kernel sources have been detected Portage was not able to scan the kernel's .config file to determine if the correct features have been enabled in the kernel. According to the error message above, five features are not set. The features may or may not be set in the current running kernel. Portage is simply making the user aware there is no way to verify these features have been set without a .config file. If PowerTOP can perform some functions but not others, be sure all the kernel features listed have been enabled. For more information on how to do so consult the kernel configuration article.

See also

  • Power management — describes methods to save energy for longer battery runtimes, a quieter computer, lower power bills, and an environmentally friendly impact.

External resources