ACPI Definition (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface)

April 24, 2024

ACPI, or Advanced Configuration and Power Interface, is a standard that provides an open interface for device configuration and power management by the operating system. It allows systems to perform power-saving operations and device management dynamically and efficiently.

What Is Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI)?

ACPI, or Advanced Configuration and Power Interface, is an essential system-level interface and power management specification developed to unify and standardize the interaction between operating systems and hardware for effective power management and configuration. It provides the mechanisms for detection, configuration, and power management of hardware components by the operating system, allowing for sophisticated control of system resources.

ACPI defines a collection of tables and executable code (in the form of ACPI Machine Language, or AML) that dictate how individual components and the system as a whole manage power and respond to configuration requests. This specification includes detailed methodologies for managing power states for individual devices (D-states), processor states (C-states for idle power reduction and P-states for performance scaling), and system states (S-states, like sleep and hibernation). Furthermore, ACPI extends beyond mere power management to include functionality for system event handling, hot plugging of devices, and detailed battery and thermal management.

Why Is ACPI Important?

ACPI is important for several reasons, mainly because it enhances computer functionality, energy efficiency, and user experience:

  • Power management. One of the primary functions of ACPI is to manage power consumption across various devices connected to a computer system. This is crucial for extending battery life in portable devices like laptops and mobile phones. By controlling when individual components are active or can be put into a low-power sleep state, ACPI helps conserve energy.
  • System stability and performance. ACPI facilitates the central management of hardware resources through the operating system. This centralized control allows for more efficient handling of resources and better system stability. Depending on the current workload, ACPI dynamically manages CPU power states (C-states) and performance states (P-states), optimizing performance and power usage in real time.
  • Hardware abstraction. ACPI provides a standardized way of interfacing with hardware devices, which simplifies operating system development. This abstraction layer allows the operating system to perform hardware configuration and power management without directly interacting with the hardware.
  • Enhanced system configurations. ACPI supports complex configurations and large-scale systems, including hot-swappable and plug-and-play features. This functionality enables users to add and remove devices without manually configuring hardware or reboot their systems.

A Short History of ACPI

Developed by leading tech companies Intel, Microsoft, and Toshiba, ACPI was first released in 1996. The initiative aimed to overcome the limitations of previous power management standards like APM (Advanced Power Management), which offered only limited control over power distribution and did not support the then-new plug-and-play functionalities.

ACPI introduced a more sophisticated method of managing power that was directly controlled by the operating system, allowing for finer control over hardware resources. This was crucial for the development of laptops, which demanded better battery management to improve usability and portability. As ACPI evolved, its specifications became richer, incorporating features that allowed for thermal management, hot swapping, and more detailed status reporting from hardware.

With successive revisions, such as ACPI 2.0 in 2000 and later versions, the standard added support for 64-bit systems and new hardware types, enhancing scalability and the ability to handle new technologies as they emerged. This adaptability ensured ACPI’s relevance as computing devices became more diverse and energy efficiency standards more stringent.

Today, ACPI is a fundamental component in virtually all operating systems and computing devices, integral not just for power management but also for ensuring stable and flexible hardware integration.

ACPI Architecture

The ACPI architecture provides a comprehensive framework for device configuration and power management. It is designed to allow operating systems to interact with hardware devices in a standardized way, enhancing both the flexibility and power efficiency of a system. Here’s an overview of the key components that make up the ACPI architecture.

ACPI Tables

ACPI uses several tables to store information about the hardware configuration and system state. These tables are crucial as they contain data that the operating system needs to understand the capabilities of the hardware and how to manage it. The most important tables are:

  • DSDT (Differentiated System Description Table). This table contains the majority of the ACPI data for a system, including definitions for most of the hardware components and their power management features.
  • SSDT (Secondary System Description Table). Provides additional definitions that might be required for system components not included in the DSDT.
  • FADT (Fixed ACPI Description Table). Provides static information necessary for the correct operation of various hardware components, including system-level information and pointers to other tables.
  • MADT (Multiple APIC Description Table). Contains information about the system’s interrupt controller(s) and is used primarily in multi-processor systems.

AML (ACPI Machine Language)

ACPI tables are encoded in a bytecode language called ACPI Machine Language (AML). This language is interpreted by the ACPI component in the operating system, allowing the OS to manage system hardware resources directly. AML is used to define events, device configurations, and power states in a hardware-independent manner.


The system firmware or BIOS includes an ACPI implementation that provides the initial ACPI tables and interfaces necessary for the operating system to take over management of system resources. The ACPI BIOS is responsible for bootstrapping the ACPI environment before handing control over to the operating system.

Event Handling

ACPI defines a mechanism for handling various system events related to power, thermal management, and other system functions. These include events like battery status changes, temperature changes, or hardware status updates. The operating system can respond to these events in real time, adjusting system policies dynamically to ensure optimal performance and power usage.

Power States

ACPI specifies several global power states for the system, from fully on to fully off, as well as device-specific power states. These states allow the system to reduce power usage incrementally by deactivating non-essential components when they are not in use or based on user settings.

Operating System Interfaces

The operating system interfaces with ACPI through a component called the ACPI driver. This driver is responsible for interpreting AML and executing ACPI functions. It acts as a bridge between the system hardware and the software, ensuring that the operating system can efficiently manage hardware resources according to ACPI specifications.

ACPI Capabilities

ACPI offers a broad range of capabilities essential for modern computing systems. These capabilities facilitate enhanced device management, power efficiency, and system responsiveness. Below are some of the key capabilities of ACPI.

Power Management

ACPI introduces several power states for devices and the system as a whole, which helps to significantly reduce power consumption when devices are idle, not in use, or when the system is in a low-power mode. The main power states include:

  • G-States (Global States). These include the system-wide states such as working (G0), sleeping (G1), and soft off (G2). Each state has sub-states that offer varying levels of power conservation.
  • S-States (Sleep States). These are different levels of system sleep states, ranging from light sleep (S1) to deep sleep (S4, also known as hibernate), where more device context is saved to allow faster resume times.
  • D-States (Device States). These apply to individual devices. D0 is fully operational, and higher numbers (D1, D2, D3) indicate lower power modes leading to off or non-functional states.
  • C-States (CPU States). These states reduce CPU power usage by progressively shutting down parts of the processor when idle, ranging from reduced power (C1) to deep power-down modes (C3 or higher).

Hardware Abstraction

ACPI abstracts the details of hardware interfaces, which allows the operating system to perform generic operations without needing to know details about the hardware. This simplifies system design and enhances portability across different hardware platforms.

Event-Driven Programming

ACPI supports an event-driven programming model where hardware events can trigger actions without direct intervention from the CPU, thereby improving system efficiency and responsiveness. Events such as power button presses, lid switches, or battery status changes can be configured to trigger specific system responses automatically.

Thermal Management

ACPI enables effective thermal management through strategies that adjust the operating parameters of hardware components based on current thermal conditions. This helps in maintaining safe operating temperatures, thus preventing overheating and potential damage to hardware components.

System Configuration and Resource Allocation

ACPI facilitates dynamic configuration and resource allocation, enabling systems to recognize and configure hardware and manage resources at runtime. This capability supports plug-and-play functionality, where devices can be added or removed without requiring a system reboot.

Battery Management

ACPI provides detailed battery management capabilities, including reporting battery status, remaining capacity, and estimated runtimes. This information allows operating systems to optimize power usage based on current battery status and to provide users with accurate battery life estimates.

Hot Swapping

ACPI supports hot swapping for some devices, allowing them to be replaced or removed while the system is running. This is particularly important in server environments and for devices like batteries and some storage media.

Wake-Up Capabilities

ACPI allows devices to wake the system up from lower power states. For instance, network cards can be set to wake-up the system in response to network activity, and keyboards can wake the system from a sleep state when a key is pressed.

Anastazija is an experienced content writer with knowledge and passion for cloud computing, information technology, and online security. At phoenixNAP, she focuses on answering burning questions about ensuring data robustness and security for all participants in the digital landscape.