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I recently upgraded to Ubuntu 11.10 however I noticed a large rise in power consumption when idle and alot more when doing light work. After reading online I found out this is a kernel thing so I was wondering if I can downgrade my kernel without undermining the current installation.

I am using Sandybridge core i5 processor on a lenovo thinkpad T420 if it matters

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A sister site, AskUbuntu, has instructions for ye. –  new123456 Nov 1 '11 at 21:15
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you can certainly downgrade kernel as long as they are the same major versions ie 3.2.x I do not see any huge consequences, other than that you can boot back to your previous kernel if anything goes wrong (provided that you kept the grub entry for it). You can try to get the old kernel deb package and see if dpkg downgrade does the trick other than that you can go by downloading the source code of the older kernel version and compile it yourself. There are handful of guides out there to do it

Having said all that though Im a bit skeptical about the kernel being the issue ... Mind you laptop batteries tend to loose their capacity over time particularly if you leave them on the mains while charged.

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This sites might be helpful -

PowerTop is good application to check the power consumption

If you want to change kernel refer This

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