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Spurred on primarily by the goal of putting faster and more powerful processors in laptop computers, Intel has created power management circuitry to enable processors to conserve energy use and lengthen battery life. These were introduced initially in the Intel 486SL processor, which is an enhanced version of the 486DX processor. Subsequently, the power management features were made universalized and incorporated into all Pentium and later processors. This feature set is called SMM, which stands for "System Management Mode".
SMM circuitry is integrated into the physical chip but operates independently to control the processor's power use based on its activity level. It allows the user to specify time intervals after which the CPU will be powered down partially or fully, and also supports the suspend/resume feature that allows for instant power on and power off, used mostly with laptop PCs. These settings are normally controlled via system BIOS settings.
Also see the System Care Guide section on power management.