How to prevent Windows 7 from going to sleep
If you run Windows 7 and your computer is owned by your employer, there may be some settings you don't have control over. This is because corporate IT departments use Group Policy Manager to ensure that settings are compatible with their security policies.
I have no issue with a company wanting to secure access to corporate data and infrastructure. What I take exception to is the rigid, one-size-fits-all approach that most IT departments use in managing computers. Engineers and accountants have different job roles, so it's not reasonable to expect that their computers should be configured the same way.
Yet, that's exactly what happens.
One of the more annoying settings is the one where a computer puts up the screen saver and locks out the user after a certain period of time. There are plenty of reasons why a user might be idle with their laptop open in front of them. Such as showing a slide show, having a Q&A session, listening to someone in a meeting instead of looking at Facebook, etc. Just because I'm not twiddling the mouse doesn't mean I am away from the desk.
I did some research and came across this useful post on StackOverflow. One of the solutions mentions to use Windows Media Player or VLC. If either of these programs is playing video, the screensaver won't start and the user isn't locked out. So, if you play a video on a loop, you can keep the screen on while not moving the mouse.
To test this, I created a 5 minute video at the smallest size I could that consists only of a black screen with no audio track. Then I created batch files to start the video with VLC and Windows Media Player. They all seem to work.
These files are AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD HERE. The batch files use hard-coded paths to the .exe, so if your programs are installed elsewhere, you'll need to edit the batch files. VLC seems to work reliably, but Windows Media Player may require you to manually press the Play button. I put a shortcut to the VLC batch file on my desktop and I trigger it when I'm moving back and forth between my PC and my Mac.
There are some drawbacks to this approach. Namely, that it truly does not go to sleep. The CPU continues to run and will not go into energy saving mode. Also, the video window has to be visible and can't be minimized. It doesn't have to be the most forward window, but it can't be minimized. This is why I made the video dimensions as small as I could. Finally, be aware that some companies may find this to be a breach of their Corporate Computing Standards as it is subverting an established IT policy. Don't blame me if you get in trouble for using this information.
Good luck and enjoy.