Over the weekend, I installed Fedora 11 on my wife's laptop. As part of the install process, I created a "Fedora 11 Desktop Edition" Live USB - meaning I could now boot a laptop using Fedora 11. So I thought it was important to repeat the head-to-head boot comparison on the same laptop, using both Windows and Linux.
Since my previous test, our desktop support folks upgraded my laptop to Windows Vista. After the initial problems of getting everything installed, I noticed that Vista booted a bit faster than XP. So good on Microsoft for that. But how does it compare to Linux?
Before we begin, a note on the boot media: Windows is installed on the hard drive, but Linux is booting from a Live USB. According to Dell, my Latitude D430 laptop has a 5400 rpm hard drive, typical for most "mobile" hard drives. Tom's Hardware suggests a "maximum sequential read transfer rate of 48 MB/s is an excellent result for a 5400 rpm drive." Wikipedia says that "typical fast USB drives claim to read at up to 30 MB/s." So Windows will have a slight performance advantage here, since its boot media can read data about 18 MB/s faster.
I used a digital stopwatch (on an iPod) to record timings. While this is not exactly scientific, I repeated the tests over several boots and got similar numbers. To remove the question of how long it took the laptop to check memory (POST at boot) I always started the timer when I was inside the BIOS menu that selected my boot device. I'm most interested in how long it takes to boot the system (from BIOS), login, bring up Firefox, and display a web page (Google).
Here are the major milestones for Windows:
- From BIOS to login prompt: 36 seconds
- Login prompt to desktop: +42 seconds
- Desktop to web page (Firefox): +46 seconds
And to compare, the same for Linux:
- From BIOS to login prompt: 40 seconds
- Login prompt to desktop: +15 seconds
- Desktop to web page (Firefox): +12 seconds
Surprisingly, both laptops also prompted for login at about the same time (36-40 seconds.) Yet it takes much less time to present the desktop on Linux, and launching Firefox is much faster.
I have to give Microsoft some credit, here. Remember that Windows XP booted on the same laptop (and displayed a web page) in 3 minutes, 7 seconds. But Windows Vista does it in 2 minutes, 4 seconds - clearly, Microsoft made boot time a priority for the Windows Vista team, and it shows. Good for them!
But a minute faster on slower boot media (USB, versus hard drive) is very impressive. This represents the time spent waiting for Windows to load, when you could be getting to task right away under Linux. In the comparison from March, I commented I was able login to our webmail system at work, read an email, and delete it in that extra minute. That's real work. Linux wins hands-down on this test.