Sunday, March 14, 2010

A minute slower

In my last post, I asked if Windows 7 boots slower than Windows Vista. It seems slow to me. So this weekend, I tried a few experiments with booting Windows 7.

First, a comment: I learned something when doing these boot tests. The more you boot Windows 7, the faster it boots. For example, in my tests, Windows prompted me for "control-alt-delete" to login after about 2 minutes. After a few tests of "boot, login, shut down, power on, boot, login, ..." Windows took less than a minute to prompt me to login. That's very interesting.

It's odd, but I suspect it's marking something as recently-used and is effectively able to "cache" stuff even though it's coming up from a cold boot every time. A neat trick - but if my suspicion is correct and Windows is relying on some flag to indicate something can be loaded without processing (or whatever it's doing) I wonder if this could be used to hijack a Windows system.

But let's get down to business - how long does it take Windows 7 to boot?

My method: Our desktop support folks at work installed my laptop with a "standard" image of Windows 7. It's the same config that just about everyone in our office uses for Windows 7. But I'm doing these boot tests when I'm at home, over the weekend. The system has previously been booted, so if there are any one-time scripts that the system needs to run, I suppose Windows has already done so.

I used a digital stopwatch to record my timings. To remove the question of how long it took the laptop to check memory (POST at boot) I always started the timer from the BIOS "select my boot device" menu, starting the stopwatch at the same time I hit Enter on the boot device I wanted. 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 7 (Dell D430, booting from the hard drive):
  • From BIOS to login prompt: 2 minutes, 3 seconds
  • Login prompt to desktop: +53 seconds
  • Desktop to web page: +15 seconds
Total: 3 minutes, 11 seconds

That means Windows 7 takes about a minute longer to boot, login, and get to work than Windows Vista - say, for the first time you login each morning.

From an earlier post, here are the times for Windows Vista (same hardware, same hard drive):
  • From BIOS to login prompt: 36 seconds
  • Login prompt to desktop: +42 seconds
  • Desktop to web page (Firefox): +46 seconds
Total: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

And to compare, the same for Linux (same hardware, booting from a USB flash drive):
  • From BIOS to login prompt: 40 seconds
  • Login prompt to desktop: +15 seconds
  • Desktop to web page: +12 seconds
Total: 1 minute, 7 seconds

To answer my question from the previous post: Is Windows 7 slow? The answer is definitely yes.


  1. It really is surprising how much slower Windows 7 is compared to Windows Vista. I didn't really believe all the hype about 7 being so much "leaner" than Vista, but I didn't expect it to turn out like this.
    That said, I'm not surprised at Linux's (Fedora 12?) speed.
    a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

  2. PV, yes I am running Fedora 12 on my USB flash drive. I (usually) bring this with me wherever I go. I find it comes in very handy, especially when I need to (quickly) boot my laptop just to find out where my next meeting is, or just to respond to an email.

    If I only have 5 minutes between meetings (say, when I'm away from the office) I really can't wait 3 minutes for my laptop to boot into Windows - so I just boot into Linux off my USB flash drive.

  3. Also thought I'd mention that Windows XP booted in about 3 minutes, 7 seconds, also on the Dell D430.

    So Windows 7 boots (and lets you get to work) in about the same time as XP. I'll call them even, since this isn't a very scientific measurement.

  4. I've had to install 7 for a few of my clients now and while the boot times are certainly not good, and just wait until you try installing a printer or something when you aren't connected to the internet, it does perform remarkably better than Vista on systems with less that 2GB of RAM. I've never figured out what Vista does with the RAM, since it doesn't seem to actually use it, but 2GB and higher is certainly the sweet spot for it.

  5. I'm not positive, but I think I've posted boot times on here before, but I couldn't find them. Thus all I can give you is my boot time for Windows 7. Mine agrees with yours in taking a bit.

    It was 3:55 from power on to a web page I selected being up, though this is a bit misleading; better would be to subtract 35 or 40 seconds. (I applied a bunch of updates during the previous shutdown, and it was doing more work on boot. There's also a few seconds of interactivity. I also have a think where it takes ~3 seconds for my BIOS to see my hard drives.) Here's the breakdown:

    0:21 I get my boot menu (and select Win7)
    1:06 Message about it doing configuring
    1:38 Configuring done, and user icons appear
    1:43 Hit enter on password
    2:13 Desktop up; I click on Firefox icon shortly after (I also get a message about Windows changing my virtual memory settings because the ones I set tell it to put the paging file on a drive that died about a week ago and is no longer present, and I haven't bothered to fix it)
    3:35 Firefox has appeared; I click on a link in the shortcut bar to the National Weather Service
    3:55 NWS page is up

  6. That's why I started my timing from the "select a boot device screen" (F12) on my Dell. It's after the POST, so my timings don't include anything from the BIOS. It's all Windows.

    I need to enter a password, and I still have to click the Firefox icon. But that's also the case for me in Linux, so it's basically a wash.

    Sounds like our boot times for Windows 7 are about the same, so that's good.

  7. Win 7 does boot slower than Vista on the machines I have upgraded. There is no denying this!

    To me Win7 seems to take longer on some things than it should, in general it is an improvement over Vista. But given how much hard earned you are expected to part with, it should be a damn side better than what it is.



  8. Hi, interesting post there.. im the opposite to yourself,

    Ive used all flavours of windows right up from the archahic Win 3.10. I have used linux too. I find that XP x64 is quite stable and has good support for ram etc, but im mostly a gamer, hence I use windows a lot. But I also do a lot of messing around with virtual machines, and clusters. I know linux is better for this..

    I notice that some linux live CD-Roms give you the option to load the whole thing to RAM, since I have nearly 16GB to play with and 8 cores, the load times are almost instant.

    However I am limited to 1500MB/sec on my ramdrive due to the fact im only using DDR2 at the moment. I cannot find a DDR3 serverboard yet... But it would be quite epic with dual quade core xeons.

    Anyway look forward to future posts. I notice your also from MK as well. :)


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