Saturday, October 23, 2010

Windows 7 is still slower

I've run this comparison before, Windows v Linux boot times. The deciding factor is: how long does it take to boot, login, get a desktop, launch Firefox, and view my first web page ( And every time, Windows boots slower than Linux: two minutes slower (Win 7), a minute slower (Vista), about a minute slower (XP). But there's always been that small, but important, difference in how they boot up. Does Linux have an advantage by booting from a USB flash drive, with lower latency on reads?

Now that I've moved to a new organization where running Linux on the desktop is not just okay, but common, I'm running Windows and Linux on the same laptop. This seems like an excellent opportunity to re-compare the boot times for each operating system, on the same hardware, both booting from the hard drive.

First, let's talk about the system. This is a Dell Latitude E6410 laptop, our standard model for laptops at this organization. It has these specs:
  • Intel Core i5 CPU
  • 4GB memory
  • 160GB hard drive
  • nVidia graphics card GT218 [NVS 3100M]
  • Intel 82577LM Gigabit ethernet
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200 wireless

Not a bad system, as laptops go. I mentioned in my last post that the only thing I don't like about this laptop is the nVidia graphics card, since I have to use nVidia's proprietary driver for graphics to work reliably. Windows is also running nVidia's driver, so both operating systems are running with the same configuration.

My last post covered the installation details pretty well: over 6 hours to get Windows working from a fresh install (not including applications such as Office), about 20 minutes to install Linux (including bundled applications, like OpenOffice.) What I failed to note in that post, and it's important here, is that the Windows side is not encrypted, but the Linux side is (you can select that at install-time.)

So for the purposes of this test, Windows will have a slight advantage in that none of its operating system files are encrypted. Windows can just read the data from disk, and go. But Linux will have an extra step to decrypt each bit of data. Finally for you Windows fans, if there's any question of one side having an advantage over the other, it's Windows that gets the benefit of the doubt.

Since I'm running a dual-boot configuration, it's easy to be consistent about when to start the timer, when booting the system. After the laptop is powered on, it goes through a Power On Self Test cycle. The time to complete the POST may vary slightly. After the POST, the multi-boot screen comes up. I select the operating system to boot, press Return, and simultaneously start my stopwatch. I keep the stopwatch running while the system boots, until the front page comes up in Firefox.

Let's get to the numbers:

I booted each system twice, to make sure my timings were consistent.

Windows 7
Total: 1 minute, 55 seconds (115 seconds). And 1 minute, 52 seconds (112 seconds).

Linux (Fedora 13)
Total: 48 seconds, and 44 seconds.

It's hard to argue with numbers, people.


  1. Is it still the case that Windows uses a filesystem that requires constant "defragging" and a security system that requires that every file be checked for "viruses" and lots of proprietary software that requires separate, independent maintenance for upgrades and stuff, and only comes out with OS patches every six months or more instead of every seven days? Because if they fixed all that stuff maybe the extra time booting would be worth it.

    Probably not, though.

  2. Why do people care so much about boot time?

  3. @Anon:-
    A slow booting system (hardware not withstanding) is usually indicative of a process overburdened system that
    carries it's sluggishness into the productive phase. ;--)

  4. Since Ubuntu boots faster than Fedora, it would have been a better perspective but still its good enough to showcase Linux boot speed.

  5. @Greg: They now have constant updates – on shutdown. 2 Days ago I saw a windows laptop shutting down and then suddenly starting to install updates for several minutes…

    Compare that to my Gentoo box, where *I* specify when to run updates – which then are done for *everything*, not just for the MS controlled programs. :)

  6. Amazing, I have a 3 year old computer (2.4 Dual Core) and 2GB of ram and Windows 7 with a slow (5200RPM)HDD and yet somehow my computer easily boots in 1 minute.

    Now, my wifes cheapo Laptop with Windows 7 on it does take about a minute and half to boot up.

    I've ran Linux, boot times were maybe 10 seconds faster, but nothing significant. However, I would expect it would be a good deal faster on the laptop.

  7. @Anonymous: Remember, this is isn't about how long it takes to just BOOT UP, but how long to boot up AND login AND start a browser AND display a page. Typical for booting a laptop to get to work.

    Just booting to get into a desktop, sure I'd believe that this takes about a minute on Win7. But that's a deceiving measure. Try timing how long it takes for you to do exactly what this page describes, and I'm sure you'll have the same or similar timings to Linux in Exile's.

  8. As soon as my computer boots up, I can load Chrome (much faster loading than Firefox, which is a memory hog) and load up a page. It's that most people's Window's computers are loaded with bloatware like Nortons, Itunes, Adobe, quicktime, and about a dozen other things that are not needed to run at the very start (Norton's isn't needed because freeware Antivirus programs are much lighter and provide just as much protection than that junk). That bloatware is what adds minutes, not Windows itself. Linux is superior in that it doesn't let those tons of programs force themselves on the user like Windows does.

  9. Anonymous John here (from earlier) - 57.77 seconds from choosing which OS I wanted (IE, not counting the Bios loading which is exactly the same for both Windows and Linux) to loading up on Chrome. Like I said, Linux is about 10 seconds faster (and free and open source), but the massive boot-times I have seen on friends computers have nothing to do with Windows but with Bloatware (though it is Windows fault for allowing them to force themselves into the boot up process).

  10. Anonymous John here again. Just noticed your 6 hours to install Windows 7.

    Funny how on a 3 year old computer and a crappy laptop, it took about an hour to install on both, including downloading updates.

    How you can get a 6 hour install time is beyond me. That, coupled with your very, very slow Windows boot times imply that you are doing something wrong on the Windows side. Heck, check boot times from other tech sites and you will see there is obviously some issue with your results.

  11. Hi John,

    The disk was completely blown away before installing Windows 7, so this really was an "install from scratch" on this laptop. Not an upgrade, which you may have done.

    But I'll also point you to the original article that mentioned the 6 hours for install Windows. The Windows install had other problems, rather than just taking a long time. From the article:

    "First, the Windows 7 installer refused to recognize the nVidia GT218 [NVS 3100M] graphics card, and would only drive the system in standard VGA mode. Not exactly easy to use. The solution should be simple, though - right? Just download a new driver from nVidia's web site, and you're up and running. Except that the Windows installer also failed to recognize the Intel 82577LM Gigabit network adapter."

    We had to use another computer to download the Intel network driver, transfer that to the new laptop, in order for Windows to get on the network. Once that was there, we had to fetch the nVidia driver and install that. Then, the updates.

    From start to finish, about 6 hours to install Windows. I didn't have time to wait for them to install Office, but it turns out I don't need it on Windows anyway.

    To compare, Linux supported the nVidia card with the Nouveau driver, and supported the Intel network card "out of the box". So installing Linux took about 20 minutes.

  12. To the Anonymous who asked why boot times matter:

    When you finish installing Windows, you have to reboot. When you load the network driver, you have to reboot for Windows to see it. After you install the nVidia driver, you have to reboot for Windows to work. Install some updates? You need to reboot! Something acting funny on your computer? Guess what the first thing your desktop support folks will suggest you do - reboot!

    Not to mention, I'm just in the habit of shutting down my laptop at the end of every day, and taking it home with me. I don't put it to sleep, hibernate, anything like that. Because it takes so little time to boot (into Linux) when I need it, so why not save the battery. And with good work/life separation, I may not need to boot the laptop at all when I'm at home, anyway.

    Boot times do matter.

  13. It would be interesting to explore hibernation more. My Linux laptop boots in a very very short amount of time, but it comes back from hibernation much more slowly. I don't know if Windows does that as well. Hibernation is not a speed strategy, but rather, a convenience strategy (the work you are in the middle of is still 'going' when you turn the computer back on). But I wonder if there is a way to optimize that (in Linux. I couldn't care less about 'optimizing' windows.)

  14. Note that Windows 7 install times vary wildly.

    Just because some anonymous dude claims to install Windows on an old laptop inan hour does not mean the next person can install it in the same amount of time. It depends on a lot of things.

    That said, Im an advocate of backup, reformat, install, restore no matter what platform I have to work with. You avoid hanging on to cruft that way. But that scares the living bejeezuz out of Windows people, so I suspect a lot of them just do an in-place upgrade. Which will be fast.

  15. @Greg: that's probably because hibernation is defined as swapping out the contents of RAM (as a snapshot) to a non-volitile storage system, such as a hard drive. When you resume state, all the memory gets copied back from the hard drive into RAM, and the system runs as though nothing happened.

    The speed to do this depends on the speed of your hard drive, and how much RAM you have. More RAM means more to copy, so it will take longer. A lot of laptops have 4GB memory now, so how long does it take for you to write 4GB of data to disk?

  16. That's different from sleep mode, anyway. In sleep mode, your system just powers down immediately, saving only a little battery to keep RAM alive. Nothing gets copied to disk. When you resume, everything just wakes up. Sleep/resume is fairly instant.

    The danger, though, is that if your battery completely goes flat, it's the same as yanking the power/battery from the running system.

    IIRC, Mac laptops actually do a "sleep" rather than hibernate. But that's offtopic.

  17. @mynameisorange - I don't argue at all that install times for Windows 7 will vary. My issue is that it's been presented on this blog like 6 hours is to be expected while 20 minutes is what you should expect for Linux. This is where the BS comes in, just like the boot times. Note, I am not arguing that Linux installs faster than Windows 7, nor that it boots faster. I agree with those statements, but when someone tries to show its 6 hours vs 20 minutes or 2 minutes to boot vs 48 seconds, they are presenting an inaccurate picture. If my 3 year old system can boot up Windows 7 in just short of 58 seconds, there is something obviously wrong when it's taking his almost 2 minutes to boot up with a significantly better system with twice as much RAM. It makes me automatically question the "test" that "proves" his results.

  18. @Anonymous
    You don't argue and agree yet you don't agree and argue about the thing you said you wouldn't argue about.

    Since every computer is unique start up times will also largely vary.

    But since you that prove the results but also I suppose you should conduct these tests yourself and come to the same conclusion but with different numbers unique to your system.

    Please also post and include your numbers reinstalling Windows 7 now and in 3 months time as times will also be increasing dramatically due to how Windows and updates are installed and handled.

  19. Should read: Since you 'agree with those statements' that prove the results but 'automatically question the "test"' that prove the results....

  20. John here again - It's not the basic facts that are being questioned, it's how extremes are presented as standards. 6 hours is not even close to a typical Windows 7 installation time. It's well under an hour. Bootup times should not be nearly 3 minutes on a new Windows 7 system. It should be around a minute. Look up any reputable tech sites and see their comparisons (not outliers but standard results) and you will notice a HUGE difference. It's like saying well I raced a Vette and a Mustang - No one would be surprised when the Vette won, but if someone said they won the 0-60 test by 20 seconds faster, there is clearly something wrong with the test because the difference should never be that big. Outliers happen, no one is arguing that, but they should be clearly described as outliers and not presented as a typical situation.

  21. John: I'm willing to believe that it should take an hour or less for a trouble-free install of Windows 7. For the benefit of the doubt. But in the case here, we had lots of problems.

    To start, it was a new laptop model, so we didn't have an image, and had to install from scratch. We responded to the issues as we encountered them. Windows wouldn't support the nVidia video card, so we needed to install the driver. But we couldn't do that, because Windows didn't support the network card, either.

    Going through the process of troubleshooting, downloading drivers, installing, etc. and several reboots later, we finally got it settled and and everything was running. But that took most of a day, about 6 hours or so, to finally get Windows working on this laptop.

    Had Windows recognized the nVidia card right away, and supported the network card, this should have been a pretty fast install. I can see how the install should have taken about an hour.

    After all, it only took me 20 minutes to install Linux on the same laptop. But in that case, Linux supported the video card and the network card by default. (It wasn't until later, when I tried to "fix" the occasional video problem, that I installed the nVidia proprietary driver.)

  22. On the boot times, here's my guess.

    In your old organzation, you booted Windows Vista on a Dell D430 in 2:04. On the same D430, you booted Windows 7 in 3:11.

    In your new organizaiton, you booted Windows 7 on a Dell E6410 in 1:55.

    So you're getting somewhat consistent timings. I'd guess that the improved time for Win7 was for the laptop. But you're also probably running some corporate-network stuff on there. And when you're connectedt o a company network, you get to run other stuff at boot-time. Plus youre running antivirus.

    Anon John is complaining that Win7 should boot in about a minute. That may be true, on a non-corporate system where you aren't connecting to a domain resource and where you aren't (probably) running things like antivirus. If Windows doesn't have to run any of these things, then sure it might come up in about a minute or so.

    But this is Linux at work, and WIndows at work. So you can't get away from teh corporate-ware that's going to run at boot-up. Home users won't see that.

  23. John: Here's the deal. It's explained very clearly on my blog (read "About me" in the left column) that I've been a Linux user since 1993. And from 2002 to 2009, I was fortunate enough to run Linux on my desktop at work. So for 7 years there, I didn't know squat about how Windows worked.

    Then, my new boss makes it very very clear he wants us all to run Windows. So, I run Windows at work.

    Since I find it interesting when long-time Windows users experiment with Linux for the first time, I thought it might be equally interesting for this long-time Linux user to blog about my first experience running Windows in over 6 or 7 years.

    That's what the blog is about.

    So to your comment of "they should be clearly described as outliers and not presented as a typical situation" ... how am I supposed to know these results are atypical? I haven't used Windows since 2002. So I call the shots as I see them, and I call out broken behaviour when it's there.

    I can only share what numbers I'm seeing on the system that I'm running. I try to be completely open about the system spec, and who installed it (our tech support guys, not me) and that this is a managed corporate system (i.e. not a home system.) But those are the numbers I get.

  24. I use soluto,which is a small software package that allows you to delete unwanted software loading on boot,works great windows vista 32bit boots in 1 minute 3 seconds,fine for me was 2 minutes before installing soluto.

  25. @mynameisorange: [Stuff about hibernation]

    How long it takes to hibernate also depends on the paging strategy of the OS -- if the OS is more eager to page things out, that might mean there are fewer dirty pages in memory to write out.

    But the main time to measure isn't hibernation IMO -- it's resume. Time-to-hibernate isn't usually particularly time-critical, but if you hit the power button it probably means you want to work on the computer.

    (My own usage is basically the exact opposite of JH's: I basically always hibernate my laptop when moving from one place to the next and essentially never actually shut it off, so this is actually something I'd care about.)

    @Anonymous: "6 hours is not even close to a typical Windows 7 installation time. It's well under an hour."

    I've done a couple Win7 installations now from when it was in beta, and I disagree with the "well under an hour" bit. Just the unattended portion of the installation takes quite some time, and it is fair to count patching time. I do suspect that 6 hrs is an outlier, but I wouldn't be surprised of a time that's 1 1/2 hrs or so from first power-on until you have an up-to-date system.

    @some guy: But this is Linux at work, and Windows at work. So you can't get away from teh corporate-ware that's going to run at boot-up. Home users won't see that.

    Home users are reasonably likely to see AV startup times at least.

    @JH: "I can only share what numbers I'm seeing on the system that I'm running. I try to be completely open about the system spec..."

    And it's not like comments are disabled or something like that. Despite all the discussion on this post, there's only a couple posts that actually say "I tried this on my system and got such-and-such."

    Including mine of course. :-) Maybe over the weekend I'll drop Ubuntu or Fedora or something onto my computer (I don't think I've Linux on my home box since my hard drive died, not that I used it before) and give you my numbers. I think last time I measured on my laptop I agreed with the "Linux boots faster" conclusion but disagreed on how much.

  26. I have been a linux user for about 3 years now, like you i had to shift to windows for work, and man it was a pain. but, one thing that consistantly pisses me about ubuntu was that the hibernation mode is very buggy, i have been seeing this from 7.04 onwards. if only there was a good, cross machine fix for this.

    in windows,properly tuned, i hardly had to shut the system down, except for updates, but in ubuntu, i have to shut ti down if i need to be away from a power source for too long

  27. we get it you don't like windows and you love linux, no need to float bs like it take 6 hours to install windows 7....


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