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Windows 7 performance tests: Faster than Vista?

Nick Mediati | Oct. 1, 2009
Windows 7 is efficient enough to run even on netbooks with puny processors, but its only marginally faster than Vista.

Windows 7 makes big gains in disk performance, however. For example, in our hard-disk-intensive WorldBench 6 Nero test--in which we create a series of images of an optical disc and then save them--every PC we tested showed an improvement. In our comparison of the 64-bit versions of Vista and Windows 7, the IdeaPad Y530 performed the test twice as quickly with the newer OS. Meanwhile, our Gateway T-6815 was almost two and a half times faster, going from a time of 1648 seconds to complete the test on Windows Vista to a time of 667 seconds on Windows 7. We had noticed a similar speedup on disk-intensive tests in our earlier evaluation of the Windows 7 release candidate; such gains may be due to updated hard-disk drivers under Windows 7.

One particular result worth noting: In our testing, the 64-bit versions of Vista produced poorer disk performance than the 32-bit Vista editions did. With Windows 7, however, Microsoft brought the 64-bit versions' disk performance more in line with that of the 32-bit versions. That explains the larger WorldBench 6 score advantages over Vista that we saw from 64-bit Windows 7 compared with 32-bit Windows 7.

Boot-Up and Shutdown Times

Microsoft says that in Windows 7 it changed the way the operating system handles starting up processes when you boot your computer. For some processes and services, Microsoft employs a scheme called trigger-start services. These are system services and processes that under Vista would have started up when you booted your PC, but now kick in only as needed. One example Microsoft gives is Windows 7's handling of Bluetooth: Instead of launching at system boot, Bluetooth now starts up when you use a Bluetooth device with your PC. Reducing the number of services that start at boot is supposed to reduce boot-up time.

In our boot-up tests using one desktop and one laptop, though, we saw mixed results. On our Gateway T-6815 laptop, Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit) had the advantage, booting up in 39.6 seconds on average. Windows 7 Home Premium (also the 32-bit edition) took slightly longer, averaging 43.6 seconds. On our HP Pavilion a6710t test desktop, the outcome was reversed. The 64-bit edition of Windows Vista Ultimate Edition booted in 55.2 seconds, whereas Windows 7 Ultimate Edition 64-bit came out slightly ahead, booting in 48.3 seconds.

At first, we couldn't explain why the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 improved the boot-up time over Vista (on the HP desktop) while the 32-bit edition of the new OS lagged behind its predecessor (on the Gateway laptop). In subsequent testing, however, we discovered that the 32-bit version of Windows 7 exhibited a similar speedup on our HP desktop, going from an average of 54.5 seconds on Vista 32-bit to 47.7 seconds on Windows 7 32-bit. The upshot: Whether Windows 7 will start faster than Vista for you will likely depend on your particular computer's setup.


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