Is Vista really slow to start up?

Is Vista really slow to start up?

Summary: According to a handful of guys on the Internet, Vista is slower than a Commodore 64 to start up. Oh really? On my test machine, I needed a stopwatch to measure the difference in startup times. So what's the real problem?

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TOPICS: Windows
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[Update 16–Apr: See my follow-up post, More details about Vista’s startup times, for additional test results.]

Got a deadline and a news hole to fill? Why not head out on the Internets and do some research by digging up random posts on a message board or a newsgroup?

That’s apparently what Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer did earlier this week, with a piece lamenting the fact that Vista is slower than XP at start-up and shutdown. (I found it because my colleague Mary Jo Foley noticed it.) The evidence? Testimonials from a bunch of guys on the Internets, complete with inflammatory quotes and a requisite helping of snark. ("I've compared it to a Commodore 64 loading programs from tape, but I think the Commodore was faster." Heh.)

Now, I find it a bit puzzling that someone with all the resources of the IDG empire behind them can’t find some lab rats to actually run some tests. Maybe the CW Labs have been outsourced to those guys on the Internets? Hey, times are tough in tech journalism.

Anyway, color me suspicious. Suspicious enough, in fact, that I got out my stopwatch and spent half a day playing lab rat: rebuilding a shiny new Dell test system here with side-by-side XP and Vista installations.

And after I was done with more than two dozen startup/shutdown cycles for each machine, I confirmed that Vista is indeed slower than XP at startup. But I needed that stopwatch to tell the difference. On this Dell XPS410, with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600, 4GB of RAM and a 160GB 10,000 RPM SATA drive, Windows XP Professional made it from power-on to a fully loaded desktop in an average of 61 seconds. On the same hardware, Windows Vista Business Edition needed an extra 11 seconds to get up and running. Shocking! As for shutdown times, I consistently measured nearly identical times for shutting down both operating systems. And those times are consistent with my experience on other test systems, both desktops and notebooks.

In that Computerworld article, some of the newsgroup posters complained about startup and shutdown times of five minutes or more. I can imagine that. I’ve seen similar issues with versions of Windows going back a decade or more when a bad driver or app is loaded and ties up the system at startup. In fact, I ran into the exact same problem just last month on Windows XP, caused by overaggressive security software. I never thought to blame it on the operating system, though. When that happens, it’s invariably a driver or a piece of software that’s hanging or timing out. Troubleshooting that sort of problem is tedious but relatively straightforward, and once you find the problem things get right back to normal.

But doing controlled measurements and troubleshooting doesn’t work when you have a deadline and a news hole to fill.

Topic: Windows

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178 comments
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  • Its easy they have their own agenda

    its the same people who constantly claim that Windows is unstable, always crashes, and is highly insecure.

    as you've clearly shown, someone with even a small amount of computer skills can get windows working without a hitch, ive been using XP since its release, and never seen a BSOD, it never crashes, and ive not have a single problem with popup's or viruses.

    the only conclusion you can take from this is they dont know what their doing, or just plain lying.

    they are simply posting what their wish is, for the OS, and not what reality is.

    im glad you did the test, and proved them to be incompetent IT people who should not be making comments on PC performance regardless of the OS involved.
    TechEngineer
    • But he proved they were right and

      not incompetent. He also states the problem with shutdown, but why can't the OS
      shutdown a hug driver? I have never had a Mac hang on shutdown, but Windows
      boxes do it alot. And as I asked before, why can't the OS make it at least easier to
      track down what the problem is? Give me an option for a log file of what exacty is
      happening.
      LittleGuy
      • That's where I'll agree

        "Give me an option for a log file of what exacty is happening."

        Windows has always been lousy at documenting for the user just what's going on. Boot-up and shutdown logs would be excellent additions.

        Carl Rapson
        rapson
        • Been there, done that

          In Vista

          1. Right-click Computer
          2. Click Manage
          3. Expand System Tools, Event Viewer, Applications and Service Logs, Microsoft, Windows, Diagnostics-Performance
          5. Select Operational
          6. Review events from the categories Boot Performance Monitoring and Shutdown Performance Monitoring
          wizec
          • and yes, I can count ;-)

            somehow I skipped 4, haven't had my hot chocolate yet I guess...
            wizec
        • Huh?

          You can log both. Where's the problem?
          No_Ax_to_Grind
        • The startup log has always been there and Windows ...

          ... always shares with you which application/driver is keeping you from shutting down.
          ShadeTree
        • The startup log has always been there and Windows ...

          ... always shares with you which application/driver is keeping you from shutting down.
          ShadeTree
        • WHAT?!

          ARE YOU KIDDING? There is such thing! In fact Windows logging of system performance and stability is great! Installed a IDE PCI card and it died on me causing the computer to hang a long while while booting. Checked the log and found the problem right away.
          Jhaks
      • No he didn't!

        Not any mention of startup programs and services! Without analyzing that, there's no way to determine what each system is doing!
        Heatlesssun1
        • Defaults

          I used default settings for both systems. A plain vanilla out of the box install with no artificial attempts to tweak performance.

          And let me point out again that the original article to which I'm responding did NO testing whatsoever. Ahem.
          Ed Bott
      • 11 seconds versus 5 minutes is hardly ...

        ... proving them right. Do you really have a reading comprehension problem or are you being delibertely obtuse?
        ShadeTree
    • I have seen several BSODs (both XP and Vista).

      I have even seen one at a computer store, the laptop had a core dump. This happens, it is not that big of a deal, though. Any OS can dump core, it generated diagnostic data (if you know how to read it). Not sure if this helps the consumer (seeing a laptop with a core dump sitting on a retail shelf), but it happens.

      Disclaimer: Since I am not in nor will be in the market for another year for a laptop replacement/upgrade, I have no need to get Vista at this point in time.
      B.O.F.H.
    • Most people don't want to be or need to be competent

      in the field of computers and or tech. They want a toaster that does what they want
      and with no problems or hoops to jump threw. Even most users in Buisness today
      don't want to know their computers innards or how their OS works....they just want
      to get their assigned tasks done and go home.

      Also one "competent" users experiance out of the millions of users out there does
      not make for a convincing arguement.

      Pagan jim
      Laff
    • Most techs don't have problems

      It's our jobs to fix problems so we know more and therefore have less problems. As for non-tech users they have problems with XP. They will have the same problems with Vista or even a Mac.
      voska
    • I'm skeptical too

      "ive been using XP since its release, and never seen a BSOD, it never crashes, and ive not have a single problem with popup's or viruses"

      I suspect that you are not a heavy user, but I'm not going to jump to the conclusion that you're stretching the truth a bit.

      When people tell me that they've never seen a crash in Windows, I usually ask them if they've ever seen a message saying "Windows has encountered a serious error...". They usually say "sure", I say, "that's a crash."

      As for the start up time problem - In Ed's test, Vista is only 18% slower than XP while booting up. Microsoft knew that Vista would be a little slower than XP, but the marketing guys know when they tells average users that "Vista boots faster", a certain percentage will believe it. Just like a fair number of folks believe that Vista will never crash, never blue screen, and is the most secure version of Windows ever (the last may even turn out to be true).
      WiredGuy
    • Agree, they have their own agenda

      I did my assignment and recorded the time elapsed at shutdown and boot up. Mine is a HP Pavillion m7480n (Intel Penetium Dual Core 3.0Ghz, 2GB RAM and 300GB HD). It takes 10 seconds to fully shutdown and 1 minute and 10 seconds to boot up. However, on this we need to be realistic.

      Boot up time is proportional to services and programs installed in your PC that are executed at start time. That will definitely affects the boot up time. If you have Symantec Products drain a lot of memory and resources in your system. That's why I don't have them installed in my system. I use Grisoft AVG as my antivirus. Personal Firewalls also drain resources and memory at start up but not at the same level as Symantec.

      So, I agreed that those who claim Vista is slower at boot up than XP (hey, you are complaining for a mere 10 more seconds?) are people with no real computer skills. I also used Windows XP for the past five to six years without a glitch. No lockups, not BSOD, etc. I know my stuff. They just use their computer like a car, just push the accelerator and forget about maintenance and other things to have them in shape.
      croman.pr
    • Slow Vista Startup

      Wrong knucklehead! You obviously live in a sheltered PC environment. Try having a complex system with multiple USB Devices, external drives, and many multiple software programs that you have to run (and I just don't mean Microsoft Office). I have been using PC's from the beginning DOS days, and have built multiple PC's in every OS that Microsoft has come out with. Yes, each new release of a Microsoft OS does come with many issues and compatability problems that have to be debugged unfortunately for at least the first couple of years. The guy who did this test was in a very limited environment hardware-wise and software-wise.
      Graphics Man
  • Did you take into account startup services and programs?

    Did you take into account ALL startup programs such as Windows Sidebar, Parental Controls, and the Welcome Center. Vista loads a lot more stuff during startup than XP. Tweak this and Vista usually loads faster than XP in my experience.
    Heatlesssun1
  • One thing to note

    After using Vista for say a week, start up seems to be faster. Due to indexing???
    No_Ax_to_Grind