Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

Summary: Does a solid-state drive make a difference in the performance of Windows 7? In a word: Yes. I've been measuring startup times and disk reads on three Windows 7 PCs to see just how fast they really are. The results are impressive.

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Does a solid-state drive make a difference in the performance of Windows 7?

In a word: Yes.

Conventional hard disks are typically the biggest bottleneck in any computing environment. If you can speed up disk activity, especially reads, the effects on system startup and application launch times can be breathtaking.

This technology is still new and expensive, and many of the kinks are still being worked out. I've been using SSD-equipped PCs with Windows 7 since October 2009, and I now have two laptops and one desktop PC that are fitted with these superfast drives. Over the holidays, I set out to fine-tune the storage configuration in all three systems and was able to increase overall system performance dramatically. In a follow-up post, I'll explain exactly what you need to know to squeeze maximum performance out of an SSD.


Don't miss the rest of this series.

Part 2: Windows 7 and SSDs: Setup secrets and tune-up tweaks

Part 3: Windows 7 and SSDs: Cutting your system drive down to size


But first, how much of a difference does an SSD make? I have an ideal platform to test: a new Dell XPS desktop system with an i7-920 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and two disks, a conventional 7200RPM Seagate 1TB hard disk drive (one of the fastest desktop models in its class) and a 60GB OCZ Vertex2 SSD. I’ve installed Windows 7 on each drive and configured a dual-boot menu.

I’ve been switching between the two systems for roughly a month. Today I went through the performance logs for both Windows installations and averaged the results for the last 15 starts for each setup. (If you want to see these results for your system, follow the instructions I published in this 2007 post—the event log format for Windows 7 is the same as it was for Vista.)

Measurement

SSD

HDD

Main-path boot time (sec)

9.1

24.1

Total boot time (sec)

30.3

65.7

That’s a 62% improvement in the time it takes for the system to get to the Windows desktop and a 54% improvement in the total boot time, which includes drivers and processes that are loaded with low-priority I/O. (The latter value includes third-party programs that are configured to run at startup.)

There’s also some interesting data in the Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSAT) logs, which contain the detailed benchmarks that make up the Windows Experience Index. On the Sequential Read test, the SSD wins going away, recording a throughput of 249.76 MB/sec, compared to 105.63 MB/sec for the conventional hard disk. The WinSAT benchmark also calculates a mysterious and undocumented Overall Responsiveness index, where the SSD in this system clocks a blistering score of 20.02, compared to 86.17 for the hard disk.

And my personal experience bears out those benchmarks. Startup times are startlingly fast, and I’m still practically giddy when I click an app and watch it spring to life in a second or less. The feeling of fast is practically visceral.

So, slap an SSD into a PC, fasten your seat bet, and prepare for the whoosh. Right?

Not so fast.

As I learned from more than a year’s hands-on experience, it takes cooperation from hardware manufacturers to get the most from an SSD. In the next part of this series, I explain where things can go wrong and how to set them right. See Windows 7 and SSDs: Setup secrets and tune-up tweaks, for the details.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

    Good findings Ed. That makes sense.
    Ram U
    • Well, Ed's finding are probably "accurate" but, indicate terrible boot

      performance for Window 7. Very embarrassing for MS . . . .
      DonnieBoy
      • You do realize...

        @DonnieBoy

        ...That's a cold boot, right?

        Running Vista I haven't done a cold boot in nearly six months, I just use the sleep mode and let it wake up. Boot time is about 3 seconds... :)

        Or did you just want to bash something?
        wolf_z
      • wolf_z: Very good point. I very rarely cold boot my Ubuntu notebook either.

        Nice to be able to resume applications right where you left off. So, the ability to do that with Windows too, does do a lot to negate the slow boot times.

        But, the slow boot times do indicate problems with bloat.
        DonnieBoy
      • 9 seconds for a cold boot is a terrible boot time?

        @DonnieBoy

        And 30 seconds for a full boot including a handful of apps configured to run at startup.

        That's "terrible"?

        Geez.
        Ed Bott
      • Total boot time (sec) 65.7 (from HDD). Ed, the total boot time is what is

        important. That is terrible and indicates some major bloat. Getting it down to 33 seconds for an SSD helps, but, . . .

        Compare this to Chrome, where the only big disadvantage is not being able to run Legacy Win32 applications.
        DonnieBoy
      • Right DB. Or the ability to run the browser of your choice

        @DonnieBoy,
        If you can't run any apps in ChromeOS like iTunes, Office, ect, then what good is lightning fast boot times?
        Its like a TV without a signal: what good is it that my TV boots in 5 seconds, if I can't watch anything?
        John Zern
      • Very embarrasing for you

        @DonnieBoy

        Considering they have no control over what runs at startup. You can subtract a good 30 seconds from boot with no programs configured to run. My netbook can cold boot in 15 seconds flat.

        Thank you for playing.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

        @DonnieBoy My Kubuntu and my Windows 7 machine are about the same FROM A COLD BOOT. Windows 7 is about 5 seconds longer...so I guess based on your comment above would be embarrassing for Ubuntu as well.
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

        @DonnieBoy

        "Compare this to Chrome, where the only big disadvantage is not being able to run Legacy Win32 applications. "

        Well, that's the problem, isn't it? People want to run legacy applications.

        I'm pretty sure if Microsoft didn't support legacy apps and devices, Windows would boot much faster.

        . . . and I'll agree with the others saying that I just let my computer sleep, I rarely go through a cold boot.

        Windows is certainly stable enough these days to stay running for a long time. The days of needing to reboot every day are long gone.
        CobraA1
      • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

        @DonnieBoy
        My Xbox boots in five seconds flat and shuts down even faster and look what you can do with that. Go! Microsoft! :)
        dpt308
      • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

        @DonnieBoy
        Oh, and my winphone is instant on and off and man can you go crazy doing things on that beast. Go! Microsoft! :)
        dpt308
      • No required services, win7 boots in under 10 seconds...

        DB, you are embarrassing for yourself. Still playing "my OS is better than yours" after all of these years. Really it's been your life's work, which is quickly slipping away under your never ending monotone boring as hell ABM statements. <br>That's really all you have in life, isn't it. <br>
        xuniL_z
      • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

        @DonnieBoy <br><br>30 seconds is embarrassing?!?<br><br>I'd call that essentially close to *zero*, since Win7 *never* crashes and thus I *never* reboot except to install patches like *once a week*.<br><br>But you're a known moron, so whatev's.
        x I'm tc
      • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

        @DonnieBoy : Trying to figure out why someone who uses Linux is reading this column?
        Gis Bun
      • Message has been deleted.

        ahh so
      • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

        @DonnieBoy That's terrible?!? .....you got to be kidding me!!! I am normally the last one to be amazed by MS, DonnieBoy. I'm not even close to being a Microsoft fanboy, like you are a Linux, Google Android/Apple fanboy. I do love Linux, but not it's boot up times. I am not so ignorant and naive as to dismiss less than 10sec for full Operating System boot up alone. Can Apple OS-X do that on an HDD? NO!!! ...and they don't support SSD's yet!<br><br>The matter of some 20 seconds more for network logon, anti-virus, chat program, 3rd party firewall, anti-malware with some other 3rd party processes booting is indeed honorable. Just admit it....... the only reason you're not amazed, is because you can't allow MS to overshadow your over zealous allegiance to Apple and it's now fallen leader Steven Jobs. Who is as good as down for the count. That stark Reality hasn't settle in yet, has it? You expect him to be miraculously resurrected some way some how. But this time it is not to be. Just let the near dead, old tired con artist quietly retire... please. As it is, he's a walking corpse, trying to figure out how to take all that cash with him, when he finally kicks the bucket. He should have invested it in America. Do you realize that Microsoft is one of the few American Corporations with the majority it's earnings still going into American's pockets? Where do think all the wealth in Apple is going? In fewer than 5% of their total US Citizen employee payrolls in America.<br><br>The rest is going into foreign pockets and a few elite people in the corporation's administration. They are one of the most un-American corporations in America today on taxes alone and..... you are one of the dumb arses supporting them for that!!!<br><br>btw.... Ubuntu? Linux??? ....please don't embarrass yourself and us other Linux users by challenging MS Windows 7 to a quickest boot up contest or even Apple against Linux. My Linux install boot ups have always been inferior to both Windows and OS-X. And so much of my great programs and hardware won't begin to run on OS-X. Namely my newest fastest graphics cards and brand new BluRay writer!
        i2fun@...
      • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

        @DonnieBoy : coldbooting with in 30 sec ...why is it embarassing for MS exactly? why does it have to be embarassing for anyone? i see. u are one of those ppl who have to bash MS at any given chance! Win 7 is very good, get over yourself! i use ubuntu (10.10 desktop release) too. it doesn't boot that quicker & it doesn't have any of my favorite apps
        codeplay
      • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

        @DonnieBoy, why is someone's specific hardware an embarrassment for MS? My desktop with windows 7 boots on my computer from the words "starting windows" to desktop in 9 seconds. That's pretty quick, and typically their main competitor, like an imac etc, tends to boot more slowly (15 to 20 secs) because their hardware is typically not high end but typical mid stream mobile-ish. My i7 based computer was only about $700. So again, windows 7 coming up that quickly is not an embarrassment that I can see.
        zing77
    • RE: Windows 7 and SSDs: just how fast are they?

      @Ed Bott
      It is terrible. I am running a bunch of servers (think LAMP, file and print servers) and I still get a better boot time on a regular HD than the 30sec you get. Oh, and your system has slightly better hardware than mine too. That being said, it is not the place for this sort of posts DonnieBoy.
      kirovs@...