Why are people so worried about Vista boot times?

Why are people so worried about Vista boot times?

Summary: Ed Bott has done some really good work getting to the bottom of Windows Vista startup times on a number of different systems. The conclusions are pretty much as I expected - bootup times depend on the system being tested. I've now got a question of my own - why are people so bothered by startup times anyway?


Ed Bott has done some really good work getting to the bottom of Windows Vista startup times on a number of different systems.  The conclusions are pretty much as I expected - bootup times depend on the system being tested.  I've now got a question of my own - why are people so bothered by startup times anyway?

Think about it.  How many times a day do you boot up your PC?  If you do this activity more than two or three times a day on a regular basis then you're not making proper use of the features that your PC offers, such as hibernate or sleep.  Trying to measure stability is as useless a metric as boot time. My systems can go for days, and sometimes weeks, without a reboot, being hibernated/put to sleep at the end of the day or during any big breaks in the work day.  In fact, I like the hibernate feature a lot because it lets me shut my systems down yet leave my work open.  Next time I restart the system, all my apps and documents are open and waiting for me.

Even if I did need to reboot my system a few times a day, I don't think that I'd be all that worried about boot times unless they were really long (+3 minutes) or my system was really unstable and needed rebooting several times a day.  In either case, there's a problem somewhere that needs to be solved.  If the system only takes a few seconds or a couple of minutes to boot up then I'm really not worried about the effect that the lost time will have on my productivity. 

To me, boot time metrics are nothing more than useless information (sorry Ed!).  It's a snapshot of how the system behaves at a particular point in time and isn't fixed in any way unless you do nothing with the system (and even then, performance can still be adversely affected by updates that come in automatically).  Once you have a load of applications installed, deciding to do all sorts of things at startup (from scanning files for malware to checking with the mother ship for updates) then all metrics go out of the window and all bets are off.  I've seen stable systems with boot times that were under a minute slow to a snail's pace over the course of a single reboot.  The cause is usually some update that's come in and been applied and it can be really tricky (as well as frustrating) to solve the problem and return the system to its previous performance.  This decay over time is the main reason why I'm a big fan of making an image of your system after you've set if up so you can roll back your system to this clean state whenever it starts to feel unenthusiastic.

Sudden changes in boot times are usually quite noticeable, but what usually happens in that boot times grow slowly over time.  You start off with a PC with a fresh install of Windows on it and it feels nice and fast (hopefully - if it doesn't then you're in serious trouble and things are only going to get worse, no matter how much you trash your system trying to speed it up).  You then install security software and performance takes a hit.  Install some big apps like Office and boot times take another nose-dive.  I've seen boot times increase by over 100% over the course of setting up a new PC.  It's actually quite depressing to watch.  But as long as you don't need to reboot all that often and your PC is reasonably stable and you're able to use hibernate or sleep, then it's not really a major problem.

A trap that a lot of people fall into is thinking that an upgrade to a newer version of a piece of software will speed things up.  The marketing hyperbole might mention "improved performance" or make some similar claim, but back in the real world where you and I live, I rarely see this work out.  If you've PC has problems running XP, going up to Vista is unlikely to be the answer.  If your system is sluggish running, say, Photoshop CS2, CS3 isn't going to be the magic speed bullet you've been waiting for.  If the company couldn't write tight code last time, what makes you think they can do it now?  Similarly, registry cleaners and memory booster software isn't going to bring that smile back to your face.  If your PC is struggling, ignore the hype and snake oil and save the money you were going to spend on software and put it towards new hardware.

As Ed quite rightly points out, slow boot up isn't an issue confined to Windows Vista.  It's an issue that can affect almost any operating system.  Anyone who thinks that these issues are new to Vista hasn't been around PCs for that long.

Trying to measure stability is also just as useless a metric as boot time.  Just as I've seen two functionally identical PCs have wildly different boot times, I've seen identical PCs have wildly different levels of stability.  This is why I'm always skeptical about PC reviews.  You have to put the review (along with any associated benchmark) in the context of other similar reviews, discard reviews that follow different methodologies (even slight differences can have a huge impact on results), and then take everything you read with a pinch of salt and expect your real-world experiences to be different from what the reviews led you to expect.

Thoughts?  What metrics are important to you?  Is is boot time or something else?

Topic: PCs

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  • A sane comment in an insane world.

    It's a rare, pleasant occasion to see a sane post, for a change. Boot times will vary with the hardware and software, being different for each system. How many services do you have being started on the bootup? How much memory is installed? The more hardware and software installed, the longer the boot times will be. Have you ever booted a large server with several raid arrays built with large drives? These servers can take 20-30 minutes to boot!

    Boot times with Windows may become a concern, as many Microsoft updates need to reboot to install. But generally, you boot your system, then go to work. Unless your system is unstable, that should be it.

    There are a lot more things to worry about in this world, than boot times of a system or two.
    linux for me
  • Maybe I'm just old fashioned

    but even though I use hibernate I still save all my work beforehand. I just don't trust it to work every single time.

    But to answer your basic question, people like to gripe about promises unkept, even the unimportant promises. So when people find Vista boots slower than XP, even if it's just perception, they'll jump all over it. Although if MS hadn't promised so much they wouldn't have fueled the fire.
    Michael Kelly
    • Their marketing could just of meant...

      Going from a single processor, to one that can use Vista Aero you'll see a huge speed difference. :)

      Of course you would.. Single Processor usually means you don't hvae a top of the line computer. New computers running Vista are alot more powerful hence they speed difference. :P
      • slight clarification - Aero uses video card, not processor

        [quote]Going from a single processor, to one that can use Vista Aero you'll see a huge speed difference.[/quote]

        Aero depends on video card, [b]not[/b] CPU. I'm running Vista and Aero just fine with a single core.
        • Not the point he is making

          He's saying Vista on a dual core boots faster than XP on a single core, because MS is assuming you will go out and buy a new computer which is faster than your old one. In other words it's the new hardware that makes it boot faster, not the new software, but MS will take credit for it anyway.

          I don't know if I agree with that, but I can't flat out disagree with it either.
          Michael Kelly
          • Well, it's called progress!

            Yes, when hardware gets faster then the OS can do more! When the OS does more, it requires better hardware.

            See how that all works? That's natural and proper progression, or as we know it, progress!

            Should we stop it because some don?t understand it? It might be just too scary for them to think about, I suppose. Of course, the logical (an correct) answer is NO!

            Now those not into progress may certainly stay beyond ? just don?t whine about it! We all get to choose our computer using experiences, limited only by our own personal ability to understand our world. In lay person terms, the smarter one is the more likely that person will understand the first two sentences above.

            See my happy face? ---> :) I like it...
  • Startup Craplets

    In many cases, the operating system has less to do with boot times than all the crap people allow to run on startup on their computers.

    I keep mine at home pretty clean, but my work PC takes forever to start up due to all the Novell and McAfee network management and security utilities the network people here deem necessary for every system.
    • Couldn't agree with you more...

      I always hear people complain about how S-L-O-W their computers are and how long it takes for their systems to start up. And when I sit down in front their machines, I'm amazed at how much junk they've got running. The amount of crap on my dad's laptop has his system tray taking up about half the width of his screen (the concept of hiding inactive icons is lost on him). And most of that is stuff that he doesn't really need - like the print managment tools he'll never use but the instructions told him to install the software. And that software to help him copy pictures off his camera when he uses a USB memory card reader. And don't even get me started on WeatherBug...
      • Agreed

        "And most of that is stuff that he doesn't really need - like the print managment tools he'll never use but the instructions told him to install the software."

        Absolutely! Too many people don't realize that a whole lot of included software is [i]optional,[/i] and that the standard Windows drivers work most of the time.

        Unless either a) you absolutely [b]must[/b] get the most of of the device or b) the device won't work without the drivers, then I always recommend going with the default drivers that come with Windows, rather than using a disk that loads too much unnecessary stuff.

        I've found that, more often than not, even if the manual states that installing the extra driver software is "required," it's really optional.
    • I couldn't agree more.

      I work on home systems and every time I get a "My computer is sooo slow" call (meaning boot and operation), I know exactly what to expect. 1. They bought a low end system: Celeron with 512MB or less and WinXP. Sounds ridiculous but I've seen them. 2. Norton/Mcafee, the first ones I remove. 3. No MS update since SP2. 4. Numerous craplets, OEM and user installed. 5. Assorted malware/spyware and/or viruses. 6. AOL/AIM.

      I clean out the garbage, run Windows Update, replace Norton/Mcafee with a free AV and antispyware, and recommend a memory upgrade. Sometimes my AOL sucks talk works, too. I look like a genius every time.

      PS. Boot times are often slow on older systems. I tell them to turn it on and make a cup of coffee. Or just leave it on 24/7.
      • so....

        when you;

        I clean out the garbage, run Windows Update, replace Norton/Mcafee with a free AV and antispyware, and recommend a memory upgrade

        do you PAY them back the $$ they spent on software THEY want on their pc? or do you just blow it off willy nilly cause you "know better?"
      • I couldn"t agree more

        Great article - good answers. Fact is, I prefer a speedy boot time but then remember back to the 'olden' days when I used a messenger or Fedex to move articles to my clients - then along came something called a fax machine. If I needed a coffee break I boiled water on the stove for 10 minutes - then came a microwave. If nothing's wrong with your pc, relax during the boot time -- file the papers we weren't supposed to need after the pc came into use.
    • Yeah!

      I would guess your company deems it necessary because of what individuals WILL do in the work place that screws up their computers. The IT department has to deal with THAT CRAP.

      So, people are the REAL problem, not computers. If we all could just behave as caring, thoughtful, intelligent humans we wouldn't need McAfee, or any other security programs running on our computers. Yes, we could live free, but noooooooooooooo, some one always has to try to grab attention, and negative attention works best for those who choose the dark side.

      Life as usual! :)
  • People just wanna gripe

    Its a new OS from Microsoft and some people seem to make themselves feel better if they attack it even on the littlest things such as boot times over a couple seconds here and there. It was the same with when XP came out. Windows 2000 was great and XP sucked. Now its XP is great and Vista sucks. If the people do not like windows they have their alternatives, but I challenge them to find an OS that runs as much hardware and software as windows does with the same functionality. Linuz cannot and MacOS cannot and while they are good Operating systems they are still limited compared to Windows.
    • It is silly. However...

      I would like to see my Windows 2003 servers boot faster after the mandatory reboot requirement after patching.

      Why do I have to manually shutdown Exchange Server services to speed up reboot? This is the Microsoft recommended approach to speeding up reboot on Exchange Servers.

      If you don't manually shutdown Exchange it takes forever to reboot Windows server.
      • Should be a reply to story <sigh> (NT)

    • explain

      what is limited in the alternatives. go on. give a list
      • The lists are unfortunately quite large

        First, I'm in no way plugging for any OS here, especially MS but you asked for a list. The list can be quite extensive and the two basic reason are driver support for hardware and available software for Mac, Linux or Unix. If you do a search for available software for these OS's you will quickly realize how lop sided it is with the differences between Windows and the other OS's. With regards to hardware drivers, most manufacturers do not spend the money on developing drivers for Linux or Unix however there are more when it comes to Mac. Each commercial distro of Linux tends to develop there own drivers with a small exception here and there. Nvidia does provide a very limited amount of drivers for Linux which you can see when you go to their support website and see what's available for download. Keep in mind, they are also specific with regards to which version and distro of linux the linux drivers are for as they won't support all linux versions. I hope you will take a personal look into these things as it will give you some real clarification as to why Windows has become the most popular OS.
      • The shorter list.

        Just like intrepi@ states the lists are quite large and I think it would be shorter to list hardware and software that actually work with the other OS's.
    • Yup!

      Like clockwork. The world turns and people have to have something to do. Those short on understanding show it through the complaints they make.

      Now, if people would just get tired of whining they could find the path to recovery. Nah, it's too much fun to whine - it's the only way some of us can feel important. ;)