Windows 8 'hybrid' mode brings faster boot

Windows 8 'hybrid' mode brings faster boot

Summary: Microsoft has described a new hybrid boot process in Windows 8 that it says will result in much faster boot times, whether using a solid-state or a hard-disk drive


Microsoft has sped up the start-up time in Windows 8, using a hybrid process that takes elements from a traditional cold boot and hibernation mode.

Windows 8 boot up times

Microsoft has sped up the start-up time in Windows 8, using a hybrid process. Image credit: Microsoft

The change means Windows 8 will have a much faster boot time than its predecessor Windows 7, Gabe Aul, a director of program management for Windows, said in a post to the recently launched Building Windows 8 blog.

"The key thing to remember though is that in a traditional shutdown [of Windows 7], we close all of the user sessions, and in the kernel session, we close services and devices to prepare for a complete shutdown," Aul said on Thursday. "Now here's the key difference for Windows 8: as in Windows 7, we close the user sessions, but instead of closing the kernel session, we hibernate it.

"We're effectively saving the system state and memory contents to a file on disk (hiberfil.sys) and then reading that back in on resume and restoring contents back to memory."

The process results in faster boot times because it is "comparatively less work" than doing a full-system start-up, according to Microsoft. The company has also introduced a 'multi-phase resume capability', which makes use of multiple cores in parallel to divide the job of reading the hibernation file and decompressing its contents. This also gives faster resume times from hibernation, Aul said.

He also pointed out that it would still be possible to do a full shutdown in Windows 8, for tasks like opening up the system to change hardware components.

"Few operations in Windows are as scrutinised, measured and picked apart as boot. This is understandable — boot times represent an effective proxy for overall system performance, and we all know the boot experience is an incredibly important thing for us to get right for customers," Aul said.

Overhauled boot process

According to Microsoft, half of Windows 7 users shut down their PCs instead of putting them into hibernation or sleep mode, in part because they want to start afresh for the next session.

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That was one of the three main points considered when Microsoft overhauled the boot process in Windows 8. Another was to find a way of achieving "zero-watt power draw", and the last was to make sure the boot happened as soon as possible after the button was pressed.

"Another important thing to note about Windows 8's fast start-up mode is that, while we don't do a full 'Plug & Play' enumeration of all drivers, we still do initialise drivers in this mode," Aul wrote. "Those of you who like to cold boot in order to 'freshen up' drivers and devices will be glad to know that is still effective in this new mode, even if not an identical process to a cold boot."

In a video posted to its blog, Microsoft demonstrated a start-up in under 10 seconds using an EliteBook 8640p with an Intel Core i7-2620M chip and an 160GB solid-state drive.

The hybrid boot mode will result in a faster start-up whether a machine is using a hard-disk drive or an SSD, Microsoft said. It noted that machines using Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) instead of traditional BIOS will see the best results.

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Topics: Windows, Operating Systems

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • I don't mind the time it takes to boot the PC to the start screen, my concern is once I log in, it takes 5 minutes to effectively boot up into my session where I can actually start to do some work. This is where the real work needs to be done to keep the boot times down.
  • @Jarret W Peterson via Facebook

    What are you loading? Where is it loading from? A remote server? Which operating system and how much RAM?

    Try running AnVir Task Manager Free to see what's going on, or complain to your IT department. If any.
    Jack Schofield
  • I have never seen any usable version of windows (i.e. stuff installed on it) boot in 70 secs let alone 25 secs. As Jarret states there's a couple of minutes between your desktop sort of appearing and the hard drive actually stop thrashing around. With my pc it was always - switch on - make a coffee - have a smoke - come back and it's nearly ready.
  • Rebuilding the operating system from all the individual EXEs, DLLs, drivers etc every time you boot has always seemed rather a waste of time to me.

    However hibernating it seems daft too, for different reasons. It's the same every time, so you want to re-load a clean version of it that you built before and not the used version of it, potentially confused or corrupted as it was last time you shut down.
  • Is any one aware of the new power management scenario S0IX