How important is boot performance?

According to the Engineering Windows 7 blog, Windows 7 has a team dedicated to focusing on startup performance. But how important is startup performance?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

According to the Engineering Windows 7 blog, Windows 7 has a team dedicated to focusing on startup performance. But how important is startup performance?

Personally, I think that how you feel when it comes to boot up performance depends on how you use your PC since boot performance only really comes into play when:

  • You're firing up your PC following a planned shut down
  • You're restarting because of updates
  • You're recovering from a system crash

[poll id=345]

Now when I'm done with my PC for the day I always shut the system down unless I'm leaving it to do something overnight. I might be done early in the afternoon or very, very AM, I don't care, when I step away from the PC for the day, it goes off. Why? Because I like that fresh a a daisy feel that I get from systems when they're first rebooted. Some systems do stay on, and others do sleep/hibernate/hybrid sleep, but my main system goes off.

Am I bothered by that first boot up of the day? Well, after going through all the POST brouhaha, boot up is under 30 second and then login is a few more seconds. System's up in under a minute so I can't say that I'm bothered.

Reboots as a result of system updates are a little more annoying. This is why I like to have control over when updates come in and when they are installed - the last thing I want to happen is for me to be kicked off my system while updates are applied and the system rebooted. I wouldn't mind so much if the system was bought back to the same state that it was in before the reboot (with all the apps and files that I had open before open again) but I really hate having to restart the day at some point in the middle of the day, especially since these reboots can take significantly longer than a standard reboot. I believe that Microsoft needs to do far more to minimize the number of updates which require a reboot or to make the restart process smoother. After all, what's the point of sleep is you're being forced to reboot because of updates?

Note: Remember too that it's not just Microsoft pushing updates that require reboots - depending on how many apps you have installed and how often you update them, update-related reboots could become quite regular.

Then there's crash recovery reboots. I hate this kind of reboot but fortunately I don't see that many.

[poll id=346]

My take on boot up performance is that Microsoft should be concentrating on the following:

  • Reduce overall boot time. The mode on the chart posted on the e7 blog shows that the mode for time taken for a PC to boot to a responsive state is 30 - 40 seconds, it would be good to see the mode shift to 20 - 25 seconds.
  • Work at eliminating crazy boot times. 100+ seconds boot times indicate either a problem or the OS being run on an unsuitable system.
  • Work on reducing update-related reboots, and for updates which require a reboot, put a system in place that restores the system back to the previous working state.
  • Clean system boot times are not a good metric. It's a bit like quoting MPG figures for a car that's only valid as long as you don't even drop a paperclip into the glovebox. Installed applications should ideally have minimal impact on boot time. I don't understand why there isn't better control over how startup applications load up.
  • Sleep is not the answer to faster boot times - a power draining mode (no matter how thrifty really can't be condoned given current energy prices - "only 5 watts" is great when you think about a single PC, but applied globally it works out as being far too wasteful). Hibernate was a much better solution.
  • Work with OEMs to reduce boot time by optimizing the systems.
  • Limit the effect that cumulative updates have on reboot times. Windows updates cause a significant (and measurable) amount of bit rot, and over time this can cause a PC to morph from a hare to a tortoise.


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