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Review: Windows 7 - Part 7: Performance and Final Verdict

by Parm Mann on 22 October 2009, 16:36 4.5

Tags: Windows 7, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

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Performance analysis

Our in-depth look at Microsoft's Windows 7 has focused on many of the enhancements pertaining to the usability of the operating system. We've looked at deploymentuser interfacemedia experiencenetworking and securityand applications. Now we turn our attention to general performance.

For the seventh and final part of our review, we've tested Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit), Windows Vista Home Premium (Service Pack 2, 64-bit), and Windows XP Professional (Service Pack 3, 32-bit) on a mid-range system comprising of an Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 CPU; an Intel 975XBX motherboard; 4GB of Corsair DDR2-800 RAM; a Corsair X128 SSD, and a Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 512MB graphics card. Intel's 9.1.1.1016 and ATI's Catalyst 9.9 drivers were used. We've limited XP to 32-bit because the 64-bit edition is no longer supported and doesn't facilitate Service Pack 3.

We've already taken a brief look at install, boot and shut down performance on a Dell Inspiron 1520 notebook, now let's turn our attention to the desktop.

Install

The majority of home users will install Windows via optical media. We time how long it takes to install the various Windows editions, taken from the CD-ROM prompt until the install has fully loaded the desktop.

OS - installation time from CD prompt
Time in minutes, lower is better
7 Home Premium, 64-bitXP Pro SP3, 32-bitVista Home Premium SP2, 64-bit
16.522.318.2

The above graph shows that Windows 7 loads the quickest, whilst XP, on the test machine, takes almost six minutes longer. Please bear in mind that Windows 7 does an excellent job with installing the vast majority of drivers on a wide range of machines. Vista takes just a little longer to configure as a fully-working operating system and is surprisingly quick at getting up and running on a system equipped with an SSD. Windows XP, meanwhile, is showing its age and following a 22 minute install, users are likely to be left searching for a number of drivers.

Setting up Windows 7 is quick and straightforward, and certainly the best of the three if you need a clean install.

Boot

Once loaded with a range of applications that are benchmarked and displayed on the following graphs, we time how long it takes to load each operating system, based on a cold start and terminating in the appearance of the Gadwin PrintScreen pop-up on the desktop.

OS - boot time (cold start)
Time in seconds, lower is better
7 Home Premium, 64-bitXP Pro SP3, 32-bitVista Home Premium SP2, 64-bit
37.54341.1

There's not a lot in it, clearly. Windows 7 does appear to be comfortably nippier than the rest, as it quickly transitions from a first peek at the operating system to being usable in a shorter time than either Vista or XP.

Footprint and usage

In use, Windows 7 is smooth and responsive, helped by better memory management than Windows Vista. We leave the operating systems idle for 10 minutes and then pull the RAM usage from the Resource Monitor

OS - memory footprint
MB/s, lower is better
7 Home Premium, 64-bitXP Pro SP3, 32-bitVista Home Premium SP2, 64-bit
725224948

Windows XP's footprint is tiny when compared to the two newer operating systems that use the same guts. Using a decent-performing SSD, Windows 7, by default, disables Superfetch, boot prefetching; application launch prefetching; ReadyBoost and ReadyDrive. This translates to fewer accesses and near-zero CPU utilisation, compared with Vista's constant requests for prefetching and pre-loading.

Now better suited for solid-state drives (SSDs) than any previous Microsoft operating system, 7 supports the Trim command, whereby the drive actually erases the data-holding blocks once a delete command has been executed by the user.