No, Windows 7 isn't slower than Vista, even at booting up

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The manufacturer of a Windows maintenance toolkit featured on our Fileforum told CNET's Ina Fried last week that it believes boot times for Windows 7 are typically slower than boot times for Windows Vista. Iolo Technologies told Fried that it gauged the amount of time required for the CPU to reach a "true idle state."

As many veteran Windows users already know, the operating system doesn't actually boot to an "idle state" -- it's not DOS. Since that time, Iolo has been characterizing the time it stops its stopwatch as the time that the CPU is "fully usable," which seems rather nebulous.

The discussion over whether this means Win7 is slower was declared moot today by TG Daily's Andrew Thomas, who wrote, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: I put it to you that there are no occasions when the boot time of a PC is important in any way whatsoever."

Unfortunately, there is one situation where the boot time of a PC is important: It affects the public's perception of whether the PC is actually faster, and thus better. And as we have seen with Vista, an operating system that was by all scientific measures much more secure than Windows XP, the perception that it was less secure -- by virtue of its highly sensitive behavior -- was as bad, if not worse, from the public vantage point as being insecure to begin with.

The public at large typically perceives the boot sequence of a computer as the period of time between startup and the first moment they're asked to log in. Betanews tested that interval this afternoon using an external stopwatch, and our triple-boot test system: an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600-based computer using a Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 motherboard, an Nvidia 8600 GTS-series video card, 3 GB of DDR2 DRAM, and a 640 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 hard drive. Both Vista and Win7 partitions are located on this same drive.

The interval we tested is between the pressing of Enter at the multi-boot selection screen, and the moment the login screen appears. While the tools I used for timing were an ordinary digital stopwatch and my eyeballs, I will gladly let everyone know that I use these same tools to test qualifications at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and my measurements vary from those at the Timing & Scoring booth usually by about 0.05 seconds.

In tests of what I'll call the "perceived boot interval" on the same machine, Windows 7 posted a five-boot average time of 24.214 seconds. Windows Vista, booting from the exact same machine and the exact same disk (just a different partition) posted an average of 36.262 seconds -- just about 50% slower.
Exactly how much time is required for a Windows-based system to start idling down and doing relatively nothing -- the "fully usable" state that Iolo is looking for -- typically varies wildly depending on what drivers are installed, and what startup applications may be running. On a well-utilized XP-based system (and we have a truckload of those), that time may officially be never.

However, it's worth noting that in a separate test conducted by ChannelWeb's Samara Lynn this afternoon, she discovered that boot times for a system running Windows 7 with Iolo's System Mechanic software installed were typically slower than for the same system with System Mechanic not installed. This may be because System Mechanic was authored with Vista in mind -- which could explain a lot of things about Iolo's own evaluation.

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