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Unimpressive Windows 8 boot times

Earlier today the Building Windows 8 blog made a post about improving Windows 8 boot time. A lot of tech blogs have picked up this story. The “major” announcement was that the change was for default shutdown Windows will log off all users and hibernate the kernel. That way, when the computer turns on again, it doesn’t need to restart the kernal. To me, comparing boot times with that trick to Windows 7 boot times is then cheating, because Windows 8 isn’t actually booting. It’s a false comparison. The Win 8 blog post does mention that what actually helps is having a system based on UEFI instead of BIOS; at least there’s that.

Windows Vista did a good job with shortening the time between log in and having a usable desktop by having all of the process that start as part of log in, get started with low priority. Because of the new-for-Vista driver model boot time/log in still felt slow. Many device makers didn’t make Vista specific drivers. I remember the videos and blog postings for Windows 7 resume and boot times. Everyone was very excited. Windows 7 did make a big by parallelizing the boot sequence. Plus driver writers had more time to write drivers that would behave under concurrent boot. So if Windows 7 has a fast boot time what’s all this fuss about for Windows 8?

When Microsoft is doing to bench testing for boot they aren’t including any anti virus’s. Quite frankly they kill boot/login times. Also, real users have to deal with things like group policy settings being applied and AV’s rescaning the whole computer on every log in. Also, the real reason why people see surprisingly long times between power on and a usable desktop is because of a Windows 7 bug where the WMI database is getting corrupted, so WMI is rebuilding the whole database every couple boots/resumes. All of a sudden a computer which normally boots fast takes forever to get a responsive desktop.

The Windows team hopefully bypasses a lot of the real world issues (anything that does too much work on start up) by hibernating the kernel. But if they haven’t fixed the WMI corruption bug, this little trick isn’t going to gain anyone much of anything.

The blog post also has this chart, and at first it made by jaw drop:
I virtually never shutdown any of my computers. If I know I’m going to be using the desktop computer in the next eight hours I let it sleep. If I know I’m not going to use it for the next eight, ten, twelve, twenty-four plus hours, I hibernate it. I guess I can see why the numbers are that way, Windows 7 disabled hibernate by default on desktop computers! I had to dig around the Windows 7 power settings and disable hybrid sleep to enable hibernate. So of course the numbers for hibernate are so small, a user has to bend over backwards to even do it. Since the “impressive” Windows 8 boot time comes from hibernating part of the system (which they did because no one was hibernating), wouldn’t bringing back hibernation acheive the perception of fast boot?

Another thing which did shock me in the blog post was Gab Aul mentioning that many costumers told Windows that they don’t hibernate or sleep because they like refreshing their state and shut down accomplishes that. I’ve never known anyone to have that opinion. If anything else, it’s the opposite. People hate restarting their computer, because they like their user session state. People wail and gnash their teeth when they turn on their computer only to find out that Automatic Update has restarted the computer, forcing the user session to be lost. If anything, I would think that a feature where Automatic Update closes the needed processes, hibernates the users’ session, and then restarts the kernel, would receive more accolades than this announcement.

If Microsoft really wanted to improve boot times, they’d make changes they know are good and not care if it breaks backwards compatibility with some obscure poorly written program (no matter how much Raymond Chen would object), disable Roaming Profiles by default (they’re an overhead that most corporate deployments don’t know they have), and fix the WMI cache. They could go farther by intentionally breaking a lot of backwards compatibility, but I don’t think that would be in their best interest. This little trick here feels like the teams hands are tied on making any real change. I feel sorry for them.

I’m more impressed with the changes made in previous versions of Windows to make boot faster, than I am with what’s currently announced for Windows 8. In spite of that, I have no idea how long it takes my computers to boot/resume. I virtually never sit around and wait for them to do so. There’s always something else to do.

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