Adrian Kingsley-Hughes from ZDnet ran a comprehensive performance test comparing Windows Vista SP1 with Windows XP SP2. He only tested file copy related tasks, though. Now, guess which OS is faster? Good guess! Anyway, it is interesting to see the exact difference because it allows you to estimate in what way a move to Vista might affect performance. However, in one sense all these performance tests are pointless.
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What I like about this test is that the he used a relatively new PC for his benchmark tests: 3.4Ghz, 4GB, 2x250GB. I think it doesn’t make much sense to measure Vista’s performance on an outdated machine. In my opinion, a PC that is more than three years old is simply not “Vista compatible” even if you manage to get all device drivers.
These are the results of the test. “-“ signifies that Vista SP1 was slower than XP SP2, “+” that it was faster.
- Boot-up time: -13.3%
- Drive to drive copy - single file/ multiple files: +216.7%/-23.4%
- Add to compressed folder - single file/ multiple files: -9.9%/-19.7%
- Extract files from compressed folder - single file/ multiple files: -64.8%/75.4%
- Push files to a network share over a 1Gb Ethernet connection - single file/ multiple files: +7.1%/6.3%
- Pull files over a network share over a 1Gb Ethernet connection - single file/ multiple files: 0%/0%
- Push files to an external USB hard drive - single file/ multiple files: -6.3%/-29.5%
- Pull files from an external USB hard drive - single file/ multiple files: -36.4%/-36.4%
Quite impressive numbers! Don’t you think so? Drive-to-drive-copy of a single file is much faster with Vista SP1, single file copy to a network share is also a little faster. Although in most categories XP proved to be the better performing file shuffler.
You might wonder how this is possible. Copying a file from one place to another can’t be too difficult. After all, you just grab the file and shove it to its new destination. Why is Vista so slow with such an easy task?
It is interesting to note that Adrian Kingsley-Hughes doesn’t even try to explain his test outcome. He delivered the results the crowd wanted to hear:
Looking at the data there’s only one conclusion that can be drawn - Windows XP SP2 is faster than Windows Vista SP1. End of story.
End of story, mission accomplished?
First of all, he didn’t really run a complete performance test as he says. He just examined file copy processes. Of course there are myriads of other tasks an operating system has to accomplish. I don’t want to claim that Vista would do a better job in other performance disciplines, though. Most likely it would not. However, from this performance test alone you can’t conclude that Vista is slower than XP.
Second, his results are not really surprising. This is exactly what you would expect from a new operating system. The more complex an OS gets, the more resources it needs for every task. Some days ago, I linked to an article of Mark Russinovich where he outlined some of the considerations one has to take into account when it comes to file copy. In the section “Vista improvements to File Copy”, he gave some examples of problems Microsoft’s developers had to face. For instance, he touches some issues of the Windows Cache-Manager. Copy processes can waste a lot of memory and CPU resources. Since Vista generally has a higher demand of these resources, improvements were necessary here.
In the mean time, Adrian reacted to critics. It seems as if some also referred to Mark’s article. So Adrian ran another test to prove his point that Vista SP1 is always slower no matter from what angle you look at it. However, my objection to his test comes from a different dimension. In my view, it is rather pointless to compare the performance of a new operating system with one that was developed five years ago.
With every new line of code you add to an OS, you make it slower, too. Of course! So if Vista would really be faster than XP, I would suggest asking your money back. The point is that not only software is improving over time, but hardware also. Advances in operating systems are only possible because hardware is getting faster, too. So if you really want to know if XP or Vista is faster, you should compare your 6 year old PC running XP with Vista on a computer you bought a year ago. Which one do you think is faster? Good guess!
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Update: Ed Bott gets completely different results in his performance test: "Vista SP1 was consistently as fast as or faster than XP SP2". I am now thinking of getting my money back. 😉