Thursday, November 29, 2007

Community Snapshot 01: Who's Using What?

As an ongoing service to the greater Windows IT community, we're publishing the first of our weekly "snapshots" of OS and application usage rates as measured within our own little corner of the industry. These numbers are current as of 06:00 GMT and based on a sample of set of 1,106 contributor systems:

Figure 1 - Contributor Usage by OS Type/SKU

Interpretation: While Windows XP (55%) still makes up the lion's share of our user base, Windows Vista - in its various incarnations - is running a closing second (37%). We'll be checking back each week to chart the progress of XP, Vista and their variations over time, and also to monitor adoption rates for Vista SP1 and XP SP3 when they're released early next year.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to Make Vista Run Like XP (Sort of)

In an effort to further clarify our previous test results, we decided to experiment a bit with Vista to see how it would perform with a majority of its newer UI elements and background services turned off. In the process, we believe we've come up with a roadmap of sorts for how to "make Vista run like XP" (sort of):

  1. Shutdown "Unnecessary" Services - This means killing all those new Vista goodies, like SuperFetch and the WSearch indexer. CPU cycles are a precious commodity - use them wisely.
  2. Ditch the UI - Use the Advanced System Settings dialog to change the Appearance settings to "adjust for best performance." It's like taking a trip back in 1995!
  3. Drop the Resolution/Color Depth - This helps to mitigate any sluggishness in the newer Vista-model drivers. 1024x768 with 16-bit color should be good for most video adapters - and it looks "real sharp" stretched across that new 21 inch LCD!
  4. Handicap XP - Most Windows XP users are running Office 2000, XP or 2003. Upgrade the XP config with Office 2007 to ensure that you get a nice, entirely unrepresentative (of the real world) hybrid scenario.

Do the above and you'll be rewarded by a much closer net experience. Instead of being ~2x slower than XP, Vista in this new, "bare metal" configuration is *only* (drum roll, please)...40% slower!

Bottom Line: Even with the OS stripped to the core, and with all of the new eye-candy and CPU-sucking background services turned off, Vista is *still* 40% slower than XP (SP3) at a variety of business productivity tasks. Time to ask Santa for that new PC for Christmas!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Update: Re-Testing Vista w/2GB RAM, Office 2003

Many of our members have requested that we re-test Vista SP1 with 2GB of RAM instead of the 1GB we used in our original tests. So, without further delay, we present our revised results table:


Figure 1 - Revised OfficeBench Completion Times (Seconds)

Analysis: By providing Vista (SP1) with an additional 1GB of RAM (that's a total of 2GB for those of you keeping score) we managed to achieve a "whopping" 4% improvement in OfficeBench throughput.

Note: We added the Windows XP (SP3) results to the chart to add further context to the Vista results. As before, all tests were conducted on the same Dell XPS M1710 system w/2GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and DDR-2 667MHz RAM.

A few members voiced their concerns over the use of Office 2007 under Vista. They suggested we re-test using Office 2003 on both Vista and Windows XP. Here are the results:


Figure 2 - Office 2003 vs. Office 2007 Completion Times

Analysis: Moving from Office 2007 to Office 2003 definitely improved Vista's showing. Instead of being over 2x slower than XP on the same OfficeBench workload, Vista is now "only" 1.8x slower.

To quote Darth Vader: "Impressive...most impressive."