Which boots faster, Linux or Windows?

Everybody knows the answer is almost always Linux, and one of the reasons for that is because Windows cheats. Mr. Exile has run a test in which he compares two laptops, one with four times the memory and about double the processor speed and a more advanced processor, with the hotter computer running XP and the older, less powered computer running Linux.

Since the valid test is not when the desktop pops up (because Windows is still busy booting when that happens), Mr. Exile instead timed how long it took for him to have a browser opened to his web based email page.

If you are a Windows Apologist Jingoist, don't even bother reading Mr. Exile's analysis, because you will simply become depressed and despondent when you see the results. If you are a Happy Linux person, go over to Mr. Exile's post and drop him a line.

The analysis and results are here.

I should say that I have the same exact experience, except to get to email, I compare Evolution on a Linux computer with Outlook on a managed Windows computer. The amount of time from turning on the Windows computer on a Monday Morning (I turn the computer off over the weekend) and being able to read the most recent email on the managed computer is between 15 and 25 minutes, if I don't have to reboot. It has been as long as 45 minutes, and earlier this week it was one day because the network was borked so I just went home and worked there. Yes, you read that right. NORMAL startup is 15 to 20 minutes before the first readable email.

The amount of time on the computer running Linux and using Evolution to access the same account plus four other accounts is ... I don't know, never felt the need to measure it. Three or four minutes, I think.

More like this

We use Windows XP at the bank. Our main app is java-based running through IE6 (they can't get it to work on IE7 or IE8.) It takes 10 minutes just to boot up.

P.S. I don't like Outlook.

java + windows=glacial^2

yes, Outlook is MS at its worst (SQL server is MS at it's best)

25 minutes? That's just absurd! Our IT department is not particularly skilled and the standard image is not optimized for, well, anything, but my late model HP is usable (or as usable as a Windows system can be) in about 4-6 minutes from when I enter username/password. I never shut down completely (just reboot every night) so I don't know about the entire process, but when I have to reboot during the day it's about 10 minutes of downtime.

Back when I used linux on the desktop at home* I was well aware of the performance differences between my scavenged together frankenstein systems and the brand new managed systems running Windows at work. Which was part of why I ran SuSE at home.

*I'm now OS X on the desktop, OpenBSD on the servers

15 to 25 minutes? You have bigger problems that just using Windows. I suggest you talk to your tech people - they clearly don't know what they are doing. Either that or you've a bunch of crap loaded on the machine.

I'm all for picking at the problems with Windows (there are many) but the claim of 15 to 25 minutes as being "normal" is just a little ridiculous.

I have a six year old XP Pro box and I get to Outlook in less than three minutes. Then again, I know how to maintain a machine.

I remember a Renault commercial back in the '60's that went like this: "25mpg is lousy mileage." It was aimed at VW owners who thought otherwise. I have that feeling when I hear a Windows user say they can be ready to go in just four minutes. Zowie, really!? Four minutes! How special.

Starting from the login screen:

It takes about 15 seconds to log into my Ubuntu machine at home, which is a dual-core with an old EIDE hard drive and 1gb ram. That's password-to-ready. At work, where I have a dual-core with 3 gigs of ram and a SATA drive, XP takes about four minutes from password to "actually ready to do something". The "desktop" has been onscreen for three and half minutes of those four, but you can forget starting any applications until the last little TSR has settled in and taken a deep breath, and decided that this porridge is juuuuust right.

Another thing: if Windows has trouble talking to any network resource, it totally freaks out and jams up, even if the application I'm trying to use is in no way related to that resource.

It takes about 15 seconds to log into my Ubuntu machine at home, which is a dual-core with an old EIDE hard drive and 1gb ram. That's password-to-ready.

Eh? Greg and I have been talking about boot-up times, not the time from login screen to "ready".

At work, where I have a dual-core with 3 gigs of ram and a SATA drive, XP takes about four minutes from password to "actually ready to do something". The "desktop" has been onscreen for three and half minutes of those four, but you can forget starting any applications until the last little TSR has settled in and taken a deep breath, and decided that this porridge is juuuuust right.

Maybe. But my point is that it doesn't have to be like that. If you or your administrator actually knew what they were doing, you wouldn't have a lot of the crap happening. Trust me, I know ... my own administrator is clueless about how to set systems up and that's why I take care of it myself.

(Cards on the table time: I've never had huge problems with Windows and use XP Pro at work and Vista on some machines at home - both without problems. I have had a Linux server at home for over ten years now. I have a Macbook that I use for my mobile needs.)

By John Lynch (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

John: No, you are right, it is definitely not normal, but it is an accumulation of all that is normal. My computer, when it turns on (after boot) carries out a virus check that robs resources for a long period of time. Outlook is syncing to an oracle server that obviously has problems. And so on. There is not too much actual crap loaded on the computer, and most of this time is not boot time but time before I can actually click on something and have it work.

One could blame this on the fact that my email in box and imap folder have about 2 or 3 thousand emails. Fine. Blame the emails. But my Linux machine accessing the same exact data does it in seconds!!!!

a minute difference, huh? that, plus the fact that it was an older laptop, would probably even cover my laptop's weird graphic hiccup it always has after the desktop shows up (my pointer keeps jumping all over the screen for about a minute or two after login)

Comparing home and corporate laptops isn't fair. Each time a centrally managed machine connects to the corporate intranet, it runs prodedures that home computers do not, e.g. checks for available SW upgrades, and possibly installs them. When I was working at Nokia (a pretty adept company, computerwise), it took at least 10 minutes to get XP started. maybe 20, if I arrived to work at the same time as most others.

Windows starts so slowly that Asus offers for its motherboards an embedded Linux, to keep the user entertained:

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

@ Greg

No reason to do a virus scan on boot if scanning is enabled with file access (and a good scanner - i.e. not Norton or McAfee - is used).

Why you guys are using an Oracle server for Outlook is beyond me (especially in a university setting). Exchange is the norm.

So, I guess I'm saying most of the problem is avoidable if IT is on the ball.

By John Lynch (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

@ Lassi

All of which just implies that corporate-type with MS certification don't know how to do things efficiently. I agree with that. The problems aren't inherent with the system, just with the "administrators" who manage the system.

By John Lynch (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

And I guess I'm wondering why folks are having to re-boot their machines. Why not hibernate over the weekend?

I'll stop now because I'm sounding like a MS apologist (which I ain't).

By John Lynch (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

As I run desktop machines & servers, I don't give a toss what the boot time is :-) What I'm prefer to know is which stays up the longest without needing a reboot. Mind you, the answer is more-or-less the same. (I rarely use Windows, actually, spending most of time in OS X or Linux.)

By Heraclides (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

FWIW - 1:39 from power button to Thunderbird ready to accept input, on a 1.7GHz P4, 768MB with OpenSUSE 11.0/KDE3 - it was about 55secs to the xdm login screen

@John Lynch - re Oracle for email - I am assuming it is either Oracle Collaboration Suite, or Beehive

By mrcreosote (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

Another FWIW:
2.66GHz CoreDuo, 2 GB memory, WinXP SP2.
From power button to Thunderbird pw request to 1:40, including 5 seconds lost with having to retype a PW twice,

I could do a clean up of excess services starting up (game rig and these days you are stuck with SecureRom and other DRM), turn of a few on start programs and probably get another 10 to 15 seconds but that is about it.

The CD based Linux boots faster.

By Who Cares (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

@Heraclides, I've had OSX and Linux servers stay up for about a year and a half (before we had to give the OSX machines direct internet access and now they need to reboot every few weeks after installing some new security update). I've never seen a WinXP machine live for more than two months, and that's with very little use. If they're actually being used the whole time, they don't seem to go more than a few weeks before something goes wonky.

@John Lynch - Both the Windows and Linux machines boot to login screen in under a minute, and I'm usually not there when it happens. Sp it's login time that matters most to me; when I sit down at my desk I want action now. I don't want to sit there cooling my heels for five minutes watching an hourglass.

Yes, I know the managed system at work does more, and much of it should be unnecessary. Updates install overnight, or they're supposed to. The thing "defrags" at night too. After boot-up, most of what it's doing is connecting to network resources that I probably won't use in this session, and by the time I need them the connection has to be reestablished anyway. Plus virus scan, which really doesn't seem to offer much protection. And our network administrators do know what they're doing. I trust them.

I have a lot of experience with Windows, a lot less with Linux but it's growing on me. I like the way it does things. Windows is a time-vampire in a thousand little ways throughout the day.

And here I was grumpy that it takes my work pc 3 or 4 minutes to boot up and get all its corporate stuff taken care of :o

Okay, here are my results, dual booting on a DELL Vostro 1500, with Intel T5270 Core 2 Duo 1.4GHz, 2Gb 667MHz RAM, Western Digital 320Gb 5400rpm HDD, Intel GMA X3100, Intel ProWireless 3945 WiFi (a,b,g).

From pressing the power button, via logging in and starting Firefox, to having my homepage on screen, it took:

Windows XP Pro SP3: 1 minute 25 seconds
Ubuntu 8.10: 1 minute 45 seconds

Admittedly, XP is a pretty clean install (I rarely use it), and I know from experience that XP tends to slow down over time. Also, I hear that Ubuntu 9.04 with ext4 is supposed to be noticeably quicker than 8.10 with ext3.

I think I have a HDD with Vista on somewhere. If I find it, I'll post its time too.

1.6ghz atom w/ 2gb with xp home. From power button to gmail: less than 10 seconds. Part of that is waiting for the wireless to link up.

sleep function does wonders.

My work machine (xp64) with all its insane .gov mandated security on it takes maybe 5 minutes to truly boot up. It also becomes useless around lunchtime a few days a week while they run something or another on it.

The simple point is that linux can be made to boot up super fast. If that's your gig, why not make a build for that purpose?

@John: "So, I guess I'm saying most of the problem is avoidable if IT is on the ball."

That may well be. I think the actual people at IT are pretty good, but they are working with a very badly broken paradigm which causes them to do crazy things.

BTW, this computer does not get turned off normally, but since my routine is to leave Thursday PM and next come in sometimes late on Monday I tend to turn it off on Thursday.

"The problems aren't inherent with the system, just with the "administrators" who manage the system." Well, maybe, but if you go back to the OT, that comparison with a pretty big difference in time is probably giving Windows fair shake (you can ask Mr. Exile on his blog about that). Also, it is true that Windows cheats.

Here's a clue: I have everything imaginable installed on my Linux system. (Which, I know, is not a very precise number) and my man hard drive uses 4 gigs. That's not any data, just software. How much does a windows machine with "everything imaginable" plus or minus installed on it use for mass storage of software files?

@George: "The thing "defrags" at night too." Defrag? What's that??????

Another FWIW; corporate desktop, Q6600/4GB/Vista64.

Cold boot, login to Outlook 2007 + Visual Studio 2008 (in startup folder); 3:12 until I can respond to my first e-mail. This includes McAfee, Defender and sidebar with 8 gadgets on it.

Of course, hibernate is <20seconds.

Okay, swapped the drive for a Western Digital 320Gb 5400rpm HDD with Vista SP1, and it got to Google.com in sixty seconds! Again, it was a clean install, but it was quite impressive.

Shut-down times were:

Ubuntu: 12 seconds
Vista: 15 seconds
XP: 25 seconds

I have to admit that I have never looked into speeding up the Ubuntu start-up. I used to fiddle with XP all the time when I used Windows, but since switching to Linux, I've been happy to just let it do it's stuff.

Oops, it was a 120GB drive, for what it matters.

Linux will always beat Windows when it comes to boot-up times, unless you installed some funky apps to Linux. I've seen high-end Linux servers boot in 10 minutes.

Do you know if anyone has tested bootup speeds (and maybe test checking email too) on fresh install Linux and Windows on the same hardware? I'm sure Linux will still beat, but I wonder how faster Windows boot when there's no user app installed on it.

By the way,

My home PC (AMD X2 4800, 2GB ram, several SATA disks) has XP, Vista, Linux and OpenSolaris 08.11, and Vista is the slowest, then comes XP. Just I'm not sure which is the fastest, Linux or OpenSolaris. I'll check and let you know.

@John Lynch: no, it's not just admins' fault, it goes higher. A company intranet has lots of stuff going on that needs to be managed. Updates, upgrades, backups, groupware, conferencing, business applications implemented with ActiveX, whatever the company management wants. All that junk must be configured properly, including security settings and group memberships. Keeping up-to-date isn't easy, because both intranet (e.g. network configuration) and personnel keep on changing all the time. The OS becomes a minor issue.

@george.w: Yes, much of the stuff can be run at night, if the machines are on-line. But my machine was a laptop that usually went where I went, including home after the day. It was off-line at night, unless I had an overseas teleconference, and during a conference I categorically refused all maintenance operations.

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 24 Mar 2009 #permalink

The last time I experienced +45 minute boot time was in 1998, working at a local Radio Shack franchise, repairing an old Zenith(!) desktop. Damned if I remember what it was running (win 3.11?).

My 5-6yr old Dell desktop (1gb ram, 2.7ghz Intel P4, 512mb graphics) dual boots win XP and win 7 on separate hard drives. The hold, haggered, tweaked-out XP OS takes maybe 3 minutes with antivirus. The win 7 OS takes 30 seconds (w/ windows defender). I am counting the time it takes for everything to load and the processor to settle down.

That said, I am patiently awaiting a OS like Presto (linux) that is free, and a real "instant on" for browsing purposes.

Well John, I'm just naturally grumpy and impatient with machinery.

@Murat - Fresh install times don't mean a lot to me. After 6 months of use matters more.

@Greg "Defrag? What's that?"

Exactly. No credit to a machine for doing something quickly that it shouldn't have to do at all. I guess it's better than doing the unnecessary thing slowly, but still...

When I threw out all my Microsoft stuff in 1998, it wasn't about speed, but aggravation. Linux has a different set of annoyances, but I found them easier to take than those of Windows. Mostly, because I felt that any Linux distribution was being developed by people who cared about making the operating system work well, as contrasted with the need to turn a profit. So I saw any shortcomings as being more acceptable. Still, it's good to see stuff like this from time to time - I love having my prejudices confirmed.

By John - de-lurking (not verified) on 24 Mar 2009 #permalink

I felt that any Linux distribution was being developed by people who cared about making the operating system work well, as contrasted with the need to turn a profit.

here here!

For What It's Worth:

Apple MacBook Pro
2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Parallels 3 Desktop for Mac
Cold (virtual) boot of Windows
Login Screen - 0:37
Desktop - 0:46
Firefox - 1:29

Cold boot of MacOS X v10.5.6
(FileVault disk encryption enabled)
Login Screen - 0:40
Desktop - 1:49
Firefox - 2:38

Just chiming in here about the fact that some smaller Linux distros can have pretty amazing boot times with proper optimization. I have a cheaper Toshiba Satellite with an Intel DualCore 512MB of ram that boots Archlinux from GRUB to X in 12 seconds, counting the time it takes me to login and type startx. The same machine came with pre-installed Vista, which took about five minutes the couple of times I booted it to get to a useable desktop.

Before that I had a Dell Inspiron 1000 with a slower Celeron and 256MB of ram. Took 40 minutes to get a useable desktop in XP, 17 seconds in Archlinux.


You know why "Windows Apologist Jingois" hate linux users so much? Because you all blatantly lie like crazy... it's bloody annoying. No one can actually TRUST what any of you say because you've all elevated Linux to a God-like status and Microsoft to a Shit-like status (You won't even give it "satan").

Anti-Virus software is pointless for "Smart People", what is even more pointless is a full system scan on boot. A "Smart Person" really only needs to check email attachments, something that the email server can easily do.

And so long as you all refuse to optimize boot-processes, install as many "non-self contained" programs as possible, or blatantly attempt to fragment your boot drive... yes, you'll get long boots, but only so long as 5 min (excluding, of course, "on boot antivirus scans" {for pete's sake, turn that off}) (To note, XP can be optimized to a 15 - 30 second boot, so claiming it takes 25 min to do something is an obvious fabrication).

You see, what really is annoying is not that linux is faster, better, more stable, easier to use... it's that despite all that Linux Users still cheat, lie, and sabotage the tests that prove this.

"MyName", the only reason I'm not deleting your obnoxious and inappropriate post, in which you call me and my friends and colleagues liars and make very serious and specific accusations which are unfounded, is because I want people to see what a typical Windows fanboy looks like.

The best you can do is insist that the data that shows that Windows sucks and all Windows symps are morons is to insist that it can't be true. Good luck with that argument. Good luck with spending the next hour with the Windows computer you are currently using with something annoying (to a cognizant intelligent person, not to you) happens.

Yes, Linux Users are smarter. At least you got that right.