More about Windows 7 Performance

Microsoft has been quoted as saying that it was not creating a new kernel for Windows 7. Anyone who’s ever used any flavor of Linux knows that even small changes in an operating system’s kernel can make for big variations. But apparently there’s a difference for Microsoft between new kernel and refined kernel. Maybe they’re right, but which is it?

I’ve been trying to get actual information for a while now about just what Microsoft has changed in Windows 7 to effect supposed performance changes. This Windows 7 Developer Guide, published in October 2008, while vague, shines more of light on it than the entire Windows 7 Reviewer’s Guide or anything else I’ve read on Microsoft’s Windows 7 site. Here’s a direct quote from page 8 of this guide, which describes the performance changes in Windows 7:

“Windows 7 maximizes hardware energy efficiency and scalability while maintaining high performance. Energy efficiency is improved through reduced background activity and new support for the trigger starting of system services. Windows 7 also offers improvements in the Windows kernel that enable applications and services to scale efficiently between platforms. Performance of many features and APIs is improved in Windows 7 versus Windows Vista. For example, driver performance on servers is optimized by new user-mode and kernel-mode topology APIs. Graphics rendering is considerably smoother and faster. Accessibility performance is also significantly faster than before.”

So let’s translate that:

1. “Hardware energy efficiency …”

Translation: Windows 7 saves electrical power.

2. “Improvements in the Windows kernel that enable applications and services to scale efficiently …”

Translation: The apps that the kernel permits to run have a longer leash.

3. “Performance of many features and APIs is improved in Windows 7 versus Windows Vista.”

Translation: Microsoft finished refining Vista features and the ways in which applications interface with the operating system.

4. “…Driver performance on servers is optimized by new user-mode and kernel-mode topology APIs.”

Translation: I don’t really know, but drivers will apparently perform better on servers.

5. “Graphics rendering is considerably smoother and faster.”

Translation: We get that.

There’s been a lot of talk about “MinWin,” a small core of Windows 7 that according to some reports has been made self contained by changing the way DLLs and APIs are structured. It makes sense, but has it really happened? Microsoft doesn’t appear to be talking about this.

I hope to get a briefing, and if I do, I’ll post about it.

10 Responses to “More about Windows 7 Performance”

  1. Scot’s Newsletter Blog » Blog Archive » Microsoft: MinWin and Performance Changes in Windows 7 Says:

    […] following up my earlier post, More About Windows 7 Performance, I asked Microsoft this question last weekend: Have there been memory footprint, background […]

  2. harveyvan Says:

    I’m curious: based on these results, what’s the attraction for XP users to move to Win7? (“It’s lighter than Vista” isn’t much of an attraction to anyone who decided to give Vista a miss.)

    I’m about to build a new box for a home office operation — Word, Excel, a bit of PhotoImpact, a limited amount of disc burning. It’ll be networked to an existing XP Pro box and a netbook running linux.

    My gut reaction is to install a new OEM of XP Pro; I don’t see that I’d be missing anything by shunning both Vista and Win7.

    Am I deluded? (Honest question.)

  3. Scot Says:

    I don’t know yet. It’s way too early to tell. I’m certainly not recommending Windows 7 at this time.

    One thing is an issue: Microsoft will certainly attempt to kill XP once Windows 7 ships. It has delayed pulling support and availability of Win XP, but once there’s a second alternative, it will want to shoo people into that solution.

    At some point, XP will no longer receive updates and will become exceedingly antiquated.

    Short-term, I think XP still makes sense. But three years down the road, I think the picture will look quite different. So it make sense to educate yourself about Windows 7.

    There are several aspects of Windows 7 that I like. They’re mostly little things, though. I agree there’s nothing compelling in Vista or Windows 7 — at least what we know if it right now.

    — Scot

  4. DavidSalahi Says:

    Thanks for the 64-bit coverage. I don’t see very much of that but it became much more important to me last November when I built my newest machine with 12GB of RAM. To use all that memory I had to choose between XP 64 and Vista 64. Based on my experience with Vista 32 I chose XP 64. However, my experience is that XP 64 is rough around the edges. I experience constant compatibility problems with apps and regular odd behavior from XP. Some apps don’t run at all on XP 64 so I have to run them in VMware or on my laptop. I’m hoping Win 7 64 will be better.

    David Salahi

  5. harrymc Says:

    Moving from XP to Vista was somewhat painful but rewarding. Vista is more stable than XP and the user-interface is more evolved both functionally and esthetically. I see XP as a more primitive OS than Vista. Windows 7 will undoubtedly be the same: another 2 steps forward and one step back. However, using third-party products one can usually undo the back-step. I would only put XP on an old and slow machine – I see no reason for not having Vista on a new machine.

  6. harveyvan Says:

    Many thanks for the responses; I’ll ponder this one a bit, once I’ve settled on the spec for the new machine.

  7. Scot Says:


    I tested XP x64 in 2005-06 and had the rough-around-the-edges experience you describe. HP kindly created an x64 machine for me to evaluate, and it worked well. But adding hardware or software to the machine was not an easy process. And things didn’t work as I expected.

    I’m not going to say that 64-bit Vista or Win 7 will be completely free of the need to mess with drivers a bit, but it’s nothing like what it under XP. And there are definitely some performance advantages, not to mention the ability to address a lot more RAM. All in all, my experiences so far have been far more positive than negative.

    An example of the kind of problem you might run into with 64-bit Vista or Windows 7: I could not get Paragon’s Partition Manager 9 to run properly on 64-bit Vista. I’m not sure the problem is caused by the 64-bitness. But I was able run Partition Manager without issue from its Recovery disc.

    — Scot

  8. jwbjerke Says:

    Windows 7 offers so much more than XP. My home laptop has a Core Duo T2300, 2 gig ram – nothing fancy. Win 7 blows XP away on the box. It boots up so much faster, launches applications faster, everything just seems faster. I can’t wait for Win 7 to RTM.

  9. Scot Says:


    Did you see the Ed Bott post I linked to? I’m not sure I agree with you, and neither does Ed’s data — which shows that Windows 7 uses more mem. and disk space than Windows XP, but less than Vista.

    In my tests, XP beats Win 7 on XP-class hardware.

    — Scot

  10. jimcbb Says:

    Following several threads here . . .

    Being retired has many virtues, namely being able to play with my toys until my wife announces that the lawn needs to be cut, so . . .

    Homegroup is underwhelming at best. I have no Macs (wish I did), but several XP and Vista machines, and 4 Win7 test platforms. Runs flawlessly when XP machines are out of the loop – my personal experience with XP networking – it sucks on a good day. Homegroup didn’t help.

    Win7 machines are 800 MHz Celeron w/256MB RAM (Abit, homebrew), Win2K/Win7; Dell Dimension 4600 2.2 GHz P-4 w/1536 MB RAM, WinXP (Pro)/Win7; MSI Wind 1.6GHz Atom 2/2 GB RAM, WinXP (Home)/Win7; HP Pavilion 64-bit Q9550 @2.83 GHz, 6 GB RAM, RAIDO+1. Win7 flies compared to each machine’s native OS, and they network acceptably well w/wout Homegroup (I don’t like Homegroup and will avoid it as long as possible). Vista won’t run on the Celeron, wouldn’t run on the Dell until the Video card was replaced, and ran on the Wind right out of the box. Win7 looks slightly different on the Celeron, but is still surprisingly quick. The other Win7 systems look pretty much the same, except for speed. The HP blows me away, though – response is near instantaneous most of the time, but it looks almost as quick running Vista, so it’s probably a function of the hardware.

    All due respect to Ed Bott (I avidly follow his blogs/posts), whether or not it uses more memory & disk space than anything else seems irrelevant – those things are cheap (my first 7 MB hard drive and the 1MB RAM on the 80486 system that ran it cost me over a kilobuck each!)

    Bottom line – I’m sold on Win 7, and if MS doesn’t manage to break it between now and RTM, I have no doubt what I’ll be using in the foreseeable future.

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