Windows Vista Performance

Windows Vista Performance

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I've been talking to a few people recently who are using Windows Server 2008 as a workstation.  Some of their comments are along the lines of:  "Server 2008 has the same code base as Vista SP1, how come it feels quicker?".

Interestingly there doesn't seem to be a good answer (yet).  I've been shown a single laptop running Vista (and it's slow and unstable), then the exact same laptop running Server 2008 and it is quick.

I then show them my laptop in the same scenarios (I have dual boot) and Vista is quicker than Server - it doesn't make sense!

I've taken this interesting "issue" to heart, and have set about finding out why (I love a challenge).

My first port of call will be the Springboard Series Virtual Roundtable that's on this afternoon (17:00 in Ireland - 9:00am Pacific Standard Time) Wednesday, September 24, 2008.  It will be recorded, so it won't matter too much if you miss it (although you won't be able to ask live questions).  Mark Russinovich and a panel of industry experts will explore your top of mind performance issues, common misconfigurations, and tips on how to fix them.  From boot times and applets to disk performance and battery life, find out how to optimize Windows Vista and what you can do to improve overall system performance.

I'm already in contact with a bunch of people in Corp plus a few local "experts".  I'll let you know how I get on - so watch this space (I'll be sharing my 'tips & tricks' later)..


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  • I have noticed that similar to all MS OS it just starts to slow down over time.

    It’s been a year since I rebuilt and it’s starting to become more noticeable. I have a powerful machine, with 4GB Ram, 2 Dual Core Procs, Sata hdd. I'm running 64Bit, I’ve got  5.4 Vista Rating.

    I have one question, why are my hard drives always churning away, I have turned off indexing, no programs running, I've disabled firewalls, av, email, im etc. But it will still be churning away.

    Any ideas?


  • Interesting you mention "...slows down over time", g.  Some folks found the opposite with Vista; that at first it's a dog as it's constantly building search indexes, then once the bulk of that is done (weeks later?) it's not so bad.

    Usually, when I'm waiting for the PC, I'm waiting for the HD.  That's especially bad when the heads are seeking between tracks, because no data can flow at that time.

    So my approach has been to constrain most head travel within as few cylinders as possible, using the largest HD that's affordable.

    I keep C: small, reserving this for OS, frequently-used code, temp, page file and caches (with only one physical HD, it's best keeping these together).  

    I use an 8G C: for XP, which on a 40G HD means most of the time, the head travel's only 20% of the "length" of the drive, no matter how fragged C: gets.  Put that 8G C: on a 750G HD, and you've dropped the travel to just over 1% of the drive - much of the time, what you need next may be on the same cylinder.

    With Vista, I use a 32G C:, and pump the "crucial small data" D: from 2G to 4G, then the rest is on the huge E: and so on.

    The problem is "dead code" bloat, as per Windows Installer (.MSI) and patching.  Potentially, for every 1 "live" code file, you could have 1-3 "dud" (backup, source, etc.) files lying around - and the OS is too dumb to chuck these off C: to somewhere else on the HD.

    I can't think of anywhere else (except possibly display surface area) where such inefficiency is tolerated.  Leave 50% of RAM clogged with stuff that isn't being used?  No way.  Spend 50% CPU cycles doing nothing?  You must be joking.  So why such HD inefficiency, when that's the biggest bottleneck of all?

    I guess it's assumed that everyone lives in one big C:, so that the heads have to travel from the front of the volume (where original code is installed) over your massive collections of pictures, music etc. to the start of free space, where tmp files come and go.  In that case, sure; you'd expect the PC to slow with time.

    But there's another factor that can appear to be linked to specific contexts and fixed by "just" re-installing stuff; failing bad sectors that require multiple retries.  

    Code files that are "always in use" may not be moven by defrag, yet may be re-accessed to page back into RAM.  That makes those sectors a broad part of the dartboard - if something goes wrong, it's more likely to happen over sectors that are more often accessed.  So often the "just one bad sector" HD has that sector in key code, registry hive, etc.

    If the offending code is positioned in different sectors, as happens when the program is re-installed, the problem appears to go away... but, etc.

  • Chris, I like the theory behind the head movement idea - makes a lot of sense.  I recently put a Solid State Disk (SDD) into my laptop and got a 300% performance improvement (see  You don't need to defrag SSD as there is no head movement.  If you can afford it, I'd highly recommend it.

    As for the constantly churning disk, g - it could be a lot of things.  The most likely culprit is your anti-virus product constantly re-scanning files as soon as it receives a change notification from the file system.  Are you using anything live Virtual PC?  A VHD is constantly being written to (and hence constantly getting scanned) - the advice is to configure your AV product not to look at .VHD files.


  • "The most likely culprit is your anti-virus product constantly"

    Definitley not this, as I disabled the av, firewall, anti spam etc.

    I closed all the apps, and anything else I could and it would still happen, it's more of an annoyance more than anything, I'm just curious as to wtf is going on.

    I do know that its not the system drive,  (I have a 250GB system drive and 2 X 1TB data drives), I can identify that it's it one of the 1TB drives, I know from the sound of the drive.

  • Graham,

    In that case it could be something as simple as one of your 1TB drives failing (on its way out) - constantly trying to fix bad blocks.

    If you can work out which one it is (power on with one of them unplugged), run a CHKDSK /R against it (it will find the bad sectors).  You could then try and re-format it (copy all your data from it to the other one first).  Most drives have a 12 month warranty on them - you might be able to get it replaced?


  • Windows Vista with SP1 (and some tweaks) is faster than Windows Server 2008. Since my last post on this

  • So last September I posted this about some Windows Vista performance issues I was hearing about and what

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