The irony of PC-performance-enhancing software vendor iolo Technologies making claims that Windows 7 boots slower than Vista was not lost by many in the blogosphere.
Iolo reported that Windows 7 starts up 42 percent slower than Vista -- 1 minute, 34 seconds vs. 1 minute, 6 seconds -- on a brand-new machine when the time tests are run to the point where the machine is usable. We take that to mean the time a user can actually execute commands on the desktop, such as opening a program.
Iolo Technologies is arguably most well-known for the product System Mechanic which, per iolo's Web site, can "boost Windows speeds up to 800 percent." System Mechanic features various tools and utilities, one of them being "Optimize Windows Startup," meant to give Windows a faster load time.
CRN Test Center reviewers took System Mechanic for a test-drive. We downloaded the latest version of System Mechanic 9.0.4 to test how much the software could boost the boot time of a 32-bit Windows 7 RTM machine. The machine used for testing was a Dell Vostro 220, with Intel Core 2 Duo 2.53GHz CPU and 4 GB of RAM.
Prior to installing System Mechanic, the average boot-up time, from pressing the machine's Power button to being able to execute a command on the desktop, was 53 seconds. Keep in mind that this also includes the time it takes to log into a Windows domain.
After installing System Mechanic, the software requires an analysis of the system. After analyzing our machine, System Mechanic detected several problems lowering system health and security: Windows Firewall disabled, 11 repairable security vulnerabilities, 71 registry problems, 55.62 MB of system clutter and two unnecessary startup items.
For this initial test, we decided not to do the recommended configuration changes that System Mechanic reported, but we did select "Optimize Windows Startup." You can choose "Quick," "Deep" or "Custom Optimization;" we selected "Deep." After a forced reboot (by the way, the system took much, much longer to shut down at this point than prior to optimizing Windows startup) we again timed boot-up. At this point, our system took an average of 54 seconds to boot, one second longer than before we had System Mechanic installed and optimizing our startup.
We went back into System Mechanic after boot-up and this time we selected "Let System Mechanic repair all problems." Boot time afterward for our Windows 7 system averaged 55 seconds -- 2 seconds longer than before this System Mechanic configuration change.
Next, we manually selected PC Accelerator, a tool within the program and followed System Mechanic's further recommended options. We allowed the software to defrag the registry and hard drives and to recover and defrag system memory. Upon boot-up, System Mechnic's defrag process extended boot-up time to 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Knowing this was probably just a part of the initial process after our settings changes, we rebooted and the boot time was back to 54 seconds.
Overall, we found that on our system, System Mechanic did not improve the boot time and, in fact, slowed it down.
We are not even sure why iolo got the exceptionally sluggish login times it reported with Windows 7 and, for that matter, with Vista. Take a look at some of our past Windows OS benchmarks in the Test Center:
A pre-beta release of Windows 7 on a Dell XPS laptop loaded in 25 seconds from BIOS to desktop.
On an HP rp5700 model with a single 160-GB SATA drive on each machine, 1.8GHz dual-core Intel processors and 1 GB RAM, XP SP3 took 35 seconds to restart. Vista SP1 took 58 seconds.
Compare that to iolo's reported 1-minute, 34-second load time for Windows 7 and one has to wonder if there are other factors affecting iolo's results, other than the operating system. Even the 1 minute, 6 seconds seems a bit lethargic for Vista. Perhaps when iolo publishes more details of its reports, some further clarification about those questionable boot times will be established.