Why is Windows noisy and Linux quiet?

Although you could probably apply this question to several topics (many of them figurative), I am asking this question in terms of hard drive noise.

I have always noticed that computers running Windows (2000 and XP mostly) always have a ridiculous (and seemingly unnecessary) amount of hard drive noise when doing anything non-trivial (especially booting). Windows 2000 is the worst OS I have seen in this respect. On the other hand, every machine I've ever used running Linux/Unix makes virtually no hard drive noise.

I've even noticed this dichotomy on a single machine. A couple years ago, I was working with an older Pentium machine that didn't have an OS. I installed Windows 2000 on it and the hard drive was always churning and grinding away. I wiped the drive clean and installed Linux instead and suddenly I was able to perform all the same tasks (internet, email, etc.) without any hard drive noise at all. I was even able to copy huge files across the disk without any noise coming from the hard drive!

So, I have two questions for everyone:
  • Why does Windows grind away the hard drive when opening normal applications like an Internet browser or a word processor when those applications could easily fit into (non-virtual) memory alone?
  • What is so different about Linux/Unix that hard drive noise could be virtually eliminated (when compared to Windows)?
    9 answers Last reply
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    1. This is an intresting question first you need to know that windows filesystems get fragmented very quickly and 2000/xp try to reorginize this when system is not doing anything.
      Linux doesnt get fragmented and doesnt really need to orginize so no swaping unless you have no ram on the machine.
    2. Quote:
      This is an intresting question first you need to know that windows filesystems get fragmented very quickly and 2000/xp try to reorginize this when system is not doing anything.
      Linux doesnt get fragmented and doesnt really need to orginize so no swaping unless you have no ram on the machine.

      I have two problems with this answer:
    3. I am not referring to the hard drive noise while Windows performs defragmentation when the computer is idle. I am referring to hard drive noise during active manipulation of the hard drive (running programs, copying files, etc.).
    4. I have experienced the noisy hard drive problem even on Windows machines that are freshly defragmented or even freshly wiped.Any other ideas?
  • Don't really know, but I would have to guess that it has something to do with Window's swap file (page file). Even on systems with a relatively large amount of memory, Windows seems to have an affinity for virtual memory.

    To come right down to it, Linux is a more efficient OS, with "tighter" code. Windows and Windows applications tend to be huge programs that eat up a lot of system resources. Just look at the resources that are available on any XP system before and then after loading Internet Exploder. Firefox, on the other hand, is less than a 10MB download and doesn't seem to put much of a load on the sytem at all (even in the Windows incarnation).

    So, again, just to guess, Linux and Linux programs are better written and do not consume a ton of system resources, so there is less use of virtual memory.
  • My guess is that it has a bit to do with the filesystems. NTFS has journalling, which provides great roll-back and recovery capability, but it's at the cost of having to journal every write made. This will natually increase disk usage somewhat.
  • To Kingston:

    You do realize you're contradicting yourself here, do you? First you claim all Windows applications are bloated, inefficient resource hogs, then you claim Firefox 'doesn't put much load on the system at all'
    Your post reeks of linux/open source fanboyism. Needless to say I do not agree with you.
    Secondly, how can you make such a ridiculous claim in the first place.
    Do you mean to tell me that you've looked at the source code for every windows application out there, and compared it to it's linux counterpart?

    Clearly you're very much misinformed, and I suggest you go and do some research before you make a fool of yourself by posting nonsense on this board.
  • Yeah right... Windows is shit, Linux is great... Windows apps are not well coded, Linux apps are... So scientific... Reminds me of old flame wars about programming languages... Absolutely no basis for these comments.

    I can think of a dozen apps that are as bloated on Linux as anything you can thing of. Netscape is, and as always been, bloated. I used it on Irix, AIX, Linux, Windows... The same thing. It was making an high-end IBM AIX workstation looks like an XT 8088. Catia V5, an high-end CAD application, is anything but clean and mean! It's bloated like hell! Open Office, which some say will just destroy Microsoft Office, is as buggy as anything ANY company can do. I remember using it on a Linux workstation and once upon a time, it was just crashing, for no apparent reason.

    So please, please, stop saying such nonsense. Software has bugs, Windows has bugs, Linux has bugs, apps has bugs. Get over it! Bugs is not a Windows thing, it's a software thing. And coding on Linux doesn't give you some god like power that allows you to design/analyse/code faster and better than anyone else. It's a different environment, with different pros/cons and different possibilities. That's all.
  • Basically all Linux filesystems also support journaling:
    ext3, reiserfs, xfs, jfs, etc.
    Only ext2 doesn't support journaling and very few people use it.

    If Linux is quieter than Windows (that's an if), then it might have to do with Linux aggressively caching filesystem data in RAM whenever possible in order to avoid using the slower block storage, gaining a significant performance boost. You've seen this caching in action if you've ever run a find command twice on the same directory.

    Also, having the swap file on a dedicated partition is recommended / mandatory in Linux (you don't have to do this, but when you come to install, it tells you to do so). Windows also recommends having your swapfile or pagefile or whatever on a dedicated partition, but you'll find that very few people actually do this.

    Finally, syncing of data between data buffers and the hard disks is customizable under Linux (I'm not sure about how to set it under Windows). Maybe Linux just selects decent initial values and you have to tune it by hand under Windows or something. Just my $0.02 worth.
  • In idle mode, unless you have background tasks scheduled, you shouldn't hear anything going under Win2k. Mine is completely quiet at idle.

    Go to your control panel and double click services. You'll be surprised at all the services that run even when Windows is idle. Many services start running when Windows goes idle. You have the option to turn them off.
  • Simply because there is Antivirus activity/Swap file management on windows machine. While on Linux its not. 8O
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