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Tests Show Win XP Still Fastest for Multicore

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 51 comments
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When Windows XP launched in 2001, the hardware that the OS was designed to run on was far more modest. If you wanted to run a system with multiple cores, you’d have to buy a separate CPU for each core plus the expensive motherboard to go along with it. Today, cores are multiplying.

For multicore computing to really be worthwhile, software must be coded with it in mind. With dual and quad core chips being more of a modern day thing, one could assume that newer versions of Windows would be better at taking advantage of symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) systems. Well, yes and no.

Tests conducted by InfoWorld show that Windows XP is still the overall performance king even in today’s quad core PCs. Not only does Windows XP outpace Windows Vista, it also does better than the current Windows 7 beta.

InfoWorld detailed: “If you take the raw transaction times for the database and workflow tasks, then factor them against the average processor utilization for these same workloads, you see that Windows XP consumes roughly 7.2 and 40.7 billion CPU cycles, respectively, to complete a single pass of the database and messaging workflow transaction loops on our quad-core test bed. By contrast, Windows Vista takes 10.4 and 51.6 billion cycles for each workload, while Windows 7 consumes 10.9 and 48.4 billion cycles.”

From the test, quad core systems with newer Windows ran database tasks and workflow tasks 40 percent and 20 percent less efficiently, respectively. It’s not that Windows Vista or 7 are hogs as much as XP having fewer things to deal with. Besides just visual effects, the newer Windows have to deal with extra DRM concerns. It takes overhead to support more features, and Vista is a much more secure operating system than XP.

Windows XP is leaner, and thus explains its greater efficiency. But that advantage will lessen as our CPUs gain more cores. Windows XP’s SMP implementation is more basic than the one in Windows Vista and 7, which feature tweaked kernels that take advantage of today’s multicore chips rather than just acknowledging the presence of a separate processing unit.

The theory is that as the improved multicore support of the newer Windows versions become more apparent as core count increase. The key question is where exactly (or how many cores) the newer Windows with its added bulk will surpass the leaner but less optimized XP.

While Windows Vista may have arrived before it was fully ready, Windows 7 looks to right all the wrongs and shine things back up for Microsoft. Early impressions of Windows 7 are all overwhelmingly positive, benchmarks of the beta already put it ahead of Vista. Now all we need is a fully optimized final version of Windows 7 and an eight or 16 core CPU to play with.

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Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    kelfen , January 23, 2009 11:12 PM
    DRM pisses the consumer off and no one really wins
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    lutel , January 23, 2009 6:37 PM
    I'll stick with Windows XP / Ubuntu until Microsoft remove DRM. DRM is the greatest mistake of Microsoft because it is designed against user, not for user. Remove DRM and I and my employees will be happy with vistas eye-candies even at cost of 20-30% system overhead.
  • -6 Hide
    tom12010 , January 23, 2009 6:38 PM
    read the article comments.
    testing methodology is suspect.
    only 32-bit was tested, no 64-bit results...
  • 5 Hide
    barbos , January 23, 2009 6:42 PM
    I would say given the way it was measured, you could conclude that Windows XP is more efficient, by requiring less clock cycles. But if Windows 7 spread the clock cycles more evenly across multiple cores, it could accomplish more work in less time. Therefore it would still be possible for Windows 7 to be faster.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 23, 2009 6:59 PM
    I dont like the comparison. for a few reasons. 1. Xp is not beta and has the second service packs for it and the second win 7 is beta and probably still has a fare amount of optimizing to be done. we can do this comparison in a few year with win 7 has time to mature and be refined. Xp would be faster if the installed Sp3 on there but that still doesnt help the comparison. my 0.02
  • 0 Hide
    squatchman , January 23, 2009 7:25 PM
    I'm not sure how I feel about trying to use Desktop Operating systems to do Server related tasks. Worse, his quad core system was a laptop. It would be best if we could keep the FUD on fudzilla.
  • 4 Hide
    jwl3 , January 23, 2009 7:37 PM
    Doesn't take a genius or benchmarks to figure this one out. What moron at Microsoft figured that 0% cpu utlization is a BAD thing? That's the whole premise of Vista, that any unused CPU is bad; hence, all the tons of startups and services that run in the background. I optimize my machine with the least amount of startups, services, drivers, etc. just so my games run silky smooth.
  • 3 Hide
    njalterio , January 23, 2009 7:45 PM
    "Fastest" is a BS way of describing what is really going on here.

    Vista uses up lots of RAM to optimize desktop computing. Naturally, there are a lot more instructions to be executed in Vista than XP.

    In layman's terms; Runner A who completes the mile in 8 minutes is NOT faster than Runner B who completes a marathon in 20 minutes!

    From the processor's point of view, it finishes all of its instructions sooner in XP, but that isn't the point!
  • 3 Hide
    njalterio , January 23, 2009 7:56 PM
    jwl3Doesn't take a genius or benchmarks to figure this one out. What moron at Microsoft figured that 0% cpu utlization is a BAD thing? That's the whole premise of Vista, that any unused CPU is bad; hence, all the tons of startups and services that run in the background. I optimize my machine with the least amount of startups, services, drivers, etc. just so my games run silky smooth.


    Disabling startup programs and services is nothing new to Vista. That is always the case for XP as well.

    CPU cycles, which is what the author is comparing, grab instructions from main memory, something that Vista is programmed to use a lot of. It's not unused CPU they are trying to use, it is unused main memory.

    Anyways, I find it hilarious how random blog/article writers on the Internet seem to think they have found all the answers, that Microsoft's OS programming team seem to have completely missed.

  • -1 Hide
    Shadow703793 , January 23, 2009 8:09 PM
    njalterio"Fastest" is a BS way of describing what is really going on here.Vista uses up lots of RAM to optimize desktop computing. Naturally, there are a lot more instructions to be executed in Vista than XP. In layman's terms; Runner A who completes the mile in 8 minutes is NOT faster than Runner B who completes a marathon in 20 minutes! From the processor's point of view, it finishes all of its instructions sooner in XP, but that isn't the point!

    njalterioDisabling startup programs and services is nothing new to Vista. That is always the case for XP as well. CPU cycles, which is what the author is comparing, grab instructions from main memory, something that Vista is programmed to use a lot of. It's not unused CPU they are trying to use, it is unused main memory. Anyways, I find it hilarious how random blog/article writers on the Internet seem to think they have found all the answers, that Microsoft's OS programming team seem to have completely missed.

    +1 Well said! Also note they used 4GB on the Deal core (E6700) and 8GB on the quad. That cries unfair to me. See: http://weblog.infoworld.com/labnotes/archives/2009/01/windows_on_mult.html

  • 0 Hide
    grieve , January 23, 2009 8:10 PM
    I have Windows 7 running in a VM with 500ram... i was shocked how fast it is, even online vids are snappy. I plan to install 7 as a second OS and give it a run now.

    **Vista has always run fine for me but my machines are always a little quicker then average Joe.
  • 0 Hide
    narlzac85 , January 23, 2009 8:17 PM
    use a server OS for your server workload. If you're going to test consumer operating systems, use a consumer test. I think the most important test for many consumers is reliability and resistance to viruses. Any speed differences between XP and Vista are generally minor. In my opinion, its a worthwhile trade-off.
  • 4 Hide
    bf2gameplaya , January 23, 2009 8:30 PM
    Read between the lines, the author is implying that DRM schema is sapping CPU cycles. Either you or your programs notice this performance wise, or they do not.

    I notice and I avoid. NBC has the ability to shut Vista off and *did*. Does NBC have the ability to shut Windows 7 off as well? NBC can't shut Windows XP off.

    Read for yourself:

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080514-nbc-vista-copy-protection-snafu-reminds-us-why-drm-stinks.html
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , January 23, 2009 8:40 PM
    You must be using a limited set of benchmarks because video rendering is quite a bit faster with 64 Bit Vista because it is able utilize MUCH more ram compared to the 2-4GB Max. in XP.
  • 0 Hide
    afrobacon , January 23, 2009 9:01 PM
    I'd personally like to see an article on this which is NOT server based, and also on a fair playing ground. Maybe using one of the $1250 system builds to do so with. Something consumers can relate with.
  • 0 Hide
    seboj , January 23, 2009 9:14 PM
    If you read the InfoWorld article, the author is praising both Vista and 7.

    Quote:
    Windows XP's aging kernel, though SMP-aware, has never been fully optimized for multicore computing. By contrast, both Windows Vista and Windows 7 have benefited from years of tuning and tweaking (including the removal of various global SMP locking mechanisms) to allow them to better exploit all those additional CPU cores.


    Yes, XP is basic, lean, and fast. The key take-away from this is future scalability.
  • 11 Hide
    kelfen , January 23, 2009 11:12 PM
    DRM pisses the consumer off and no one really wins
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 23, 2009 11:25 PM
    How about this idea:

    Windows 8 = XP pro 64-bit with "new feature service pack" ???

    Perhaps they can just evolve XP and make us pay 1/3 the price for their service packs? Perhaps a new one every year...

    Then we could decide if we need the new features...

    All the silly new visual candy can be added as add-on for people who care for them...
  • 2 Hide
    kamkal , January 24, 2009 12:05 AM

    ms needs to cut all the stupid features and make windows7 blazing fast

    fast = people will like your OS

    slow = people will not like your OS

    when i click on something, it should pop up right away, even on a modest computer




  • 3 Hide
    ravenware , January 24, 2009 12:47 AM
    Quote:
    ests conducted by InfoWorld show that Windows XP is still the overall performance king even in today’s quad core PCs. Not only does Windows XP outpace Windows Vista
    , it also does better than the current Windows 7 beta.


    InfoWorld? Why didn't toms hardware do this and provide their own benchmark results?
  • 1 Hide
    Milleman , January 24, 2009 4:14 AM
    Kill the DRM for God´s sake! The DRM crap is useless and only slows the system down at the expense of the user, who is forced to invest in more expensive hardware in order to do the same things as before. I will not use an OS that works agains the users interests. If you are not playing games, there is no reason at all to use Windows. Windows XP is my final Windows. I've now move to Ubuntu and use a dual boot for the times there's need for using old Windows programs. But that need have been surprisingly low. Next time I make a full Ubuntu installation, I'll skip the dual boot. For games? The Xbox is doing fine! There will probably be more Linux games as well in the future. But I don't care, since I don't play games on PC.
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