OS Comparison: On Which Operating System Do Games Run Best?


There's no question about it - modern operating systems, such as Windows 2000 and the latest Windows XP, provide the user with a much more stable work environment than the fully outdated software architecture of Windows 98 or ME. Among PC gamers, performance differences between these operating systems are still a point of intense discussion. Which one is faster? In addition, there are still many games coming out on the market that don't run properly on Windows XP. A good example of this is the U-Boot game "Silent Hunter II," which managed to crash the entire PC within a few minutes. At the time, the developer simply shrugged its shoulder at its own Internet support forums and merely pointed out the fact that ultimately, Windows XP is not an OS for games. But apart from games (and a few special applications as well), which other applications really need the fastest and newest hardware? Certainly not Word, Excel & Co.

Another negative aspect of Windows XP and Windows 2000 is the annoying 60 Hz problem (http://xp-refresh.net/ ). If a game runs in full-screen mode, then the monitor can only have a refresh rate of 60 Hz. So if you've got a good quality monitor on the desk, then this will hardly be satisfying for you. In order to spare gamers' eyes from further torture, a few hard-working programmers came to the rescue, publishing freeware tools to remedy the problem, because technically this is certainly not impossible to solve. For a long time, Microsoft saw no reason to do anything about this problem. It was only with the introduction of Service Pack 1 for Windows XP that Microsoft came up with a solution for Direct 3D as well as OpenGL.

Even the graphics card manufacturers are doing very little or nothing to fix the problem, although it would be easy enough for them to come up with a solution. But this is not completely true for all manufacturers - ever since NVIDIA's newest Detonator XP "Release 40" Beta drivers, the company has become the first to offer a possible solution. And it's about time. By contrast, with ATI and other manufacturers, solutions are not to be found. ATI responds to these inquiries simply by referring the user to the freeware tools mentioned above. On the one hand, one would like to offer WHQL-certified drivers only, in order to satisfy OEM clients. However, one then refers the customer to freeware tools that are straight from the domestic "hacker foundries" and have not been thoroughly tried and tested. This last statement is not meant to sound negative, and the contributions of these software developers are certainly nothing to sneeze at - it's thanks to them that games could be played properly at all on Windows XP and 2000. Still, these programmers only have access to very limited testing resources compared to graphics card manufacturers with huge R&D departments. And in any case, it's only the customer's right to expect graphics card manufacturers to provide such tools! At least NVIDIA shows that this topic finally, after many years, has been pushed to the forefront.

Anyway, back to our comparison. So, what can we do? Which operating system is faster? Should you resort to having both systems on your PC? XP or 2000 for work, and Windows 98/ME for play? When Windows 2000 was introduced, its clear advantage in speed over 98/ME was still noticeable. However, much time has passed since then.

In order to finally answer these questions and rid the world of the preconceptions that run rampant in the Web, we've taken some games and made a performance comparison between Windows XP, XP SP1, 2000 and ME. The test platform was based on a Pentium 4 system with NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti 4600 and ATI Radeon 9700 PRO.