Under The Hood: Let's See How Windows 8 Performs Against Windows 7

Unless you have been living under a rock, there is a good chance you have caught wind of Microsoft's latest operating system. Those eager to see what the new OS is all about had their first chance to take a peek back in February when Microsoft released the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

More than a million downloads took place within the first day of the preview's release, but users were in for a shock as major changes awaited them. By far the most controversial has been the replacement of the Start menu for the new Start screen, and inherently, Microsoft's decision of doing away with the Start button on desktop mode.

For the first time since Windows 95 the Start button is no longer a centrepiece of the operating system, in fact it's gone for good.

On the final version of Windows 8, clicking the bottom-left corner of the screen -- where the Start button would normally be located -- launches the Metro interface (or whatever it is they are calling it now). The new tile-based interface is radically different from anything used on a Windows desktop and resembles what we've successfully seen working on the latest iterations of Windows Phone.

However, many users seem to be struggling to get their head around it. Personally, in spite of using Windows 8 for several months, I'm still undecided if I like the new interface or not. It certainly takes some time getting used to and for that reason I'm not jumping to conclusions just yet.

My opinion aside, there are countless users that have already shunned the new interface and many of them made their thoughts heard in our recent editorial "Windows 8: Why the Start Menu's Absence is Irrelevant". Yet, while everyone loves to try and remind Microsoft about how much of a flop some previous operating systems such as ME and Vista were, and that Windows 8 will be no better, we believe the new operating system still has a lot to offer.

Microsoft's PR machine has been hard at work over the past few months, trying to explain the numerous improvements Windows 8 has received on the backend. The good news is that it shows.

Coming from the two previews and now the final release of Windows 8, the OS seems smoother than Windows 7. It has been well documented that Windows 8 starts up and shuts down faster, so that wasn't much of a surprise. Maybe it's the inevitability of bloating an OS installation that is a couple of years old (in the case of Windows 7), but there's this sense of when you move from a hard drive to an SSD, things just appear slightly quicker. This was surprising as I had not expected to notice much of a difference for general usage.

Of course, this is merely an informal observation and we are here to back up those impressions with hard numbers (read: lots of benchmarks in the coming pages).

Back when Vista first arrived I remember comparing how it performed to XP and being extremely disappointed with the results. Vista was generally rough around the edges and that included drivers, so gaming and productivity applications were more often than not slower in the new OS.

For comparing Windows 7 and Windows 8 we will measure and test the performance of various aspects of the operating system including: boot up and shutdown times, file copying, encoding, browsing, gaming and some synthetic benchmarks. Without further ado...

Benchmarks: Boot Up, PCMark, Browser, Encoding

The following benchmarks were conducted using our high-end test system which features the Intel Core i7-3960X processor, 16GB of DDR3-1866 memory and a GeForce GTX 670 graphics card, all on the new Asrock X79 Extreme11 motherboard. The primary drive used was the Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB, while the Kingston SSDNow V+ 200 256GB SSD was used for the AS SSD Benchmark and Windows Explorer tests.

Using the Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB HDD we saw OS boot up times reduced by 33%. Going from 27 seconds with Windows 7 to just 18 seconds with Windows 8 is obviously a significant improvement and it means SSD users will be able to load Windows 8 in a matter of a few seconds.

A similar improvement is seen when measuring shutdown time. Windows 8 took 8 seconds versus the 12 seconds it took an identically configured Windows 7 system.

3Dmark 11 is used primarily to measure 3D graphics performance, meaning graphics card drivers play a vital role here. Still the performance was very similar on both operating systems, though the more mature Windows 7 was slightly faster.

Multimedia performance is said to be another of the strengths of Windows 8, and as you can see when testing with PCmark 7, it was 9% faster than its predecessor.

Using the Mozilla Kraken benchmark we compared the performance of Windows 7 using IE9 and Windows 8 with IE10. As you can see the desktop version of the IE10 browsers on Windows 8 delivered virtually the same performance as IE9 on Windows 7. The Metro version of IE10 was 3% faster, reducing the completion time to just 3926ms.

Update: We've added benchmarks for the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome on both operating systems. Besides beating IE to the punch on these synthetic benchmarks, the take away here is that both browsers tend to perform slightly better under Windows 8.

Google V8 is another browser test we used. In this case it gives a score, so the larger the number the better. Again we see that the desktop version of the IE10 browser in Windows 8 is very similar to IE9 from Windows 7. Though this time the Metro version is actually much slower, lagging behind by a 21 per cent margin.

Chrome and Firefox take a huge lead compared to IE, and on both counts the browsers behave better running on Windows 8.

PCmark7 showed us that Windows 8 was faster than Windows 7 in multimedia type tests and this has been confirmed by the x264 HD Benchmark 5.0 which favoured Microsoft's latest operating system by a 6 per cent margin in the first pass test.

Although the margin was very small when testing with HandBrake, we still found Windows 8 to be 1.5 per cent faster than Windows 7.

Benchmarks: Excel, File Copy, Gaming

Comparing Windows 8 armed with the new Office 2013 suite we found that it was 10 per cent faster when running our Excel MonteCarlo test against Windows 7 using Office 2010. Even when comparing apples to apples, with both operating systems running Excel 2010, Windows 8 is more efficient using the CPU cycles to its benefit on our MonteCarlo simulation.

The AS SSD Benchmark was used to measure the performance of the Kingston SSDNow V+ 200 256GB SSD. Here we see that Windows 8 and Windows 7 delivered virtually the same sequential read and write performance.

Despite delivering similar sequential read/write performance we found in the ISO benchmark that Windows 7 was 9 per cent faster based on an average of three runs.

Windows 8 features a new Explorer interface for transferring files, which provides more accurate data on transfer speeds and estimated time of completion. It also stacks multiple transfer windows together. The UI is awesome, but on the performance side of things there is little difference when transferring multiple large files together or individually. Windows 8 and Windows 7 deliver similar performance in both situations.

When transferring thousands of smaller files we also found that Windows 7 and Windows 8 offer the same performance.

Finishing up we looked at gaming performance using Just Cause 2, Hard Reset and Battlefield 3. Similar to the previous 3DMark test, this relies on graphics drivers more than anything else. As you can see both operating systems provide similar performance with a very slight edge to Windows 7's advantage.

Continue Reading

Benchmarks: Budget System Specs Faster, Slower, Better?

TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.

Republished from Kotaku.



    Isn't this kind of unfair due to the graphic cards and programmes that haven't been correctly written for the OS Win8

      True, but the results show that Win8 can handle pretty much on par what Win7 can, so if you want to upgrade NOW, then you won't be at that great a loss, if any.

      The underlying kernel in Windows 8 is much the same as both Windows 7 and Vista. Drivers written for one work the same for all, the ABI hasn't really changed at all.

      Video drivers are already up-to-speed, and most programmes will not require any changes.

    "and it means SSD users will be able to load Windows 8 in a matter of a few seconds."

    By PC already boots in a few seconds. It'll be pretty hard for Windows 8 to make that boot any faster (and even if it did, it's not as if it would be a significant boost to my productivity).

    I find it interesting that Windows 7's SSD performance slightly outperforms Windows 8.

      Well I reckon mine is about 50% faster on the same SSD, I reckon about 10 to 15 seconds, and shutdown is ridiculously fast, sometimes as little as 3 seconds. As the article explains, areas where Win7 is faster is likely down to drivers optimised for it being used on both OSs.

        WTF, 10-15 seconds on an SSD? You should be getting sub-10 seconds EASILY. Windows 7 boots on my SSD in about 4-5 seconds flat.

          dat generalization

          What sort of PC? Mine's an Ultrabook and, as I said, it is 50% faster than Win7, which took more than 20 seconds every time. More importantly, when Win8 gets to the Start screen, it is connected to wi-fi and completely ready to use, unlike Win7 which shows you the desktop as it continues to get things running in the background.

          OK, I timed it this morning and it is 8 seconds until the Windows splash screen appears and another 9 seconds until I am on the Start Screen, connected to Wi-Fi and ready to rock and roll. If I don't remember to start my modem first, the computer boots too quickly to acquire the modem's Wi-Fi, so in practical terms it is as fast s it needs to be. It is certainly fast enough that I always shut down and never put it to sleep or in hibernation even though it's "instant on" is as fast as a MacBook Air (I tried them side-by-side in an Apple Store) and it will stay in stand-by mode for weeks on a full charge.

          I smell bullshit.

          I am running the latest hardware(sandybridge i7, 16gb ram) , running one of the fastest SSD's available (anandtech SSD Bench) and total time from physically pressing the power button to seeing my desktop is 24 seconds.

    In my very anecdotal experience I've not found that Win8 *performs* better than Win7 at all. However I have found that the Win8 UX is noticeably better - I'm speculating, but perhaps the actual rendering and displaying of UI elements is given a higher priority overall? I may feel like I'm waiting for data to arrive or a video to buffer, but I never feel like the machine is taking its time to display a window or Metro tile.

      I have found the speed difference very noticeable, especially on my Atom powered netbook. My Zenbook is so ridiculously fast anyway that you only really notice how quick it is to boot and shutdown but it transformed my netbook from a clunky, useless thing into a very usable PC.


      The rendering of individual elements was sped up in Win8 so it nots just priority but also faster rendering.

    Windows 8 and a SSD gave my going-on-4-years-old laptop a new life, but now that I'm running the Entreprise 90-day trial, I can definitely say that the whole UI isn't too bad on a laptop - you generally don't have more than Chrome/Word open anyway, and once I boot up, I basically click Desktop and then never return to the Start Screen.

    Now that we know the OS is final, the Aero icons bug me to no end! I wish all the icons were flattened and updated. If it all looked like Office 2013, it'd be a brilliant looking OS. I haven't installed the 90-day trial on my dual-monitor desktop yet, but I think I'll be able to get used to it sooner now that I use it regularly on my laptop. The main part I'm worried about (which I had problems with in the Release Preview) was the fact that the Start Screen is full screen. I might click the Windows key on my keyboard and it'll open up on top of what I didn't want it to open on top of, rather than the free screen on the other side.

    I use Windows 8 for few days. It is so fresh and fantasy to me. Of course it is a great improvement of Microsoft OS. It is faster in the same laptop and it is more humanization. But after using a few days and when I want to use PS, AE and some other applications, I found it is so wired and I can not get used to Metro. I googled an application named "Wentutu Start menu" and now my laptop back to Windows 7 Start menu but still with Windows 8 OS. I look forward the alteration of this OS.

      What? I use Photoshop and After Effects every day and they work exactly like they do in Win7. There is absolutely no difference whatsoever once you are in an application. Why on Earth would you willing go back to the Win7 Start Menu? It is the single worst thing about the upgrade from XP. I could understand you going back to the XP Start Menu but not the abortion that goes with Win7.

    I'm running Windows 8 Enterprise, I find the Metro menu totally useless. Once I removed all the tiles for the crap metro applications I wasn't left with much. Also the show all applications when right clicking doesn't allow me to customise what I see like the old start menu in Windows 7. What I ended up doing was just pinning all my commonly used apps to the taskbar on the desktop. That way I don't have to deal with the Metro menu.

    I think I'll just get the trail while I still can - and keep BOTH OS (I have Win 7 64 Ultimate). That way I don't run into any conflicts with compatibility in my games. If Win 8 is any good at all, then I may spend more tim running it, and perhaps one day (if it has enough backwards support for my games) I may use it as my main OS. Until then. its a touch and go situation, and I'm keeping my Win 7 backuped on my hdd and on standby incase I have any issues with win 8 and my favorite games.

    How much time and how many clicks are needed until you start the test? Significant differences could well be here. And how much time does it take an average user to figure out how to get a test started. To figure out where something needed to use is hidden. Considerable time is used, wasted here.
    A great deal of time is used when you run into a problem you don't know the answer to. The time going to the internet when your sleeking an answer is significant .Then when you can't connect to the internet, how much time does it take to ask your jerk brother-in-law? This could be a half weekend. Average a half weekend in with the 10 seconds lead on one OS vs the other. The speed of the OS means nothing and the difference is obvious.
    The OS that you already know and have worked these problems out already can be much faster then a steep learning curve to save 15 seconds somewhere at the end.
    How much time is wasted looking in useless help, looking in sub-sub control panels that are useless dead ends.
    A study that considers these real times used in peoples experience. These benchmarks do not tell how much time is really used.

    it seems all the OS needs is a function like Alfred in MAC OS. Eg. hit Alt+Space, start typing in the application then hit enter

    I use both platforms , but I do find that mac is much better for productivity. I would never choose mac for gaming over windows though.

      You mean like pressing the Windows key, typing in the application name and pressing Enter? I have found myself using shortcut keys in Win8 more than any previous Windows OS, and find it really quick to do what I need. "Best Windows evar!"

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