Notes on Vista performance from a convert

My Acer 6292 Notebook was delivered with Windows Vista Ultimate Edition. In short, it did not impress me. Mostly, this was due to bad performance. I am not talking about «oh, it runs Office 10% slower than XP SP3», but for a brand new dual core & 2 gig ram notebook with a clean install, it was just dog slow. I tried turning off all eye candy (substituting the Aero look for the plain old Classic theme, unnecessary startup programs using msconfig, and disabled all indexing. Still it seemed slow.

I ended up repartitioning the drive, giving Vista 50GB, and left the rest to a new Ubuntu install. Which is what I have been running ever since. Until last week, that was…

A small digression

I don’t exactly remember why I wanted to boot Vista, but I remember being quite pissed that a lot of things one should take for granted as an end user just simply does not work under Ubuntu Linux. The two things that bugged me the most was

  • Hibernating and suspend (ACPI) does not work at all.
  • NetworkManager, allthough great at times, will quite offen hang. Especially after it loses signal, and then later have to reconnect. Maybe it is that my Intel Santa Rosa chip isn’t playing along with NetworkManager, but as an end-user I really shouldn’t need to bother with that.
  • Playing DVDs with Macrovision protection is hard (impossible)
  • Video-out is not nearly as well supported (meaning automagically setup) as on Vista, especially when you use a Intel chip as opposed to NVidia

The ACPI stuff is bound to get better in time, but that does not help me much now. The latter part is worse, and also means I can’t rip dvds I own either. It is possible to install some Windows programs using Wine, but Wine is a shifty beast at best.

I ended up starting Vista, and the first thing I noticed was that the hard drive kept grinding almost all the time. That of course, slows things down considerably, and I went on a search to find out why. In one thread they recommended disabling Vistas shadow copies. This was already disabled by me previously, so nothing to gain there. But your mileage may wary. I do not recommend it, though.

What did work for me

was disabling Superfetch. This is some form of pre-loading service that tries to cache various files it thinks you will later read. Unfortunately, it is not very bright, and will happily churn away at every one-time game installer it finds you are downloading. You stop it be going to the Control Panel, then Administrative Tools, and finally Services. Right click on Superfetch and select Disable or Manual.

After doing this everything sped up, and I could turn on all the eye-candy I wanted to without any noticeable slow down. Finally I could use those specs for something🙂
Eye Candy

Defrag is not dead

One last thing that finally made my Start Menu snappy. Defrag. I actually forgot this, since fragmentation is a thing that practically is non-existent on Linux filesystems such as EXT3, XFS, and ReiserFS. But I started up a administrator command prompt, and ran defrag -a -v c: and it showed 44 % fragmentation!. I ran defrag -w c: (which is extra thorough), and went to the gym. Opening the Start Menu after that was a revelation, and the first time in my 10 year long Windows user experience I have actually seen visible improvement. Showing all programs used to take 3-4 seconds, compared to less than half a second now!

edit (May 2008): All the Linux stuff works with the newest Ubuntu distro, so that is no longer a problem. Half a year of Vista and a service pack later, it still runs fast and virusfree, although perhaps not as fast as a brand new clean install.

2 svar til Notes on Vista performance from a convert

  1. Carl-Erik sier:

    Perhaps not all true the part of fragmentation on Linux… I have a 800GB RAID5 that used to be able to write 120MB/s when it was empty. After filling her up 80% it is notably slower. Which makes sense…

  2. Carl-Erik sier:

    Does anyone know why Vista starts logging messages to %WINDIR%\System32\Spooler\SpoolerETW.etl 4 times a second after hibernation/standby? From time to time this problem keeps coming up, and there does not seem to be a fix. I checked the net and the only thing that comes up it that it has to do with the Nokia PC Suite – which I don’t have!

    The other cases seem to be unresolved, for instance this.

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