Among the many promises of Windows 8 are phenomenally fast boot times. A recent Microsoft Developer blog post explained how Microsoft engineers are using a hybrid system to combine the features of a cold boot and hibernation with existing PC hardware to go from off to desktop in less than 40 seconds.
One of the major frustrations for current Windows users is the time it takes to turn the computer on to being able to do work in Windows. Tales of workers turning on the computer, going to get a cup of tea or coffee and coming back just as the desktop appears are all too common, and true. Users have worked around slow Windows boot times for years, with many simply leaving the system on all the time in sleep mode. Leaving ones machine in sleep mode brings its own set of problems as, even the best configured systems will slow over time and require a full stop and restart if for no other reasons to make sure all updates are in place. Further, many feel that it is wasteful to keep systems drawing even the small amount of power required for sleep mode if they are unproductive.
Some of the boot issues are the consequence of having to accommodate legacy technology. Until recently, every personal computer user from the first IBM PC to just recently, experienced the POST, power on self test that was built into every motherboard’s BIOS chip. In its simplest terms, it was the computer telling itself that it was on and ready to go to work, From there the operating system was loaded, either by hard drive, floppy disk, or for the truly old school, cassette tape.
As computer processors increased in speed and computer makers moved to faster and faster hard drives, the hardware constraints became less of an issue but did not disappear entirely as it still takes some amount of time for a hard drive to spin up and the operating system accessed. Over the years the POST process became less and less visible to the user, but even today it is in integral part of starting up a PC. However If you have a newer system that was built with the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UFEI) you will see some significant improvement as the UFEI does not have to take into account the programming baggage from the cassette tape days. Even better, adding a solid state drive (SSD) to the system cuts the disk access times dramatically.
Microsoft’s approach with Windows 8 is to save the kernel, essentially the steps of system initialization, in much the same way the system saves what is loaded into memory into a hibernation file. Microsoft reports boot time savings of 30% to 70%. The higher end of the range is achieved in systems with multi-core processors Windows 8 can exploit to split up the boot process. For users’ fortunate enough to have a UFEI system with a SSD and a multi-core processor, Windows 8 can provide as close to an instant on experience as you are likely to get.