I’ve been using Vista x64 for a while now, just so I can make use of all the memory on my machine (an über-thinkpad), and because I like shiny new things and 64-bitness and don’t want to be one-upped by smug Mac users with their feline-named OSes, mock turtlenecks and their newfound 64-bit capabilities. Of course, with the good comes some bad – Vista, while in my opinion a step forward in many ways, does take a step backward when it comes to some areas of performance and sheer resource requirements. A lot of it can be attributed to poorly-written drivers, especially any Aero GUI slowdowns with nVidia cards.
Since space was running out I bought a new hard drive (200GB Seagate 7200 RPM) and decided to install the RTM 2008 bits. If something went wrong I figured I could always either go back to my old drive or just move Vista to the new drive with some imaging utility or other, no biggie. If 2008 worked out, I’d keep it.
The reason this comparison is worthwhile is that 2008 and Vista SP1 have the same exact kernel – I checked, NTOSKRNL.EXE is the same in both OSes. One would think that the differences wouldn’t be huge and that therefore there’s no point going to 2008. Of course, there are a lot of other pieces aside from the kernel, and I think that Microsoft checks to see what OS you’re running and maybe disables certain features in the kernel accordingly â€“ I couldn’t get the LargeSystemCache registry parameter to have any effect on Vista, for example.
Let’s compare CPU- and Graphics-benchmarks first, since those shouldn’t really be different. I used Cinebench 64-bit.
Rendering (Single Â CPU): 3040 CB-CPU
Rendering (Multiple CPU): 5367 CB-CPU
Multiprocessor Speedup: 1.77
Shading (OpenGL Standard) Â Â Â Â Â : 4256 CB-GFX
Rendering (Single Â CPU): 3053 CB-CPU
Rendering (Multiple CPU): 5379 CB-CPU
Multiprocessor Speedup: 1.86
Shading (OpenGL Standard) Â Â Â Â Â : 4478 CB-GFX
Slightly better scores for 2008 it seems, but not dramatically better. Next, postmark, since I/O should be where it shines, it being a server and all:
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 170 seconds total
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 98 seconds of transactions (204 per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 20092 created (118 per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Creation alone: 10000 files (200 per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Mixed with transactions: 10092 files (102 per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 9935 read (101 per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 10064 appended (102 per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 20092 deleted (118 per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Deletion alone: 10184 files (462 per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Mixed with transactions: 9908 files (101 per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 548.25 megabytes read (3.23 megabytes per second)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1158.00 megabytes written (6.81 megabytes per second)
Initially I had enabled the “advanced performance” in the device manager for disk, since everyone tells you to do so in all tuning guides…
136 seconds total
45 seconds of transactions (444 per second)
20092 created (147 per second)
Creation alone: 10000 files (263 per second)
Mixed with transactions: 10092 files (224 per second)
9935 read (220 per second)
10064 appended (223 per second)
20092 deleted (147 per second)
Deletion alone: 10184 files (192 per second)
Mixed with transactions: 9908 files (220 per second)
548.25 megabytes read (4.03 megabytes per second)
1158.00 megabytes written (8.51 megabytes per second)
Much faster than Vista. I then disabled the “enable advanced performance” to see how much slower it would become:
110 seconds total
39 seconds of transactions (512 per second)
20092 created (182 per second)
Creation alone: 10000 files (454 per second)
Mixed with transactions: 10092 files (258 per second)
9935 read (254 per second)
10064 appended (258 per second)
20092 deleted (182 per second)
Deletion alone: 10184 files (207 per second)
Mixed with transactions: 9908 files (254 per second)
548.25 megabytes read (4.98 megabytes per second)
1158.00 megabytes written (10.53 megabytes per second)
Amazingly, much faster, not slower! I did some checking and this is what the setting actually does – it re-introduces an older, somewhat undesirable behavior. A bit hard to find the proper explanation, and I hope Microsoft makes what happens behind the scenes a bit more obvious. At the moment it’s quite obscure, and every guide tells you to enable it for performance. Just leave it alone. BTW the Vista score is with the setting disabled.
Could I have run other benchmarks like Sandra etc? Sure, but I just wanted to keep it simple and there just wasn’t enough time.
The next step is to run the tests on the same hardware with XP. That’s forthcoming.
Seems like Microsoft did something right. Even with the 64-bit version (that takes naturally more RAM than the 32-bit one), 2008 Server takes less memory than Vista (2-300MB less at any given time in my case), runs quicker and just feels better, kinda like an unencumbered Vista. Simple things like searching a huge index in Outlook happen much faster than before. The Server Manager app is awesome, and one can try out the Hyper-V Hypervisor (BTW that, predictably, clashes with VMware and disables your power management, so beware). A server OS is in general also more secure and, over time, probably more reliable, given the workloads it’s supposed to run.
Can everyone run it? Should they? No, not unless you have a license for 2008 through MSDN or somesuch, otherwise it’s expensive. Some assembly is also required, and you do need to know what you’re doing. However, if you’re so inclined, you can easily get the demo version of 2008. Apparently there are clean, documented ways to increase the evaluation period (no cracks or BIOS spoofers) that I think come from Microsoft but I’m not going to list them here just in case.
In addition, while almost all my apps installed fine (including games and hairy driver stuff like Daemon Tools), 2 things didn’t: Bluetooth and my Logitech mouse drivers. I don’t quite use Bluetooth but I liked some of the features of my mouse (the utterly kickass Logitech VX Revolution), now it’s just like a normal mouse. I’m still keeping 2008. I’m sure other stuff will have issues, like DRM/BluRay. For people that like the Windows Sidebar: there are hacks to get it working that involve copying stuff from Vista. I think the sidebar is largely useless.
FYI, there are 2 notable omissions in 2008: Readyboost and Superfetch. Superfetch exists as a service but to even get it to start you have to edit the registry. I didn’t think it helped much so I disabled it again. Readyboost isn’t even an option. And the old-style boot prefetch that worked in 2003 Server doesn’t seem to be there. So it does boot a bit slower than Vista, but not much. Once you get the box up and running it’s fast though.
In the end, I’m leaving 2008 on my box, and that’s all that matters.