This was done totally unscientifically of course – I just used a stopwatch and started as soon as the BIOS POST test was over. I recorded 2 different times – the time for the desktop to appear and the time for the computer to actually be usable (that is, all startup programs have opened and no hourglass cursor).
Want to know how things turned out? I thought you might, so here’s a handy chart summarizing the results:
|Desktop Computer (Windows 7)||Netbook (Windows 7)||Netbook (Ubuntu)|
It’s probably also worth mentioning that my desktop computer loads a fair number of programs on startup – wallpaper changers, my online backup program, dropbox, etc., which accounts for it’s poor time to “computer usable.”
It’s also probably worth mentioning the specs of the two computers – the desktop is an Intel Core 2 Quad @ 2.66 GHz with 7200 RPM hard drives and 6 GB of RAM, while the netbook is an Intel Atom (single core) @ 1.6 GHz with a 5200 RPM hard drive and 1 GB of RAM.
When comparing Windows 7 startup times, the netbook edges out the desktop by just a few seconds, probably because it has fewer device drivers to initialize (the desktop has literally a dozen USB devices hanging off it, plus dual monitors, plus whatever services are configured to run at startup), but the times are otherwise pretty close.
As I said before, the time to “computer usable” for the desktop is pretty horrific due to all the stuff I load on startup (but then again, I rarely reboot the desktop).
It’s also nice to see such great times for Ubuntu – which is what I use by default on my netbook.
Part of the reason I ran these tests is I’ve been mulling over whether to add an SSD or hybrid drive to these computers.
Certainly, the desktop could use the performance boost of an SSD… but my primary boot drive is 500 GB, and I can’t afford an SSD at that capacity (if one even exists!), and I don’t feel like splitting my boot drive so it can fit on a smaller drive.
I’ve heard some decent things about so-called “hybrid” drives, which are affordable for 500 GB, and which would give me a performance boost, especially for boot-up. But at the same time, I have to consider that I don’t reboot often, and is saving, say, 30 seconds of a 2 minute 30 second boot time really worth the cost and effort? Probably not – at least, not yet, not until SSD or hybrid drive prices come down a bit further.
As for my netbook, it boots pretty darn fast as-is, but an SSD would really make a huge difference. I figure an SSD would let me boot into Ubuntu and be ready to go in probably, oh, 10-15 seconds. That would put my netbook nearly as fast for “ready to use” as a tablet computer (e.g., iPad) for a lot less cost, which would be nice. But again, the netbook has a 160 GB hard drive, and although SSD prices have come down a lot, a 160 GB SSD is still a bit too pricey for me at the moment.
Still, these numbers are interesting to have, and I think it’s clear that as SSD prices continue to fall, my netbook will probably get the first upgrade, followed by a hybrid drive for my desktop later on (or possibly an SSD, if prices fall far enough).