Vista SP1 up to 86% faster

Is Vista SP1 really the shot in the arm your Vista system needs? We've spent many hours strapped to our benchmarking system in a caffeine and pizza fuelled haze to uncover these very interesting results.

We tested Vista:

* as it comes out of the box (RTM -- or "release to manufacturing")
* as it comes out of the box, with all Windows Update patches applied ("RTM patched)
* with the final SP1 service pack applied

Testing Setup

Although Vista SP1 has many documented improvements, we aimed to test a particular scenario which has proved to be a major problem for pre-SP1 users: file copy speed, particularly over a network.

Our scenario was a home user running Vista Home Premium on a fast, low-latency network with decent PC hardware. All file copy tests were initiated from the main machine.

Our test machines were:

* Main machine - an Acer Veriton 7900 Pro (Intel Core 2 Duo 6700/4GB RAM/ATI RADEON X1950/2xSATA-II HDD) running Windows Vista Home Premium
* A second machine running Windows Vista Home Premium (connected via gigabit Ethernet for file copy tests)
* A third machine running a fully-patched Windows XP SP2 installation (connected via a dedicated gigabit network to two remote systems).

Each system used the latest available vendor (non-Microsoft) drivers and the November release of DirectX. No modifications were made to the operating system, so as to represent as closely as possible the configuration of an OEM machine.

We uses two test file batches – the first was a single 2.5 GB ISO, and the second was 2.5GB of small files (over 300 MP3s). Each file batch was copied to a remote destination (write), and then written back across the wire to the test system (read/write).

The file copy destinations were:

* the second hard drive in the main testing system
* a SanDisk Cruzer Micro 8GB USB flash drive
* the remote Vista system
* the remote XP system.

File copies were timed from the time “Copy” was clicked to the time the copy shell disappeared.

We also ran PCMark Vantage across the test systems to get an overall impression of system performance.

The aim of the tests was to see how changes in the test machine’s patch level affected performance.

We therefore ran the tests three times – once with Vista Home Premium RTM, once with all the available patches applied from Windows Update, and once with SP1 RTM applied.

The secondary Vista system was also patched to maintain consistency between it and the test machine.

The XP system was unchanged throughout the tests, running fully patched XP SP2.

Hard drives on all the three systems were defragmented before each file copy test.


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