Lenovo vows 'unbelievably' fast Windows 7 boots

By Eric Lai, Computerworld |  Windows, Lenovo, Windows 7

Lenovo Group Ltd. is staking an early claim to potentially key turf in the Windows 7 gold-rush : the PC vendor boasting the fastest boot-up and shutdown times.

ThinkPad notebooks and ThinkCentre desktop PCs for businesses will boot Windows 7 up to 56% faster than when loading XP or Vista, says Lenovo.

Meanwhile, IdeaPad and IdeaCentre consumer PCs certified for "Windows 7 Lenovo Enhanced Experience" will load 33% faster and shutdown 50% faster than non-certified-but-otherwise-identical hardware.

In some cases, said Howard Locker, director of new technology at the Chinese PC maker, told Computerworld , "we went from a 1 minute boot-up to 30 seconds, and took shutdown from 20 seconds down to 10."

Locker, who also holds the title of "master inventor" at Lenovo, credits this "unbelievable job" to three years of engineering work by Lenovo's Velocity team, in close collaboration with Microsoft Corp., during which the two vendors literally "timed every single driver and app."

Some specific things Lenovo did to fine-tune Windows 7:

  • Fixed the drivers of on-board hardware components that were cumulatively causing massive delays. For instance, Lenovo discovered a driver for a "popular wireless device" had been written to pass worst-condition certification specs and thus would grab 4 MB of continuous memory from the system in 4 KB chunks, said Locker. That added five seconds to the time it took for a PC to go to sleep. After getting the third-party vendor to fix the driver, Lenovo cut the driver's overhead to just 200 milliseconds, Locker said.
  • Tweaked the BIOS phase of startup to temporarily hide some devices from Windows 7, so that the OS only loads the drivers after the boot is finished.
  • Tweaked Windows 7 to delay the loading of non-essential services and applications until after startup. Those include automatic-updating apps for Adobe and Microsoft, or even Windows features. While users can try to fiddle with Windows themselves , Locker warns that do-it-yourselfers likely won't achieve the same improvements.
  • Rewrote its power manager to be easier to use. It also includes an extra chip in its notebooks to more precisely measure the remaining battery life than Windows 7's, and help you "stretch" it out as long as possible.

Independent analyst Jack Gold applauded Lenovo's work with Windows 7, saying that customers were fed up with Windows' slow boot-up time even before Apple Inc. and Google Inc. used it as a talking point to score points against Microsoft.

"It was Vista that screwed it all up, as boot-ups took twice as long as XP," Gold said. "It was just ugly."

It's not clear, however, that Lenovo has done more work than its rival PC vendors or is merely "branding it better," he said.

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