Why did it take such a long time for windows to boot up back in the day compared to today’s operating systems?

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I understand that processing power was lacking but surely the os of yore must have had much smaller requirements. Also let’s assume we are booting up offline and no updates are indicated. What was Windows doing for 3 – 5 minutes that my android phone manages to zip through in 15 seconds?

In: Technology

17 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Spindle hard drives that can’t access and retrieve data as quickly as modern solid state storage devices can.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Just because it was booting up offline doesn’t mean it wasn’t trying to open up several programs at once. The PC would handle a lot of background processes or applications after turning back on even if it wasn’t connected to the Internet.

Anonymous 0 Comments

A big part of this is SSD vs HDD. 

The read speeds on a SSD to call all the information to boot up the OS are much much faster than doing the same task on a HDD.  

Before SSDs were ubiquitous one of the single most noticeable performance upgrades you could do for a PC was install a SSD and have the OS run on it.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Spinning hdds were not very fast when accessing data files. Your phones and most computers now days boot entirely from ssd or ram so they have very fast boots compared to old machines. I reduced my boot times from 35-45 seconds to 5 seconds when changing my hdd to a ssd.

Also, older machines tested every bit of ram during the post, which slowed the boot significantly. Many modern motherboards can skip to ram test to reduce boot times.

Don’t forget, win 10 and 11 don’t “shut down” when you click shutdown in the menu, they suspend for fast booting.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Everyone else is talking about the speed of SSDs vs HDDs, but the other part was a change in the starting process of Windows. Specifically, it was the change that made the old hibernate mode the default shutdown mode.

Shutdown used to be a complete shutdown. This meant that when it started up, Windows had to load everything from the drive and do all the initial processing. Hibernate would save the contents of memory to the drive so it did not have to load and initialize everything when it started up again. Only some things needed to be reinitialized. This was much faster than a full startup.

With Windows 8, I believe, they made hibernate the new default shutdown option and only a restart does a full shutdown (and immediate startup). I believe this option is labeled as “Fast Startup”.

Even with this disabled, it’s hard to tell the difference with a fast SSD and a fast CPU, but the slower they are, the more noticeable it is.

Edit: Re-reading your question, beyond loading the files of code from the slower hard drives, it was also doing initialization of the OS and the drivers and any programs registered as startup programs.

The biggest part was the startup programs. That can still be an issue today, if you have too many of them. You can see them by going to the startup tab in the task manager.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Hard drives. Holy hell, hard drives have been one of the biggest advancements in even the last 20 years. Especially in older computers the OS was kinda bulky and took a bit to load everything up, it had to get it from a hard drive that used a physical disc and a reader arm to read the disc, along with being electronically bottlenecked

This is a really cool site that shows you the average speed of HDDs compared to the year [https://goughlui.com/the-hard-disk-corner/hard-drive-performance-over-the-years/](https://goughlui.com/the-hard-disk-corner/hard-drive-performance-over-the-years/)
Like in 2005, the average HDD in a computer would be maybe 30-60mb/s but now you have multi-TB sized HDDs and SSDs that are doing 500mb/s and even way higher

Anonymous 0 Comments

TLDR is we’ve reached peak OS functionality while the speed of technology continues to grow

Anonymous 0 Comments

Some good answers here regarding SSD and save states, but also keep in mind that Microsoft changed boot up around Windows 8 to get the user to a desktop quicker, and part of that was redoing the way background services started. A modern Windows desktop gets to a desktop *while* most other ancillary background services are still either not started or still starting. Old Windows, all background services had to be fully started before showing a desktop.

In other words, you have a working mouse, keyboard, network, and desktop while the boot up is still occurring in the background for the next few minutes. It’s why you can see icons but some programs will not open immediately because their background services are not quite fully started yet.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Believe it or not, before computers booting up got slow, they were actually really quick, too.

An old DOS machine would boot up in 10 seconds or so. This is because old computers didn’t do much. The command prompt wasn’t a complex interface. There was essentially no software loaded other than a very basic OS, which existed only really to help you run software, one program at a time.

When we got to OSes with GUIs, multitasking, and more, we started loading every program and bit of functionality while booting up, but the hardware of the era was a lot slower – specifically hard disks.

These days, OSes have been optimized to only load necessary functions at first and then gradually load other applications and background processes.

The reason old “spinning rust” hard drives were so slow is because there would be a literal platter that spins, and if you wanted some data from it, a head would need to move and then it would need to wait for the platter to spin to the point where the data started. While there is no needle involved, imagine that a hard drive works more like a record player with a “smart” needle.

The most common HDD speeds were 5400RPM and 7200RPM. There were some 4000RPM drives and slower, and there were some 10k RPM drives too (loud and expensive!), but a normal midrange desktop PC would have a 5400RPM hard drive.

The data transfer rates of HDDs wasn’t bad for single continuous files, but for a lot of small files, the heads on the HDD would need to zip back and forth, while spending a lot of time waiting for the platter to spin around too. The data could become fragmented, too, where rather than one file being a continuous stream of data, it would need to be scattered over the whole drive in different places. This slowed down file transfers even more.

A common HDD performance benchmark was “access time” – how long it would take the hard drive to access the data when you request it. For a typical HDD, you might have an access time of approximately 12ms – that would be 0.012 seconds. That sounds extremely fast, right? Well, that equates to a maximum number of different tiny files to about 90 per second.

That sounds very fast in human terms, but in computer terms, it is glacially slow. If you’re booting up the computer, it accesses thousands of tiny files. If we abstract the full booting process to, say, access 4,000 tiny files, it would take that hard drive 44.4 seconds to get to them all.

SSDs are solid state – you’re not waiting on a platter to spin, so they work more or less at the speed of other electronic systems – they’re still an order of magnitude slower than RAM as the reading and particularly writing process is slower, but they are an order of magnitude faster than a hard drive, too. Not only that, many SSDs come with RAM on them to speed data transfers and such even more!

Whereas the HDD needs to operate sequentially and has to wait on a physical platter, the SSD waits for nothing. If the HDD manages 90 operations per second, the best case scenario for an SSD can look more like 200,000 operations per second. In reality this number will be lower a lot of the time – but even in an SSD “worst case” they can still often handle 15k + operations per second.

What took a HDD 45 seconds to do, the SSD can do in under 1 second. Of course, there are other factors that limit booting speed, so SSDs aren’t 45x faster to boot than HDD systems, but they are the biggest reason that new computers are so much faster. Likewise, with something like a cellphone, they generally don’t have the highest performance storage, but it’s still going to be a LOT quicker than a mechanical hard drive. The data transfer rates of these phones may well be similar to a modern hard drive – for one big file – but for things like booting phones up, loading software, and such, solid state will beat mechanical storage every time.

Anonymous 0 Comments

TL;DR: Old computers relied on mechanical spinning discs and a moving arm to write and read data which was significantly slower than modern storage options which are 100% electrical.

In depth answer:

The old computers used a physical hard drive that utilized spinning discs and an arm that had a magnet on the end like an old record player. The discs would spin and the arm would move in and out to read the data from them.

When these old computers are turned on you could hear the click of the discs starting to spin, the hum as their speed ramped up, and the little clicking sound of the arm jumping around between sectors on the discs.

The reason is because it was the only cost effective and reliable way to store a lot of information (for the time) when power was removed from the computer.

So all of the electrical components moved at the speed of electricity (near speed of light), but getting the windows operating system off of the hard drive required waiting for the arm to physically move into position and read the data off of the spinning discs. It could do it pretty fast for what it was and over time the RPM speeds of the drives increased lowering the loading times, but relative to pure electricity it was still slow.

What made things worse was if pieces of data weren’t right next to each other. The arm may need to jump to the inner ring, outer, inner, then mid to load one piece of software. This was called fragmenting. Microsoft actually developed a tool called de-fragmenting that would rearrange the data on the drive to keep related sectors next to each other. Running it could significantly increase your computers loading speed.

Modern computers have hard drives that are all electrical. No more physically moving parts, so everything can run as fast as the electricity can.