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Windows Vista Reliability and Performance Features and Improvements

The improved reliability and performance of Windows Vista helps users work with confidence

Windows Vista is designed to be more reliable and faster than the Microsoft Windows XP operating system. Ultimately, these advantages help users be more productive and decrease support costs. This paper describes the most relevant Windows Vista features and their benefits.

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Overview
Fast Boot and Resume
Improved Responsiveness
Built-in Diagnostics
Fewer User Disruptions
Automatic Recovery

Overview

Improvements to reliability and performance in Windows Vista offer something for everyone. Users will love the fast start-up time and even faster return from Sleep state. The IT department will face fewer support issues, and will experience easier diagnosis and repair when problems do occur. And the company as a whole will benefit from less downtime, fewer IT hassles, and greater productivity.

Improvements to reliability and performance in Windows Vista include the following:

  • Fast Boot and Resume: Users can become productive faster with Windows Vista. Because Windows Vista processes login scripts, startup applications, and services in the background, users are able to get to work more quickly. The new Sleep state in Windows Vista combines the speed of Standby mode with the data protection and low power consumption of Hibernate, so startup from Sleep state requires just seconds.
  • Improved Responsiveness: In many cases, Windows Vista is more responsive than Windows XP on the same hardware. New technology in Windows Vista can detect deteriorating performance and tune the performance automatically. Detailed performance counters help administrators isolate and fix complex performance problems more quickly and easily, saving money and helping users stay productive.
  • Built-in Diagnostics: Hardware diagnostics can detect error conditions and either repair the problem automatically or guide the user through a recovery process. For example, Windows Vista detects potential disk failures and guides users through backup to minimize downtime and data loss.
  • Fewer Hangs and Crashes: Windows Vista is more reliable than Windows XP, reducing both the frequency and impact of user disruptions. Windows Vista includes fixes for known crashes and hangs, and new technology that will prevent many common causes of hangs and crashes.
  • Automatic Recovery: For occasional unpreventable failures, Windows Vista provides fast, easy solutions. For example, one of the most challenging troubleshooting problems is corrupted system files that prevent the operating system from starting. Windows Vista automatically diagnoses and recovers an unbootable system to a usable state with the help of the Startup Repair Tool (SRT) — a step-by-step, diagnostics-based troubleshooter that provides users with a guided recovery experience for no-boot situations.

The sections that follow discuss the technology behind these improvements in more detail.

Fast Boot and Resume

When a PC starts up, Windows Vista performs many processing tasks in the background, returning control to the user much sooner than previous versions of Windows. Even this short wait happens less frequently than before, because instead of shutting down the computer to save power, users can use the new Sleep state, the default state for turning off computers running Windows Vista. Sleep combines the resume speed of Standby mode with the data protection and low power-consumption characteristics of Hibernate. When entering the Sleep state, Windows Vista records the contents of memory to the hard disk, just as it would with Hibernate. However, it also maintains the memory for a period of time, just as Windows XP maintains the memory in Standby mode. Windows Vista enters and recovers from Sleep state in seconds, and while the system sleeps, power consumption is extremely low.

The most significant benefit of Sleep is simplicity; users don't have to choose between using Standby or Hibernate because Sleep offers the best of both.

Improved Responsiveness

Windows Vista also includes platform technology that can be used to prevent reboots or reduce the impact of reboots, in cases where they cannot be avoided. This new technology is used by the Windows Installer, so adding or removing applications with the Windows Add/Remove programs feature will be less likely to require a reboot.

While new applications are being installed, applications currently in use may be automatically restarted. To reduce the disruption caused by the installation, some applications, including key Microsoft Office 2007 applications and Internet Explorer, can automatically restore their state after installation. And in cases where reboots cannot be avoided the same technology may be used to restore the application's state after the reboot.

Performance Diagnostics can detect and self-correct performance problems. Windows Vista provides instrumentation and services that support both user-driven and tool-driven diagnoses of common performance problems. Performance problems addressed by Performance Diagnostics include media glitching, slow application startup, slow boot, and network-related delays.

Performance counters are more reliable and secure, as well as more widely implemented. A new performance monitor provides a richer user experience that allows IT professionals to easily monitor, trend and diagnose performance-related issues. Windows Event Logging Service provides ongoing information about system operations by raising and logging events.

Built-in Diagnostics

Windows Vista can self-diagnose a number of common problems, including failing hard disks, memory problems, and networking issues. Windows Disk Diagnostics detect impending disk failures and guide users through data backup, disk replacement, and data restoration. Windows Memory Diagnostics work with Microsoft Online Crash Analysis to detect crashes possibly caused by failing memory, prompting the user to schedule a memory test the next time the computer is restarted, and providing guided support. In Active Directory domains, administrators can configure Built-in Diagnostics using Group Policy settings.

Even in closely managed enterprise environments, it's common for mobile users to go weeks or months without a backup. Data loss caused by unexpected disk failure can be disastrous, and a user might spend weeks recreating work. Because Windows Vista can proactively detect impending disk failure, IT departments can perform a full backup, replace the hard disk, and restore every byte of the user's data before the failure occurs. This proactive repair can potentially take place overnight or over a weekend, virtually eliminating end-user impact.

Built-in Diagnostics provide information to IT professionals to solve those problems that can't be resolved automatically. Whenever Windows Vista detects a potential problem, it raises an event. IT professionals can use these events to monitor the behavior of desktops in their organization, or to troubleshoot problems that cannot be resolved automatically.

Fewer User Disruptions

Windows Vista is engineered to reduce the frequency and impact of user disruptions. It includes fixes for known crashes and hangs, and enhanced instrumentation that will provide greater insight into what causes unresponsive conditions.

Drivers will be more reliable in Windows Vista than they were for previous versions of Windows. Improved input/output (I/O) cancellation support in Windows Vista will enable drivers that become blocked when attempting to perform I/O to recover gracefully. Further, Windows Vista has new Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to enable applications to cancel I/O operations.

Windows Vista will offer improved application reliability from the first day that businesses deploy it, and the new error reporting capabilities will enable applications to continue to become more reliable over time. With earlier versions of Windows, application hangs were difficult for developers to troubleshoot because error reporting provided limited or no information about hangs. Windows Vista improves error reporting to give developers the information they need identify the root cause of problems. This enables continuous improvements in reliability.

Windows Vista also includes platform technology that can be used to prevent reboots or reduce the impact of reboots, in cases where they cannot be avoided. This new technology is used by the Windows Installer, so adding or removing applications with the Windows Add/Remove programs feature will be less likely to require a reboot. While new applications are being installed, in use applications may be automatically restarted; some applications, including key Microsoft Office 2007 applications and Internet Explorer, can automatically restore their state after installation, to reduce disruptions. And in cases where reboots cannot be avoided the same technology may be used to restore the application's state after the reboot.

Automatic Recovery

Windows Vista automatically recovers from many types of failures, including failed services and corrupted system files. Every service has a recovery policy, so if it fails, Windows Vista may be able to restart it automatically. Windows Vista automatically handles dependencies, even non-service dependencies.

Startup problems are some of the most difficult to troubleshoot, because an administrator cannot start the operating system and use the built-in troubleshooting tools. Often, administrators choose to reinstall the operating system rather than attempt to solve the problem — even though the solution might be as simple as replacing a single file.

Windows Vista includes the Startup Repair Tool (SRT) to automatically fix many common problems and enable end-users and IT professionals to quickly diagnose and repair more complex startup problems. When a boot failure is detected, the system fails over into SRT. Once started, SRT performs diagnostics, including analyzing startup log files, to determine the cause of the startup failure. Once SRT determines the cause of the failure, it attempts to fix the problem automatically.

When a boot failure occurs on the main operating system and SRT is unable to resolve it, the system is rolled back to the last known working state. If SRT cannot automatically recover the system, it provides the IT professional with diagnostic information and support options to make troubleshooting easier.

Identifying the source of a problem — even one as simple as a single corrupted file on the hard disk — can consume many hours of an administrator's time. SRT will make these problems easier to solve, saving time and money.

Note Features discussed on this site are subject to change. Some features may not be included in the final product due to marketing, technical, or other reasons.