How Microsoft sped up the Windows 8 boot process

In its latest blog on Building Windows 8, Microsoft explains how it tried to create a more seamless boot experience for its upcoming new operating system.

We all complain that booting up our PCs takes much longer than it should. With Windows 8 on the horizon, Microsoft is trying to streamline and speed up the whole boot process.

In the latest edition of the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft program manager Billie Sue Chafins explained yesterday how the company strove to make some long overdue improvements to the much-maligned boot experience and bring it "into the 21st century."

As described in a previous blog, Microsoft is promising a faster boot in Windows 8 courtesy of a new hybrid technology that keeps the PC in a low-energy hibernation state so that it's not powering up from scratch. So, instead taking a minute or more for your PC to conduct its POST (Power-on Self-test) and hand over the reins to the BIOS, that process should take about seven seconds under Windows 8, according to Microsoft.

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Windows 8 is also hitting the market just as the traditional and slower BIOS is starting to give way to the newer and faster UEFI ( Unified Extensible Firmware Interface ), an attempt to modernize the way the PC talks to and passes control to the operating system.

Further Microsoft has tried to hide the never-ending boot screens that we see when our PCs power up. Instead of having to sit through these old-fashioned DOS-style displays, Windows 8 users will simply see a graphical interface throughout the entire process.

"By leveraging the capabilities of UEFI and working together with the ecosystem, our goal is for the PC to power up to the manufacturer's logo and stay on that screen all the way from POST to Windows logon UI," Chafins wrote. "Firmware renders the logo during POST, the logo persists on screen when Windows boot takes over, and remains through OS boot. In effect, we are bridging two experiences (firmware + operating system) to deliver one experience."

But Microsoft hasn't forgotten about those of us who sometimes need to see more advanced boot options to troubleshoot a problem. Chafins assured users that those additional boot options in Windows 8 "can be reached easily, are simple to navigate, and look and feel harmonious."

Microsoft

And just as with prior versions, Windows 8 will be able to display a boot menu so that people can boot into different operating systems or from different devices. But again, these menus will take on a new aesthetic so that they fit in with the look and feel of the new OS.

Overall, trying to please both beginners and advanced users proved a challenging task when tweaking the boot process.

"The experience of booting a PC should be approachable to mainstream consumers while maintaining the power of Windows for more advanced users who want to configure settings in the pre-OS environment," Chafins acknowledged. "As you can imagine, satisfying all of these goals was challenging and in many situations, a balancing act."

 

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