Microsoft has a surprise for users tired of waiting forever while their computers boot up. It will take less than 10 seconds for a Windows 8 PC to go from powered down to the start screen, according to a Microsoft video demonstration. The speedy boot is thanks to a new hybrid system that mixes processes used in cold boots and hibernation mode. Microsoft showed off the new functionality in yet another blog post on its Building Windows 8 blog.
Thanks to the influence of tablets and smartphones, users are more accustomed than ever to having instant-on access to their devices. This can make it feel like you've stepped back into the dark ages while you wait a minute or two for your PC to boot. Nevertheless, more than half of all PC users (57 percent of desktop users and 45 percent of laptop users) opt to turn their devices off instead of letting them go into sleep or hibernation mode where the computer can resume much faster, according to Microsoft data.
Reasons for preferring shut down can vary, Microsoft says, from wanting to save on power or people preferring to start their sessions fresh with no left over processes from earlier (I suspect there's also another group of people who avoid sleep and hibernate, because it never quite works properly on their PCs).
But even though a slight majority prefer to shut down, that still leaves a large chunk of Windows PC users who use sleep and hibernate modes over cold boots. In Windows 8, Microsoft said it wanted to create a shut down process that would appeal to both types of users by hitting three basic goals: nearly zero power draw when the computer is shut off, a fresh session after boot, and a quick startup time.
To reach these targets, Windows 8's default shut down mode does what it refers to as a 'session 0' hibernation. Basically, the computer shuts down normally, but the Windows kernel session gets saved into a hibernation file and then the computer is shut down. Normally, the kernel session is shut down completely--the kernel is the OS' core component that acts as a link between applications and data processing at the hardware level. Storing the kernel session results in a small hibernation file that can be read back into memory much faster than starting everything from a traditional cold boot, according to Microsoft.
The new fast start-up time also takes advantage of multi-core systems by using all of the cores in parallel to speed the work of reading the hibernation file. Microsoft said this multi-core process will give you a faster resume from regular hibernate mode as well. The Windows maker also found that PCs with a Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) instead of a traditional BIOS tend to achieve faster boot times under the new system.
For those of you who need a traditional cold shut down to install new hardware in your PC or just because you like it the old way, Microsoft has provided a way to revert back to the old shut down method. You can either revert permanently to traditional shut down through a setting in the user interface (probably in the Control Panel but Microsoft didn't explain this fully), or you can do a one-time complete shut down from the command prompt.
Windows isn't the only PC operating system to include speedy boots. Google's browser-only Chromebooks feature fast boot times, and Apple's MacBook Air line also claims instant-on functionality.
If you can't get enough Windows 8 news, check out PC World on Tuesday, June 13 when Microsoft is expected to provide even more details about its forthcoming OS during the company's BUILD conference.