Copying files is the Achilles’ heel of Windows Vista, “calculating time remaining…” the blue screen of death equivalent. If anyone tells you Windows Vista isn’t slow at copying files across the network, then they obviously haven’t downloaded any DVDrips and tried to move it onto another computer. Local file copying has already been improved in the performance & reliability updates. It was anticipated Windows Vista Service Pack 1 would fix the network problem amongst other things.
As announced this week, the first beta build of SP1 (6001.16659) has been released on Microsoft Connect. The initial reaction from most tester has been largely positive noting improvements in file operations such as moving, copying and deleting files. However I haven’t seen anywhere post any benchmarks or evidence to prove it is indeed faster.
I composed this side-by-side video comparison of Windows Vista with and without SP1 copying two sets of files across a wireless network. Both the RTM and SP1 machines were running from the same system configuration on seperate partitions with exactly the same hard disks. Any difference in time should theoretically be the effect of the operating system.
Whilst this benchmark is hardly scientific, it is obvious Vista SP1 has fixed the “calculating time remaining” bug. As soon as the dialog box appeared, it immediately began copying the file. The copying progress is also more accurately indicated with updates approximately every second in both the text and progress bar. It took approximately 30 seconds to copy the entire file.
But it wouldn’t be a good story without a twist. Vista RTM may have started slow and appeared slow throughout the file copying operation, it actually only took 3 seconds longer to copy the first file. Unexpectedly the progress bar just zooms to the finish line in the final seconds. Of course in the second test, the problem becomes rather obvious and there is a clear advantage in SP1.
Of course these
is only one test are only two tests with a relatively small files so it is hard to judge the difference, but I wonder if our mind is just playing a trick on us. What happens if Windows Vista wasn’t slow at copying files? Maybe file copying was never broken, just the progress bar? No matter what it is, now the progress bar moves and numbers change, and that’s all it matters.
Update: A lot of people have told me since that Virtual PC’s I/O performance may have affected the results. File copying in SP1 may be even faster than it appears in this video which is even more promising.
Update 2: I have since redone the entire test with the feedback received. First, no more Virtual PC. The Vista SP1 install is now running natively in a seperate partition. Secondly, I’ve added a second test copying hundreds of smaller files. The result is again positive with SP1 finishing ahead of RTM by nearly a minute.
Screencast recorded and edited on Camtasia Studio.