Windows Server 2008 10% faster, uses 2/3 the ram of Vista

So, I hate Windows Vista.

I’ve been spending the past week downgrading my laptop and desktop to XP Pro, but since I know Microsoft isn’t going to support XP forever, I’m in the search for what I’ll be running when the patches dry out. My hope is that Windows 7/Blackcomb/Vienna is going to arrive on time, and that it isn’t horrible, but looking at the trajectory MS has had in the home OS game since XP released, I must say that I don’t think the prospects are promising.

So assuming Windows 7 won’t be the cure to my woes, I wondered what else I could run (and I know some eager puppies are yelling Linux! – calm down, I’m already dualbooting). So the other (main) OSes that Microsoft is currently supporting are Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008.

Lucky me, I am already privy to WS2008 RTM bits, so I downloaded a copy (legit). The hope? That it will be a good alternative to Vista. If it isn’t I will probably be spending alot more time in *nix land.

Since I haven’t seen anyone do it yet, I figured I’d run Vista (Ultimate) against WS 2008 (Standard) in some benchmark tests and give the results here. My hope? WS 2008 will be leaner and faster (FYI, for Vista vs XP benchmarks, tomshardware has an excellent rundown).

Before I get to results, I should point out that these tests were run on shipping bits for both OSes (fresh installs), so the Vista machine had no patches, including SP1. Tests on Vista SP1 will probably have slightly different numbers, but as PCWorld reports, they are probably worse.

The chart below is the ratio that Vista underperformed WS2008 in each benchmark test (image is scaled down, click it to see high res).

Vista vs WS2008 Benchmarks

PDF of charts are available here.

The full log files from SiSandra are available here.


  1. Tests run on AMD Athlon 64 3200+, 1.5 GB RAM, NVidia GeForce 5 FX Series, ASUS K8V Deluxe.
  2. I tried to run PCMark 2005, which ran fine on the WS2008 install, but crashed my Vista machine during the 3D testing portions, so those results aren’t mentioned here. This then is certainly another area where WS 2008 wins – 3D doesn’t crash the machine. Maybe I can get Civilization 4 to run here?
  3. WS2008 only supported resolution up to 1024×768, but vista supports full 1600×1200
  4. Both Vista and WS2008 don’t support my onboard ethernet out of the box

The conclusion?

WS2008 used roughly 2/3 the amount of ram Vista did, which is probably one of the contributors to improved memory performance in WS2008 (about 7.5% average in SiSandra’s tests). Memory access time is noticeably better, especially in terms of the latency of access at higher ranges.

I saw between a 10-15% increase in the speed of real world application running time as well as similar increase in software which runs on a virtual machine, such as .Net.

Benchmarks which are more directly bound to the processor (such as SiSandra’s multimedia tests) are essentially even between machines, no significant edge either way there.

In general, WS2008 feels much more responsive than Vista does – its very noticeable. I think it actually may be good enough to use on my machines – either before or after XP goes out of servicing, but I’ll need to use it more to make a final call. From my initial look, it seems like a much better option for advanced users than Vista.

Which brings one final point. With XP being easier for novice users (it tends to “just work” more often), and WS2008 being the better choice for advanced users (as word gets out), where does this leave Vista. Is it the best choice for anyone?

27 Responses

  1. The eweek review is also worth checking out.

  2. As a microsoft stockholder it is most vexing to know that my money was wasted on Vista. Maybe if the executives were not so penny wise and pound foolish the would hire more programmers and testers. Also, they should not have their employees working 60 or 70 hours a week so they cannot think straight and therefore produce an inferior product

  3. thx man gr8 review was really needed to me 🙂

  4. Glad to hear it – when Aris and Avivs work together good things happen.

  5. Did you test windows server 2008 with search and desktop experience (including Aero!) all the eye-candy, same serices turn on !?
    You can’t compare vista without sp1 to server 2008 they don’t have same core version only after sp1 install they are the same.
    Please retest.

  6. Well I think the whole point is that WS2008 gives Vista the bwatdown because it doesn’t have all that garbage installed (can you even install aero on 2008, I’m not sure).

    I’d be tempted to test Vista Sp1, with the same core as WS2008 (when I wrote the article it was to come out in a matter of days), but they must have had some serious issues to back it out after they declared they had final bits and still not release it.

    So to make a long story short, can’t test the new kernel, because only betas exist right now.

  7. […] reading some articles (here, here, here and here) about using the latest and greatest Windows Server 2008 as a workstation OS, I decided to give it […]

  8. Vista was primarily screwed over by hardware vendors who refused to update their drivers.

    Much like the transition to Windows 2000, but in a desktop form, which makes it much worse.

    Server rarely need to run A LOT of legacy hardware, while desktops run legacy hardware all the time.

    You never want to push a new driver model like that without first securing the drivers or having a backup plan, like using old drivers or release it as a server OS first to help build driver support.

    Beyond that Vista isn’t so bad, it’s ram use is too high, but RAM IS DIRT CHEAP. Windows needs a new file system, but that’s not VISTA’s fault.

    The security is the BEST ever in AN MS OS and it has held up at the hacking contest.

    Vista has had less patches period than Mac or Linux, which isn’t anything great, but for MS, that’s not bad.

    MS’s real failure was not realizing their market.

    They should have done more hardware profiling and they would have noticed that a HUGE percentage of their current users system were just going to suck at running Vista.

    They should have had an option for these people.

    I would have put out a new XP with revamped interface and perhaps some Vista like security to fill the time gap and perhaps offering Vista for higher end PC’s with NEW HARDWARE thus helping to stop the driver problems.

    You’re always going to have a rough battle changing driver models around. Just like changing file systems is fairly complicated and needs a lot of testing, they are core technologies of any OS.

    Had dual core’s hit the market sooner and RAM been more plentiful in the aged PC’s out there.. Vista would have also done much better performance wise.

    I was very happy to see real security for the first time in a Windows OS and I personally had no driver problems with Vista.

    Still I don’t upgrade just to run a new OS, so I use XP mostly because it does everything I need.

    In fact, XP with more security is really all I need.

    Linux and Mac really don’t have an ‘features’ that I find useful. MAC just uses newer hardware and Linux sucks for installing drivers and apps and for software and some hardware support.

    Vista’s not so bad though, once your turn off all the useless crap it’s just like a slow version of Windows 2000 with lousy hardware support because hardware makers REFUSE to make updated drivers.

    Same thing happened with Windows 2000 and that’s almost certainly MS’s most popular server OS ever.

    I always want to go back to 2k just because it’s faster and uses less ram, but I fear lessened hardware support.

    Maybe by the time MS releases another good OS… Linux might not suck as a desktop anymore.

    Then I’ll actually have a choice… well.. there is Mac also, but their hardware support is even worse really.

  9. Unfortuantaly the whole test is floored because, you are compairing Svr 2008 SP1 with Vista gold, the only edition of Svr 2008 you can get is SP1 if you don’t belive me look at the OS version. The reason for this is that they use the same base kernel, and because svr 2008 was released at the same time of vista SP1 MS gave the up to date version of the kernel. If you are going to compaire like for like as any valid review would, you have to use Vista SP1.

    Although I would be expect svr 2008 to respond better because by default svr is configured for background tasks. Of course doesn’t have svr 2008 isn’t optimised for graphic content as well.

    I would like to see if the resutls of Vista SP1 and Vista Gold were the same as you got here, I think they would be close.

  10. Upgrading your computer would be a good choice for an advanced user such as yourself. Stick with your XP if you refuse to. I see no point in upgrading from XP unless you want to go 64bit. If you want to go 64bit you should get a beefy system. Vista64 is actually pretty awesome, imo, on a beefy system. You know you’re kicking it old school when lots of people are running more VRAM than you have system RAM.

  11. Yes, my box is old (and pathetic), but I use it for benchmarking and other things that you generally don’t want to do on a machine you actually use.

    For most things I use my (kick ass) Lenovo x61 with dock, which has core 2 duo goodness and 2GB ram.

    The x61 came with Vista Home Basic installed (XP Pro was available… for $50 more, an upgrade). Since I have access to all of MS’s stuff, tried Vista Ultimate on it, sucked.

    Vista 64 bit was even worse due to driver support issues (I don’t see any benefit to using a 64 bit OS unless the amount of RAM in your machine requires it).

    So I went back to XP Pro.

    I’ll buy a new desktop only when work requires it… I don’t really play games anyway, so more power at this point would be a waste. SHH and Firefox aren’t exactly punishing my processor.

  12. How can you say that Vista failed because of driver support then bash Linux for the same thing? Vista is a memory hog. Driver support for Linux has been woeful for years now. What’s Vista’s excuse? Vista was rushed and is totally diferent from XP. Developer’s just didn’t have enough time. If Linux had the driver support that Windows has it would increase it’s userbase exponentially. Add a few kick@$$ games and you’d be set. Hardware developers and software developers are the peple who are hindering the progress of linux.

  13. Wow those thoughts are so disorganized I can’t even respond.

  14. […] that Vista is slow. Some bloggers ran benchmark tests comparing Vista to Windows Server 2008 [1] [2] [3], and they all claim that Server 2008 is faster than Vista. It seems like the performance gains […]

  15. […] WastingTimeWithMikeAndAri: Windows Server 2008 10% faster, uses 2/3 the ram of Vista […]

  16. What can I say?

    IMO Vista sucks as in his role for a home user OS (net, games, legacy HW).

    Why do U need Vista? Aero interface? C’mon! Better security? C’mon (learn how to lock down your XP, no need for out of the box features).

    One thing that Vista has and XP doensn’t is the DX10 support (but google for it, and see how you can play DX10 enabled games under XP).

    We all have something with Vista, because we’ve all been through W3.1, W95, W98, W2K and so on, so Vista looks to us like an alien, but imagine you’re 19y old and you just bought your first PC (Vista based). Will that be different? Yes!

    For the rest of us, Vista is just “redecorating” your desktop.

    P.S.: Do not even mention about USB drives used as physical memory. Duh!

  17. Yeah – benchmarks show that ReadyBoost at best keeps your machine the same speed, worst case slows it down.

    Even Intel’s turbo memory seems to not help.

    A good idea, but in the end it just doesnt work practically.

  18. […] WastingTimeWithMikeAndAri: Windows Server 2008 10% faster, uses 2/3 the ram of Vista […]

  19. Benchmarks and performance are one thing, Having just bought a Dell E6500 with 8gb memory and Vista Bus. x64 it performs pretty well (but it should with the hardware I have).
    I hate Vista, not for its performance but its security features. I feel as if I am using a computer I don’t own (sort of like a corporate desktop where you can’t use it for anything more than typing a letter or creating a spreadsheet). I can’t even copy files over from my old notebook (You need permission to do this action) … hello mummy, can I go to the movies today?

    Goodbye Vista

  20. Ive been using 2k8 server for almost a year now.

    Modified it to the workstation version.

    I love it ! No problems with drivers. Use vista 64 drivers.

    No problems with apps.

    The only small con is 64 bit browser. Some sites dont support. But that is with all x64 OSs

  21. You use IE? Really?

  22. yaddy yaddy. here we go !

  23. I’ve used windows 3.1, windows 95, windows 98, windows 2000, windows XP, Ubuntu 8.04, and windows vista.
    Vista is by far the best operating system I’ve ever used. It is a great improvement over XP. Doesn’t crash as much as XP and the search is awesome. Compatibility mode has worked 90% of the time for me, so I can play most my old games. Never used a Server OS though, but I’d use a linux one if I did. Vista doesn’t work with my old scanner though, but that isn’t vista’s fault its the hardware manufacturer’s fault for not making drivers for it, got a cheap all-in-one that’s a big improvement anyway)))) Looking forward to trying out a mac, and windows 7 when it comes out.

    • lololololol vista is garbage. 7 is better, but not by much.

      Windows Server 2003 was fantastic! Not a single crash in 6 years, then again you can almost say the same about XP if you don’t have bad hardware.

      Vista crashes worse than Windows 95, even with all the updates Microsoft has done to try to make it better.

  24. Repost this using Windows Server 2008 R2. Windows Server 2008 is faster than Vista or even 7, but R2 completely blows vanilla 2008 out of the water. It’s fairly close to 2003 in performance, and it’s newer so that’s pretty good!

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