Early Tests Say SP3 Speeds Windows XP

Editor's Note, February 21, 2010: This article was reprinted from PC World's sibling publication Computerworld, which has issued the following statement: The person quoted in this story as "Craig Barth" is actually Randall C. Kennedy, a contributor to InfoWorld (another PC World sibling). Kennedy, who presented himself as the CTO of Devil Mountain Software, no longer works at InfoWorld. Given that he disguised his identity to Computerworld and a number of other publications, the credibility of Kennedy's statements is called into question. Rather than simply remove stories in which he is quoted, we have left them online so readers can weigh his data and conclusions for themselves.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), the update scheduled to release next year, runs Microsoft Corp.'s Office suite 10% faster than XP SP2, a performance testing software developer reported Friday.

Devil Mountain Software, which earlier in the week claimed Windows Vista SP1 was no faster than the original, repeated some of the same tests on the release candidate of Windows XP SP3, the service pack recently issued to about 15,000 testers.

"We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Windows XP SP3 delivers a measurable performance boost to this aging desktop OS," said Craig Barth, Devil Mountain's chief technology officer, in a post to a company blog Friday.

Devil Mountain ran its OfficeBench suite of performance benchmarks on a laptop equipped with Office 2007, Microsoft's latest application suite. The notebook -- the same unit used in the Vista/Vista SP1 tests earlier -- featured a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 1GB of memory. The results reported a 10% speed increase under XP SP3 when compared to SP2, the service pack released in 2004.

"Since SP3 was supposed to be mostly a bug-fix/patch consolidation release, the unexpected speed boost comes as a nice bonus," Barth said. "In fact, XP SP3 is shaping up to be a 'must-have' update for the majority of users who are still running Redmond's not-so-latest and greatest desktop OS."

According to the Office performance benchmarks, Windows XP SP3 is also considerably faster than Vista SP1. "None of this bodes well for Vista, which is now more than two times slower than the most current builds of its older sibling," said Barth.

While Microsoft was not available for comment over the weekend about XP's performance, it defended Vista SP1 after Devil Mountain's first round of tests. "We appreciate the excitement to evaluate Windows Vista SP1 as soon as possible. However, the service pack is still in the development phase and will undergo several changes before being released," a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Microsoft has at times struggled to wean users from the six-year-old Windows XP and get them to migrate to Vista. During 2007, for example, it made several XP concessions, including adding five years to the support lifespan of the Home edition and extending OEM and retail sales of XP through June 2008, as it recognized that customers wanted to hold on to the older OS.

Recently, Forrester Research said that XP remained Vista's biggest rival, and cited survey data that showed American and European businesses would delay Vista deployment, in part because of application incompatibility issues with the new OS. "That's causing a lot of XP shops to take a wait-and-see approach to Vista," said Forrester analyst Benjamin Gray two weeks ago.

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