The “Secret Sauce Recipe” to Our 10-Second PC Boot

John Mese, our resident Windows 7 optimization expert (there’s really a much bigger team behind the man), talks about how Lenovo is putting the brakes on idle time waiting for your PC to start. Here he shares how we did it, but like all good cooks, keeps the secret ingredient a secret.

“Wow, can I see that again?” “When can I have this?” “OK, so how did you do it?” These were the common reactions to the ultra-fast-booting Lenovo computers we demonstrated a few weeks ago at CES in order to promote the release of the Lenovo Enhanced Experience 2.0. We showed six PCs—three laptops and three desktops—all of which booted up in less than 10 seconds:

  • IdeaPad Y570
  • IdeaCentre B520
  • IdeaCentre K330
  • ThinkCentre M90z
  • ThinkPad T420s
  • ThinkPad Edge E420s

You can watch it here. It won't take long.

Setting the Bar

Honestly, when I first started working on this demo, I wasn’t sure if a sub-10-second boot time was achievable.  A standard/default install on the exact same hardware configuration was already pretty fast at around 15 seconds.  And it’s exceedingly difficult to find ways to significantly improve upon an already fast PC. Think of it as trying to shine an already shiny car. Well, not only were we able to break the 10-second barrier - we shattered it.  To use the vernacular, we “PWNed” it in the face.  The ThinkPads on display (which were the ones I personally worked on) boot in a little more than seven seconds!

Boot Time Defined

Let me back up one second (pun intended) and clarify how we determined boot time.  We use a tool developed by Microsoft called the Windows Performance Toolkit. It traces everything going on in the PC during on/off transitions and, consequently, how we identify improvement opportunities. This tool is run iteratively by an automation suite (also by Microsoft) called the Velocity Test Suite.  Since you have to accumulate several runs to get an accurate picture of what’s going on, the boot time is actually a “warm boot” measurement. This means the tools times the PC based on a reboot cycle rather than a power-on from a completely off state. Furthermore, the test determines the boot completion point when: the PC has reached an idle state and CPU utilization is less than 20 percent for 10 cumulative seconds, which represents a state ready to receive user input.

The Recipe So how did we do it? Well, a combination of things really:

1.       Custom UEFI firmware from Phoenix

2.       Native UEFI mode 64-bit install of Windows 7 (GPT format)

3.       Intel 160GB SSD (M-class)

4.       Driver and service optimizations and tuning

5.       One part secret sauce Obviously I can’t reveal it all, but that’s the recipe. 

Generally the optimizations and secret stuff seek to reduce the shotgun blast of resource requests occurring during boot by fanning out the start of the non-critical components. With less contention, the PC boots faster so the user can start interacting with it. Our maniacal focus on performance and innovation allows us to produce the fastest booting PCs in the industry.  We recently did a survey of competitor Windows 7 PCs.  On average, we found our PCs boot about 20 seconds faster than the average competitor Windows 7 PC.  They also shutdown and sleep/resume faster as well. So that’s the story behind Enhanced Experience 2.0 in a nutshell, and it’s only available from Lenovo. Not even the vaunted Apple can compete… (check out Michael Littler’s post). How do I know all this? Well, I am part of the secret cabal of industry power players dedicated to identifying performance bottlenecks and eliminating them with extreme prejudice. OK, maybe my job is not quite that “rock star” but I am passionate about performance and I was thrilled to be able to work with partners like Phoenix, Intel, and Microsoft to hit such an awesome mark.