Startup Time Benchmarks

I recently measured how long it took to boot, log in, and start a few key applications on various operating systems, on two different laptops, with varying amounts of RAM.

The applications used were the versions supplied by default with the distro.

Boot times listed below do not include the 7 to 13 seconds needed to reach the Grub prompt from poweron.

But before I give the measurements, a few caveats about sources of measurement error.


Here are a few sources of measurement variability:

Power level. You need to understand linux's power management to get this right. I don't yet. A Nov 2005 blog entry discusses Ubuntu power management a bit..

My compaq 3000 seems to pick 'high performance' if brightness is all the way up. This reduces boot time from 47 seconds to 41 seconds. The compaq 700 is stuck on low power on ubuntu unless you give the command 'cpufreq-selector -g performance'. All measurements below are on high power as far as possible except for the 500MHz results for the compaq 700.

System menu configuration. In the compaq 3000 tests, ubuntu was configured to show Wanda the Fish and start one xterm. This adds seconds to the login time, and may have affected other times. I should redo my measurements sometime with this ironed out.

Deciding when login is finished. e.g. I used 'when Firefox icon appears in menu bar' for Ubuntu, but 'when date and time appear in menu bar' is also valid, and adds two seconds to login time.

Number of documents on desktop. Whether a CD-ROM is in the drive. I think I didn't have a CD-ROM inserted for any of these tests, but I'm not sure.

Warm vs. cold boot. Reaching the Grub prompt was six seconds faster on a warm boot, but that shouldn't affect further measurements, should it?

Application startup order. I tried to always run each app just once per boot, and in the same order (OOo first, then firefox, then abiword), but might not always have followed that order.

xterm vs. menus. I sometimes started the apps from xterm, sometimes from the system menu.

default start page. On my 3000, firefox's start page was; on the 700, it was a local disk file.

As a result of the above uncertainties, the measurements below are probably accurate to 10% or +- three seconds, whichever is worse, so take them with a grain of salt.

Compaq Presario 3000 - varying distributions

Hardware: Compaq Presario 3000 Athlon 64 3000+ with 1MB cache and 512 MB RAM, 96 MB of which are stolen by the video system. Tests were run at two RAM values: unrestricted (yielding 416MB) and booted with mem=96M.
OS RAM1 boot login writer Firefox RAM2 boot login writer Firefox Gnome Writer Firefox
fc3 416 65 26 20 6.6 96 121 52 58 9.2
fc4 416 56 19 23 11 96 112 39 75 18
ub5.11 416 60 19 11 5.5 96 57 49 53 13
ub6.06 416 41 17 11 7 96 47 50 67 2.14.3 2.0.2
fc5t2 416 57 11 10 4.8 96 110 32 60 19 2.13.4 2.0.1 1.5

Compaq Presario 3000 - varying RAM

Hardware: same Compaq Presario 3000 as above. The OS for this test was Ubuntu 6.06, with its standard (as of Aug 2006) gnome 2.14.3, ooo 2.0.2, and firefox Tests were run at five different free RAM levels.
RAM bootloginabi ooo firefox
64MB 62 147 18 360? -
96MB 47 50 9 67 -
128MB 49 27 6 52 13
192MB 42 20 5 28 12
416MB 41 17 3 11 7

How much RAM is enough?

It depends on the task, the system, and on the user. Let's assume the user is happy when startup time stops to decline, or falls below five seconds. Then the above results indicate that for the Compaq Presario 3000:

Compaq Presario 700

On a Compaq Presario 700, with 256MB of system RAM and 256KB of cache,

9 seconds to reach grub prompt not included below,

Windows XP: freshly installed, with ooo quick launch disabled, but with Google Pack, Real Networks, and Adobe updaters loaded by default:

cpu 500MHz boot 33 login 7(22 to wait cursor goes away) ooo 30 firefox 17
cpu 1000MHz boot 33 login 6(21 to wait cursor goes away) ooo 38 firefox 16
No, I don't know why open office startup time was slower on the high-speed run. I need to rerun a few times to figure that out.

Ubuntu 6.06: with absolutely no customizations (except for cpufreq as described below): (e.g. no wanda the fish, no xterm loaded at startup).

cpu  500MHz boot 53 login 15 ooo 32-46 firefox 13 abiword 5
cpu 1000MHz boot 53 login 14 ooo 25 firefox  9 abiword 5
Note: the cpu speed in the 1000MHz case was switched to 1000MHz in /etc/rc.local with the command 'cpufreq-selector -g performance', so it might not have happened early enough to influence the boot time.

Note the large impact of CPU speed on OpenOffice startup time on Linux.

Last updated: 7 Aug 2006
Dan Kegel
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