Instant booting of a computer

Im using a mac, and have never owned a pc, so take that into consideration before answering this absurd question:

Do they make computers that turn on instantly like a t.v or do all of them have a warm up process?

If the answer is no, why not?

You have to load an operating system if you want the computer to actually do anything.

There have been experiments with putting tiny OSs on a ROM chip, instead of loading a big ol’ fully-featured operating system from a hard drive. This is much faster (like fifteen seconds or so,) but then you’ve only got barebones OS. (I’ve seen this with a version of linux that was just a few megabytes. Not very pretty, though – and it has to be tailored to do exactly what you want it to do. This one was set up to stream .mp3s to other devices on a network, so it had a command-line interface, network drivers, and not much else.)

You can have a very similar experience by just putting any modern computer to sleep and then waking it when you want to use it. Instead of actually shutting the system down, it just keeps memory fresh and spins down the drives. Then, when you wake it, you get a fully responsive system in seconds.

On the whole, though, boot times are pretty good. My WinXP system at work boots to a login screen in about 20 seconds. And there’s a lot behind the scenes that has to happen for that.

iamthewalrus (from s.b.? home town!),

20 seconds is 1 minute faster than my mac, but 19 seconds slower than my t.v… That time has reduced though hasnt it? so it seems like theyre working on it. I wonder if in the future this will ever get down to instantaneous? youre right though…a lot is happening behind the sc®een.

I think the Amigas were the last serious desktop computers to have an ‘instant’ boot because their OS (or large parts of it) was kept in ROM chips instead of on disk. The advantages of a ROM OS also include a very simple form of ‘security’: Since you can’t overwrite a ROM chip except by removing it from the machine and doing microsurgery on it in a clean room, there is no way for malicious software to damage the OS it contains. Plus, it frees up hard drive space for applications and data.

None of those reasons are really very compelling these days. You don’t care if the OS is damaged due to a virus because replacing it is trivial; what you care about is your un-backed-up data being lost. Disk space is cheap and getting cheaper all the time. If the OS is in ROM it obviously can’t be easily replaced, requiring you to buy a whole new PC (or subject your PC to expensive repairs) if a new application needs a new OS. Finally, PC boot times are not a huge concern in the real world. If boot time is a concern, you aren’t using a PC: You’re using an embedded system with all of the software in ROM.

You could just turn off the monitor. Then, startup is exactly as fast as a TV.

I think the biggest bottleneck is the hard drive. The hard drive is ridiculously slow compared to the other components. You can upgrade your CPU and memory all you want, but in the end the operating system’s components have to be lifted off the hard drive which cannot keep up to the memory and CPU.

If you want to see an increase in bootup times (and loading times for basically any other program or game) configure your hard drives to be faster. You could go SCSI, you could get those 10,000RPM SATA drives and RAID them to split the data onto the different drives.

To do an experiment without purchasing all that equipment, you can portion off some of your memory to act as a virtual hard drive. There are some people that use programs to create a 50MB virtual harddrive using their RAM. They store their internet browser cache on this and it supposedly makes page loads instantaneous. This is because instead of writing the information on a hard drive that can do 100MB/s (burst, if you’re lucky) it does it on RAM which can do GB/s. The only drawbacks are that memory loses all it’s information when its power is lost. So when you turn off your computer everything on that virtual drive will be erased, which makes it okay for browser caches. Also, it obviously takes away from the memory your system can use to load applications.

If you want to see instant on systems, hard drives need to be replaced by a faster technology. There was a company called “l”, I think, which made custom built computers with solid state harddrives. It was called puRAM or something like that, and was so fast that the operating system loaded in mere seconds. I’m not sure if they are still around.

Sorry for the double post, their website still exists. Here is some info about their instant-on technology.

That’s not the only technology that makes their systems drool-worthy. Just about every component in their system is enhanced in amazing ways. go-l

you could always just invest in say an acorn archimedes which has its operating system on a fixed chip built into the computer. instant on, very secure too.

in modern times you either pay stackloads fo something like autobulb described or accept that nearly all operating systems are too bulky these days to load instantly.

The only reason your TV has instant on is that there is a portion of the tuner that is always on. Try unplugging your TV for a while, then plug it back in and turn it on immediately; it is not nearly as fast.

One reason your TV can switch on fairly quickly is that it can reasonably assume it’s the same TV, made of the same components as it was the last time you switched it on - this simply isn’t the case with most computers - you could have changed or upgraded something - the integration and indeed range/selection of components is far less formal and rigid in a PC - so the computer has to check if everything is still there and if it is, load the appropriate drivers to make it work.

You have an analogue TV, don’t you? My Sony Grand Wega takes 15 or so seconds to “boot up” -damn near on par with my PC!


You’re kidding, right?

System 4 = about 7 seconds from a floppy, maybe 3 seconds from hard disk
System 6 = double that, and add extra time for custom extensions and control panel devices
System 7.0 = six times as long on the same hardware; maybe twice as long on fast hardware
MacOS 7.5-7.6 = double it again
MacOS 8 = about the same, maybe a little less time (finally booting a big faster)
MacOS 9 = about the same
MacOS 10.0-10.1 = freaking forever
MacOS 10.2 = about like MacOS 9
MacOS 10.3 = back to early System 7 type speeds

Back in the heyday of OS 9, we used to joke about the computer of the future (40 terabyte hard drive, 360 gigs of RAM, 16 processors running at 800 GHz each, and a boot time of 2 hrs 30 min)

There was a program/hardware product you could buy which would save the entire contents of RAM to a disk file, and on power-up it would just read that file back into RAM instead of booting. You could “boot” MacOS 8 in a couple seconds, and all your documents would be open with the cursor blinking where you left it and everything. (Played havoc with network connections though. You’d get some pretty rude hiccups if you had network disks mounted on your desktop when you “shut down” in this fashion, if I recall correctly). It seemed cool but I don’t think they sold many copies.

I don’t care too much about boot-up time with any of my PCs because I pretty much use only the standby feature instead of shutting them down. I reboot a PC maybe once every 6 to 8 weeks. My work PC (notebook) takes a good five minutes to boot, including logging in, until the time when I can actually do work. I couldn’t bear to face that wait every day.

SD cards are plunging in price and increasing in memory capacity. How about loading the OS in a 1 GB card? Thing is, how do you configure a card reader as the boot drive?

      • People have done this with PC’s running smaller versions of Linux, and booting off a flash card on an IDE adaptor. It’s not instant but many versions can be booted in <5 seconds. In particular people do this for “media”-PC’s, running LinDVD.
  • Every once in a great while I have to boot an old Win98 machine, and it is always stunning how fast it runs. The CPU is one-half the speed, it has one-third the RAM and a slower single hard-drive, and it still pounds my Athlon64-3000/1Gb RAM/triple-Raptor hard-drive machine every which way (-except for memory leaks that is).

  • It’s a shame that MS (and Linux) can’t support a “dual mode” that either allows you to use the careful memory management, or allows you to turn it off when you don’t need it. It is obvious that this extra protection is taking up a lot of disk and processor time. I installed Mandrake Linux on that Win98 machine too, and it was dog-slow as well. With WinXP and Linux, when you open a program the hard-drive searches for a few seconds. In Win98, when you start a program, you see the window for it appear almost before you can lift your finger off the mouse button.

One of my company’s products is a Japanese robot that runs Windows XP Embedded with the aforementioned Instant-On. The OS boots (and is usable if you have a monitor and keyboard attached) in about 1.5 seconds, but our software takes another 5 to 10 seconds to load and initialize. My home machine takes about six or seven seconds from power on until the login screen appears, but it’s kept lean & mean (only current generation hardware to minimize initialization time and no major software is loaded by default). As with RumMunkey, my Sony Grand Wega takes much longer to boot; the power light blinks for at least ten or fifteen seconds before the CRTs light up, and even then it takes another ten seconds before the brightness is turned all the way up.

Does the OP mean boot boot, or just waking up from suspend?

If it’s the latter case, I’ve got a Zaurus SL-5500 that’ll wake up in a couple of seconds.

If you’re wont to say that PDAs don’t count, well, in my world, anything that runs vi counts as a computer.


I feel your pain. I sometimes still wish for the lightweight responsiveness of MacOS 9, which was plenty fast on a PowerPC 604 box and absolutely flew on a G3. (You can run OS X on a G3 but it doesn’t feel like much of a hotrod computer when you do)

There’s just no way so just “turn off” protected memory management or robust preemptive multitasking though. That’s like wanting to have diesel engines on your boat only when the wind isn’t blowing :slight_smile:

The $100 laptop being developed by MIT’s Media Lab will have no hard drive, just 128 RAM and a 500 MB flash based ‘hard drive’, and will run an (I assume bare-bones) version of Linux, so that would probably boot up pretty darn fast.