The Guide to Windows 2000 Wisdom: Clocking the Speed Demon

What sticks in my mind as being a wonderful addition? Win2K's IP stack is incredibly fast.

Let me begin by refreshing your memory. Last year, in an April essay, I stated that what I liked best about Windows 2000 was its improved IP networking features. I spoke about true NAT, Internet Connection Sharing, VPNs and the like. My opinion of these features hasn’t changed. I still think it’s great that they’re part of the core operating system. Unfortunately, I don’t use these features on a daily basis. Our office uses a third-party firewall solution with built-in VPN capability, so Internet Connection Sharing means little to me in my day-to-day routine.

Ironically, what now sticks in my mind as being a wonderful addition to Win2K isn’t some “highly visible” feature like those I mentioned above or some other equally prominent enhancement like “Personalized Menus” (which, for the record, I can’t stand!). The feature that regularly has me informing my geek friends, “This is really cool,” is something I’m exposed to hour on hour as I browse network shares, peruse Web sites, and download product updates: Win2K’s IP stack is incredibly fast!

Everything is faster. Web pages load faster. Downloads complete sooner. It’s just plain faster.

When I first noticed this, I thought it was simply a subjective reaction that was a result of my being so enamored with Win2K. The mind can, after all, play tricks on a person. So I set out, with the help of a friend, to verify my perception with hard data. Using a T1 connection and four virtually identical computers loaded with Win2K Professional, Win2K Advanced Server, NT 4.0 SP 5, and Windows 98 SE — each with TCP/IP as the only transport protocol — we began. Each computer was loaded with the same version of Internet Explorer, and each was a fresh install with no superfluous software or services running. While this was far from scientific, the benchmark results were impressive and removed (from our minds, anyway) any doubt as to the accuracy of our perceptions.

The best test for measuring IP speed is to download a file. When you do this in IE, KB/sec are displayed in the download window. Downloading the same file, at the same time, from the same server, the Windows 98 and NT machines maintained an average speed of 49KB/sec. The Win2K machines blew this out of the water with an average speed of 149KB/sec. Using a stopwatch and a bit of remedial math, we were able to verify that these speeds were being displayed accurately. We repeated the downloads on each machine individually — to account for possible bandwidth bottlenecks — and achieved nearly identical results.

The geek in me is a bit bothered by the fact that I don’t know how Microsoft achieved this increase in speed or why it didn’t tell us about it, though in a way I suppose it did. Microsoft told us that it had built Win2K “from the ground up.” The improved IP stack is evidence of this.

Many of you may have a problem with my methodology. Before you start writing those letters suggesting ways that I could be wrong, let me reiterate: This was not a scientific test. I had a perception of increased speed and have collected data to verify it. I’m happy. My opinion (supported by the data) is that Microsoft has trimmed the fat from its implementation of the TCP/IP stack and produced a significant increase in speed. How does it compare to other platforms, like the Mac or Linux? Don’t know. Don’t care. I don’t use those platforms as part of my daily business. I use Win2K. And my Win2K virtually screams!

Does yours?

About the Author

Chris Brooke, MCSE, is a contributing editor for Redmond magazine and director of enterprise technology for ComponentSource. He specializes in development, integration services and network/Internet administration. Send questions or your favorite scripts to [email protected].

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