Why Microsoft Mandates SSDs For All Its Internal Computers

It's accepted that solid-state drives offer faster performance overall. However, Microsoft's decision to make SSDs compulsory in most computers used by its staff was driven in part by a more specific metric: the tendency for hard drives, especially older models, to introduce much slower boot times, frustrating employees and reducing productivity.

Microsoft PFE Matthew Reynolds discussed the decision during a presentation on improving boot times for enterprise PCs at TechEd North America 2013. He showed a slide from a group of representative systems measuring their overall boot times (seen above)

Reynolds stressed that the numbers didn't form a critique of specific drive models, since the sample wasn't necessarily representative of market share. What stood out was that 5400rpm hard drives were far more likely to suffer from delayed boot times, followed by 7200rpm hard drives and SSD drives.

"As a result, you generally can't get a machine at Microsoft without an SSD, because we believe it affects productivity," Reynolds said. While there are obvious exceptions (OS builders need to test on a variety of hardware), it's a policy that would be welcomed by many workers, if not always by those paying the bills.

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    How ironic. Slow boot times have been an achilles heel for Windows for more than a decade.
    So instead of fixing it, MS looks to hardware for a workaround.
    At the core of the problem is that Microsoft forces system updates / security to override even the highest priority of the user/customer.
    For example, I arrive at work one morning, there is a crisis, and I need to access some documents urgently. But windows has already decided that installing the 17 new updates is the highest priority, and I have to wait a couple of extra minutes to log in.
    A major cause of slow boot times, that even a PC guru has to be always vigilant about is unnecessary startup programs. Microsoft has the power to stop software installers putting all sorts of inane entries into the startup list without telling the user. They could even break this into two. Startup programs and background programs. So updaters etc run eventually, not right upfront. Updates should also be rolled into one service like Windows Update. There is no good reason that reason every 2nd application I install adds it own custom updater startup program.
    No wonder people are adopting tablets at such a fast pace. You turn it on and it works. No bootup time. The owner gets to choose when to update the OS and apps. I find myself reaching for the iPad for most of my digital needs, and I avoid using a computer unless I'll be doing hours of work at a time.

      Every complaint you have isn't Microsoft's to fix, they're your's.

      Don't want applications loading at startup? Don't install applications that put crap into the startup of your computer. It's not Microsoft's place to dictate what should and shouldn't be allowed to start with the computer, it's yours. They already have delayed automatic startup of services to allow for faster boot times, if you so desire.

      Same thing applies for updates. If you don't want you computer up to date (and secure) automatically, don't enable automatic updates! It asks you when you first set up your computer how you want it handled, it's not like it's hidden away somewhere. If your IT department is configuring this for you, again that's not something Microsoft has any say in.

      Cameron has covered most of this, so I think you fail to realise that ever since the start of Vista, windows has been booting up faster and faster through each OS revision; this is not because of better hardware but via kernel improvements and delay startup of non-critical services.

      Hardware upgrades are the icing on the cake which adds to the perception of even faster boot up and responsiveness.

      As for your updates, are you in an enterprise environment? then you should tell your IT department to not schedule updates on log in. Not MS fault but your own IT governance. They give you all the options so the ball is in your court!

      Last edited 05/06/13 1:08 pm

      Not Windows' fault, it's just programmed to do what it's meant to, and that's update itself when scheduled. It doesn't know that you're having a crisis.

      I agree that Microsoft could have done something which warns the user if a new startup object is being added. However, as mentioned by mechjman, Windows has been booting faster since Vista.

      We've reached the point in technology where hardware is advancing faster than software. Remember the old Pentium days? When buying a better computer meant that it would make it faster for the average user?

      We're past that. The average user will probably not be able to tell the difference between a mid-range computer and a top of the line i7 computer. Additionally, SSDs breathe life into any aging PC or laptop (within reasonable constraints of course).

      Why waste resources on dealing with an old issue when recent, increasingly affordable technology has already solved that?

      P.S. DO tell your IT dept to not schedule updates on log in

    Err try Windows 8.
    They changed the whole boot setup. Everything before loading drivers is now cached to disk and is dumped directly into RAM (unless boot fails in which case it does the whole thing from scratch).
    This cuts the majority of the boot time out.

    Here's an in depth post on the whole business:

    This makes perfect sense, anywhere I've worked there have been slow booting computers employees will start the boot process then walk away and screw around for longer than it took to boot. Nobody wants to sit there looking at a loading screen.

    For the most part though the slow boot has been due to crappy networks though, not hardware.

    That becomes a two factor problem then
    1. Press the powerbutton - go off get a coffe from the cafe or make one (sometimes even slower)
    2. Log in - go make breakfast
    3. Maybe get to work half an hour after arriving

    I love SSD's, My home machine had a 5400RPM 500GB and is a machine from 2009,
    Spending $250 Giving it a second hand 256GB SSD and 8GB Of RAM, it's a machine I am comfortable using for everything, the only letdown is the video card

    OK, I haven't tried windows 8, but presuming that Microsoft employees use it, it must still be slow enough to warrant having SSDs in every machine.
    I have home a PC with windows 7 Ultimate, a few USB3 high speed thumb drives enabled with Readyboost, and an SSD (but the SSD is a swap drive for my photo mosaicing software when it chews through the 16GB of RAM available)..
    It boots OK, but I have to keep on top of the startup programs with CCleaner.

    If you have an ATI video card, it installs catalyst control centre which slows boot time, and installs an auto-updater. So don't use their products, use NVidia. Oh dear, same deal, no problem I'll turn to another equivalent mainstream video card architecture. Oh wait there aren't any.
    Other culprits are iTunes, and the whole Adobe suite.
    No problem I'll use Gimp instead of Adobe Photoshop. Darn it doesn't support 16 bit images. That sucks because my professional camera takes 16 bit images.

    My work computer has all sorts of startup programs forced in there (Adobe Flash, Sharepoint sync, mobile sync, google drive sync etc).

    My point is that IT people make up a minority of the world population, and if people have to have decent IT skills to know what software to avoid and how to prune the startup list, it's just unrealistic for the majority of them to get and maintain good boot performance.
    How come my staff's MacBook Pros boot up so much faster? They have iTunes, Adobe Creative Suite, and the MS office suite installed similar to my own?
    Why does Suse linux dual booted on my home PC boot faster than windows 7? It doesn't utilise any of the readyboost hardware available. It has plenty of software installed.
    Surely those are OS architectual factors since the hardware doesn't seem sufficiently different.

    Last edited 08/06/13 10:23 pm

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