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9/21/2011
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Windows 8 Promises 8-Second Boot Ups

Microsoft says its new operating system will dispense with DOS-style BIOS screens in favor of faster, prettier startups.

Windows 8 Visual Tour: Microsoft's New Desktop
Windows 8 Visual Tour: Microsoft's New Desktop
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Booting up can be one of the most frustrating aspects of personal computer use, as the machine goes through a seemingly endless series of screens filled with what appear to be hieroglyphics, at least to the casual user. With that in mind, Microsoft is pledging to make the boot process in Windows 8 a lot faster and more consumer-friendly.

"In building Windows 8, we set out to take advantage of some new technology and revisited some old assumptions to totally rethink the boot experience," said Windows group president Steven Sinofsky, in a blog post.

The biggest change that users will notice is that the old, DOS-like screens, such as are displayed during the power-on self-test (POST) part of the boot cycle, will be masked by firmware that displays a high-resolution graphic of the PC manufacturer's logo until Windows has fully loaded. "The logo should be beautiful and reflect the brand you trust when you purchased your PC," said Billie Sue Chafins, a Windows program manager.

[Is Windows 8 a death knell for third-party security software? See Windows 8 Gets Security Overhaul.]

For more advanced users, such as those whose PCs are configured to run multiple operating systems or those who need access to higher-level functions, the boot screen will display a Metro-like interface from which choices can be selected, either through a keyboard or touch.

"Unlike in previous versions of Windows, the advanced boot options in Windows 8 can be reached easily, are simple to navigate, and look and feel harmonious," said Chafins.

To display more advanced graphics during the boot cycle, Windows 8 relies on new technology called the unified extensible firmware interface (UEFI) for BIOS. UEFI lets Windows work in concert with PC makers' firmware to render visually consistent graphics and messages through the entire boot cycle. It's "a seamless visual experience from the time you hit the power button," said Chafins.

Most important for many users, however, is the fact that Windows 8 will boot in about 8 seconds, according to Microsoft. "Once we realized just how fast boot was going to be in Windows 8, it was obvious that it was the perfect time to tackle the user experience to deliver something seamless, beautiful, and of consumer electronics quality," said Chafins.

Microsoft plans to release two versions of Windows 8. One that runs on PCs powered by standard, x86 processors from Intel and AMD, and one that's geared for tablet devices that use chips that incorporate ARM's system-on-a-chip design. Both versions will offer boot screens that can be controlled through touch rather than a keyboard and mouse.

Microsoft has not announced a ship date for Windows 8. Many analysts believe the OS will be available at some point in 2012.

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