Fedora 12 vs. Windows 7

Fedora 11

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File Systems

After the grand launch of much awaited “Windows 7”, on October 22' 2009 here comes Fedora 12, code names Constantine. In this story we will try to see how Fedora 12 fares against Windows 7 plus will also compare the Ext4 (one of the key highlights of Fedora 12) against Ext3 and NTFS.

One of the key enhancements in Fedora 12 is the Ext4 boot support which was not there in Fedora 11. But coming to the desktop of Fedora 12, it still doesn't impress me because the Compiz effects are still more or less the same and I don't see much of the difference as compared to Fedora 11. Some other enhancements of Fedora 12 are better touch screen and tablet support, and an improved Bluetooth stack.

Price: Free
Key Specs: Ext4 filesystem,improved support for moblin core, touch screen and tablet support, etc.
Pros: OS can boot from Ext4 filesystem which was not possible in previous versions, faster Boot-up & shutdown time than Win 7.
Cons: Not much of a difference in Ext3/Ext4
performance, scored lower than Win 7 in Geekbench
Website: http://fedoraproject.org

Primer on filesystems
Filesystems define a method to store and retrieve files from disk. Here we tried comparing the two Linux Filesystems: Ext3 and Ext4 and NTFS on Windows 7. NTFS File system has been designed for the Windows NT stream of operating systems for enterprise users keeping in mind the security constraints. It has become the default filesystem for all Windows based OSes. Similarly, on the Linux distros, Ext2, Ext3, and now Ext4 are the defacto filesystems.

Tests and test bed
We ran a slew of tests on both OSes to find out the best one. Some of our tests tried to answer common practical questions like how long does each OS take to install? How much disk space was used in the standard installation process? How long does boot up and shutdown time take? Plus, we ran the Geekbench benchmark. We used a machine with an Intel Quad Core CPU @ 2.66 GHz , 4 GB RAM, and Maxtor's 250 GB HDD@ 7200 rpm.

This graph shows the different test results in terms of time consumed. Lesser time means better performance.

The results
The testing process started with Windows 7 Ultimate( 64-bit), and the total number of clicks to install Win 7 was just 12 as compared to Fedora which required 16. The total time taken by Windows 7 to install was approximately 16 minutes and 50 seconds. The boot up time for Windows 7 was 45 seconds and shutdown was only 11 seconds. We also tested the time taken to copy 100MB file from a USB to HDD and vice-versa. It took only 14 seconds to copy from the USB to HDD and 1 min and 8 secs to copy from an HDD to USB.

We installed Fedora 12 on the same machine and the time taken by it was just 13 mins and 3 seconds for a default package selection, beating Windows 7 by 3 mins. The number of clicks to install the Linux distro was four more than Windows 7, ie 16. The file system was by default, Ext4. We selected the entire drive and did not create any extra partitions on any of the OSes. The installation time taken by Fedora 12 with Ext3 file system on it was 13 minutes and 38 seconds.

Filesystem overview

Ext3: Except for rare hardware failures, the Ext3 file system does not require a file system check, even in case of hard shutdown. This is because of the consistency factor of the file system. The second benefit is data integrity. The other factors are speed and easy transition from old file systems.

Ext4 or the fourth extended file system is also a journaling file system developed as a successor to Ext3. As the Ext3 file system is partially forward compatible with Ext4, the Ext4 is backward compatible with Ext2/Ext3, thus making it possible to mount the Ext3 filesystem as Ext4. This means you don't even need to convert it. The Ext4 file system is now included in most of the distributions. Talking about Ext4, the maximum filesystem size is 16 TB (32-bit block numbers) which defeats the Ext3 filesystem size of 2TB.

NTFS: This filesystem is a high-performance file system which is based on the Master File table (MFT) concept and is able to hold detailed information on files, thus allowing the use of long names. It is also a self-healing file system, which supports file level security, and data compression. Please refer to the table for a clear picture of different features of these file systems.

File Systems Max.File Size Max.Volume Size Max.Filename length Encryption Hard-links Symbolic-links
EXT 4 16 GB-16 TB 1 EB* 256 bytes No Yes Yes
EXT 3 16 GB-2 TB 2 TB-32 TB 255 bytes No Yes Yes
NTFS 16 EB 16 EB 255 characters Yes Yes Yes
*EB = ExaByte

But while testing the same with Ext3 we found that there was hardly any difference in the bootup time as well as the shutdown time. It took around 30 seconds to bootup and 12 sec to shutdown. We also measured the time taken for copying a 100MB file from USB to HDD and vice-versa. The USB to HDD time was 8 seconds (Ext3) and 9 sec (Ext4). To copy the 100 MB folder from HDD to USB, it took 42 secs (Ext3) and 35 secs for (Ext4). We also copied a 1GB file on Fedora 12 file systems and the time taken was almost the same. Fedora 12(Ext3) OS took four mins and five seconds and the one with Ext4 file system took exactly four minutes. The time taken for Fedora 12 (Ext3 and Ext4) vs Windows 7 to boot up, shutdown and copy files was also measured. Fedora 12 took lesser time which means it was faster.

Here you can see Windows 7 is clearly the winner. Higher the Geekbench score, the better the performance of an OS.

Geekbench scores: Here, the scores were 4697 for Fedora 12 (Ext3), 4668 (Ext4) and 5856 for Windows 7. The scores with Ext 4 was surprisingly lower than Ext3 and both were lower than Win 7 scores.

Conclusion: Fedora's Ext4 file system was supposed to be superior giving better results and better performance. But this was not the case. Both OSes showed similar results.

Madhur Chawla

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