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WinXP Pro with .NET Server performance? Forget it…

Seems it's not as good as it sounds once you've got there

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In response to our piece on NTSwitch earlier this week, reader David Bazile was sufficiently fired up to try the routine. NTSwitch purports to demonstrate that there are relatively minimal differences between Microsoft server and workstation operating systems by allowing you to switch between, say Win2k workstation and server, and XP Pro and .NET Server. In either direction.

Naturally, you do so at your own risk anyway, and your licensing situation is between you, your conscience and the Microsoft Piracy SWAT Team. And you'd probably be right in thinking that nothing in this world is free. David tried it the other way round, turning .NET Server into XP Pro, and it turns out that even the eccentric route to licensing unorthodoxy is somewhat unsatisfactory. Here's what he has to say:

This article was written for anyone who read the one on The Register and said to themselves: ".NET Server performance, and it thinks it's XP Pro? WOW! I've gotta try this!" (that's what I said to myself...). This is basically a warning in advance. Unless you actually run a server or use Windows primarily for number crunching &/or memory/cpu-critical processing, .NET Server is *not* for you.

I'll start off with a mini-review of the obvious features in .NET Server for those who might think that we XP Pro users are being cheated. A few things I really liked are:
-The serious focus on security rather than catering to idiocy. It actually tells you how to form good passwords; it even goes over the blueprints of one (both uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols such as @$#%^, and numbers).
-The handling of Ctrl+Alt+Del, which handles it the same way Windows 2000 does, IIRC. It requires you to use that key combination when logging into the machine
-The final product after installation is not as bloated with unneccessary software (movie maker, messenger, card games, etc) as XP Pro. The Program Files folder contains 9 folders total.

I read about the whole "NTSwitch" program a few days ago and became excited... Besides being an aesthetics fanatic, I'm an upgrade fanatic as well; anything with a higher number and/or shiny new package gets me going. I said to myself ".NET Server performance, and it thinks it's XP Pro? WOW!" So, I got the latest copy, elected myself as guinea pig and installed. I ran into a few problems, none of which I couldn't fix with a little time and scrutiny. So with everything in place, I ran NTSwitch, which worked perfectly. After one reboot, I was looking at the familiar loading screen of Windows XP Professional.

The first observation

My first so-called "test" was done using Adobe Photoshop 6 to do some very arbitrary routines on an image. At first I thought it was the dimensions of the image (1280x1024), but after playing with it a little bit more, I realized that there definitely are other performance bottlenecks other than the image dimensions. I found this out when I was editing a pure-text layer (the font I used was 8pt Arial Black with no extra effects). Hiding or showing even a layer as simple as this was like pulling teeth--a very slow process. Running on XP Pro, it is almost instantaneous.

The second observation

I found a few other noticeable visual performance problems. One lies in the Device Manager, which uses animated sliding of items in the little tree control--the sliding is very choppy. Another lies in something as simple as minimizing/maximizing a window. It takes a while, even if the Themes service is shut down.

What's the moral of this story? Windows.NET Server's visual performance is beyond lacking (understandably). Hey, don't get me wrong--if you want to try it, knock yourself out, but you'll be banging your head against the wall if you're thinking about using the operating system for anything other than a dedicated server. And for anyone, preparing to flame me (congratulations on actually reading this far!) with sarcastic variations of "hey, moron, that's why it's called .NET SERVER", I just have one thing to say: I wrote this for anyone else like me who was curious about using NTSwitch on .NET to "turn it into" XP Professional. It makes the system think it is Windows XP Professional, but it is NOT. You will not see the same performance with certain applications with .NET as you did with XP. If you ask me, it only works to enable you to run some software that wouldn't install on the Server versions. ®

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