Microsoft’s extensive efforts over the past year to enhance the fundamentals of Windows have culminated in a series of significant upgrades to the Windows operating system, improving speed, reliability, flagship application performance, and even sustainability.

Striking Performance Improvements

In a standout feat, shell interactions including Taskbar, Notifications, and Quick Settings have seen improvements by up to 15%. The time to reach the desktop has been reduced by 10%, and the impact of startup apps has been slashed by a remarkable 50%. Microsoft’s new Energy Recommendations and a Carbon-Aware Windows Update have pushed PCs to become more sustainable, averaging a 6% reduction in energy consumption for users who adopt these settings.

The reliability of Windows 11 has elevated it as the most reliable Windows version ever produced, a crown it continues to secure with ongoing updates. With a faster startup time and a resource-saving feature called “Sleeping Tabs”, Microsoft Edge now conserves up to 83% memory for background tabs. Meanwhile, the new Microsoft Teams app for Windows runs twice as fast as before, utilizing half the resources.

Building Windows for a Billion Users

With Windows serving over one billion users worldwide and being central to many products such as PCs, Azure, Xbox, and HoloLens, the task of preventing regressions and expediting improvements in such a massive ecosystem is challenging. However, Microsoft is transforming this challenge into an opportunity by developing a robust infrastructure and a plethora of tools to identify and rectify performance issues on a vast scale.

A decade ago, performance analysts faced significant challenges with slow and cumbersome processes of beta release to external users and reacting to bugs reported by users and partners. Today, Microsoft’s approach to guarantee performance is far more streamlined and efficient. This begins during the design phase, where performance goals are defined based on extensive user expectations research. Categorizing these as “interaction classes” helps set targets for user interactions.

A Comprehensive Approach to Performance Optimization

During the development phase, daily performance gates measure key Windows performance indicators, from UX experiences to memory and storage. Microsoft conducts over one million machine hours of validation daily to ensure build quality. Following an internal evaluation of performance measures, Microsoft flights builds to the Windows Insider community for quality feedback across various device configurations and use cases.

Microsoft’s approach to performance improvement in Windows is rooted in an enormous volume of diagnostic data and feedback that they receive daily. This data, consisting of over 2.5 million cabs per day, more than 12 million performance traces annually, and over 70.4 billion scenario performance data points yearly, empowers Microsoft to comprehend the distribution of real-world performance observed by users across a diverse ecosystem of devices.

Tuning Performance at the Granular Level

The performance of a system is variable; it differs based on hardware, apps in use, and the unique ways individuals use their systems. Microsoft’s ability to analyze traces at scale helps identify issues that could affect a scenario’s responsiveness. This ranges from scenario-specific code, IO delays, to kernel level scheduling optimizations, and driver quality issues.

One such instance is the Instant On experience provided by Windows 11. With improvements in silicon, camera drivers, display drivers, and the OS, Microsoft was able to deliver a 10% faster experience on devices like the Surface Laptop 5 and Surface Pro 9, with a rapid, password-less login experience.

Spotlight on Windows 11 Updates

The recent updates to Windows 11 have been engineered to amplify user experience and performance. These updates include Enhanced Secure Sign-On, which improves performance by up to 10% under memory pressure, and a more consistent Windows Hello performance with App Orchestration.

Furthermore, Microsoft has made over 300 different performance improvements through company-wide training, including a faster post-boot experience, File Explorer improvements, and reduced game stutter with high report rate mice.

A Step into the Future with February and May Updates

The February and May updates of Windows 11 have brought various improvements, including Taskbar and Task View performance improvements, reduced launch time for Quick Settings and Notification Center, decreased CPU and memory usage in Explorer, and a reduction in disk size.

Key Apps on Windows Shine

Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Teams have also seen improvements. Edge’s “Efficiency mode” can extend battery life on average by 25 minutes, and Teams operates 2x faster while consuming half the resources.

As Microsoft continues to invest in performance, efficiency, and reliability with every update, they also encourage users to share feedback. With plans to continue making improvements for their over one billion users worldwide in the coming year, the journey of Windows seems brighter than ever.