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Windows 7 probably has the weight of the world on its shoulders. Microsoft needs their latest operating system to be a wild success to undo the spate of negative comments leveled since the arrival of Windows Vista.

Intel is in a similar predicament. The chipmaker needs sales growth and market domination by its Nehalem processors to bring the company back to glory days.

Both Intel and Microsoft need a lot more than hype to turn things around, the companies need products that deliver real value and garner loyalty. Together, both may able to achieve their individual goals.

The real secret here is to expose what a Windows 7 and Nehalem combo can deliver, and the answer is surprisingly simple – performance.

We set out to see if Windows 7 can indeed leverage the features of the Nehalem processor to boost performance, without incurring any type of a price penalty. We did not want to have to add any RAM or change any components, or change any settings to make sure that we had a level playing field.

For our first test, we compared a 64-bit version of Vista Ultimate to a 64-bit version of Windows 7 (release candidate) on an Intel i7 system that we had constructed and reviewed (/tech-companies/intels-core-i7-cpu-cranks-up-performance//). That system was able to score an impressive Passmark rating of 2412.2 using Performance Test V 6.1 from PassMark. The system was able to boot up in about 55 seconds and a shutdown took about 70 seconds. All in all, pretty good performance for a Vista PC.

Installing Windows 7 RC1 on that same system revealed several performance enhancements. First off, boot up was reduced to less than 40 seconds, shutdowns took about 15 seconds. The icing on the cake came from the new performance numbers offered by PassMark, the system’s rating increased to 2749.9, a 14 percent increase. With Windows 7, applications seemed to be more responsive, loaded quicker and were able to access files perceivably faster.

To make sure the PassMark ratings were not a fluke, we proceeded with another test, using a new SuperMicro workstation (/news-and-trends/supermicro-unleashes-a-workhorse-dual-xeon-nehalem-workstation//). While running Windows Vista Ultimate 64 bit, the SuperWorkStation 7046A-3 garnered a PassMark rating of 3249.3. Switching to Windows 7, the SuperWorkStation 7046A-3  improved its PassMark score to 3801.4, an increase of almost 17 percent.

All things being equal, we were expecting to see a performance increase to 14 percent, similar to our first test system. The extra 3 percent in performance probably comes from Windows 7’s ability to better manage multiple processors and larger amounts of memory.

Any way you slice it, Windows 7 helps to make high-end processors more appealing and helps Intel to demonstrate more value for their top of the line CPUs. Call it a symbiotic relationship or serendipity or whatever you will, it just seems that i7 and Win 7 were meant for each other.