Windows 7's WEI Gets a Boost


As noted by Gizmodo , Windows 7 has made quite a few tweaks to the Windows Experience Index (WEI) first introduced by Windows Vista. For those of you tuning in late, the WEI tests hardware performance of five subsystems (processor, memory, desktop graphics, 3D gaming graphics, and hard disk), calculates a score for each one, and uses the lowest subsystem score as your WEI base score.

Since just after Windows Vista shipped, users of high-performance components, especially graphics cards, have been complaining loudly about Vista's WEI top score being capped at 5.9. While the Minpaso database of Vista WEI scores calculates a "presumption score" to try to make allowances for today's faster hardware, there hasn't been an official move from Microsoft until now. The code jockeys in Redmond heard you, and the top WEI subsystem and base score in Windows 7 is 7.9.

Windows Vista's WEI scores reflect mid-2006 technologies, and a lot has happened since then. As discussed by our friends at the Engineering Windows 7 blog, rankings in the 6.0-7.9 range are designed to handle these new technologies:

As an example for gaming users, we expect systems with gaming graphics scores in the 6.0 to 6.9 range to support DX10 graphics and deliver good frames rates at typical screen resolutions (like 40-50 frames per second at 1280x1024).

In fact, you must also have a WDDM 1.1 driver and DirectX 10 GPU support or your graphics score is capped at 5.9.

That makes sense, but what has a lot of Windows 7 users who previously ran Windows Vista confused is the difference in how Windows 7 tests hard disk performance. Don't be surprised to see lower WEI hard disk subsystem scores on an identical system if you move from Windows Vista to Windows 7. Windows 7's WEI subsystem tests are designed to more accurately test how drives react to mixtures of typical operation than the tests used in Windows Vista's WEI.

As you might expect with a beta, there are still a few hiccups in the Windows 7 WEI, particularly in the hard disk test. As comments at the Engineering Windows 7 blog post point out, some hard disks get higher WEI subsystem scores if write caching is disabled (which should actually lower performance).

So, if you're running Windows 7 on the same hardware you used for Vista, how do your WEI subsystem and base scores compare? Hit Comment and tell us.

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