One of the problems first noticed with Vista was how long it took to simply copy a file or files from one hard drive to another - it seemed to be massively slower than on XP. Microsoft mostly fixed this with Vista Service Pack 1 but we thought it would be interesting to see how things were for Windows 7.
We transferred both a single big file of 535MB and a folder containing 515 files totalling 1GB from one partition (I:\) on the hard drive to another (C:\). We then deleted the original file and copied the copy back to I:\ and then finally repeated the first copy. This process enables Window's caching algorithms, which remember what files have just been moved and make it quicker to work with them again, to kick in. By accounting for this we get a closer representation of how long it might take you to move files around your computer.
Here we see the second bit of solid evidence to suggest Windows 7 might have a recordable performance advantage over Windows Vista and at least in the large transfer tests, its a big gap - even beating XP. Windows 7 stills keeps its nose ahead of Vista in the small file transer but evidently there's something going on that means caching isn't as effective in the newer OS's.
Our final quantifiable test was to manually record the bootup, reboot, and shutdown times of each setup.
Here we had our second major problem with the XP setup; in order to get the installer disc to recognise our hard drives, we had to install an Intel RAID driver/utility from a floppy. This driver loaded before the OS and added a good 5-10 seconds to the total boot time. This obviously skewed our results somewhat but we've included the figures anyway for brevity. The key thing to note is that Windows 7 has a clear lead over Vista in this department.