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Microsoft has focused on strong multicore support in Windows 7 to deliver superior performance. These improvements will really kick in when developers start using Visual Studio 2010, a software development suite that offers greatly improved tools to leverage the power of multiple CPUs.

Jon Devaan is head of Windows Core Operating System Division and led the Windows 7 multicore improvements.  (Source: CNET)
The company is taking multi-core performance very seriously

Microsoft is ready to put the Windows Vista era behind it and is moving on to a Windows 7 world starting October 22. Among Windows 7's greatest strengths is a combination of power and efficiency.  Faster and with new APIs like DirectX 11, the new OS looks to deliver impressive results, assuming driver makers can live up to their end of the bargain and write efficient drivers for the new OS. 

One strength of Windows 7 that's not always talked about, but is lurking under the surface of many of the operating system's advancements is its improved use of multiple cores.  With Intel and AMD flooding the market with multi-core designs, the gigahertz war is dead and a new war is brewing -- a battle for the most cores, and the most efficient cores.

Microsoft has enthusiastically jumped on the opportunity to utilize this power with Windows 7.  The new OS can support up to 256 cores, versus 64 in Vista.  Jon DeVaan, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows Core Operating System Division says this change was particularly weighty.  He states, "One dimension is support for a much larger number of processors and getting good linear scaling on that change from 64 to 256 processors.  There's all kinds of depth in that change."

The improvements that enabled the increased number of cores also will improve performance with standard consumer numbers of cores -- typically 2 to 4 -- via improvements in cache and workload balancing.  Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 also features greatly improved support for multi-threading and should allow Windows applications makers to make more efficient Windows 7 apps that leverage multiple cores.

Evans Data analyst Janel Garvin says that is perhaps the most important change.  He states, "An operating system is never going to be able to take an application that isn't already parallel and make it so. Developers still need to multi-thread their apps.  Microsoft has done surprisingly little until recently to help developers write parallel applications, except for their alliance with Intel to promote Parallel Studio."

He continues, "However, in the last year they've made some announcements and promises for Visual Studio 2010 about enhanced tools for parallel programming. It's likely that the success of Parallel Studio has impressed upon them the importance of providing Windows developers with the tools they need to remain competitive going into the future when manycore will be the standard."

Visual Studio 2010 offers many improvements including Task Parallel Library (used for performing tasks like loops simultaneously when circumstances permit), Parallel Language Integrated Query (PLINQ) (used for parallel data operations), Microsoft Concurrency Runtime (scheduling and resource management), Asynchronous Agents Library (provides improved inter-thread messaging), and finally the Parallel Pattern Library (geared for C++ users).

Despite the vast improvements even Mr. DeVaan acknowledges the art of exploiting multiple cores is still evolving.  He adds, "As an industry, we're going to be working hard to make it work better and working with broad set of developers to target (multicore programming) without undue work.  Will these approaches really accomplish it? That's an open question."

With Microsoft's primary competitor Apple also focusing on multi-threading with its developer-geared Grand Central Dispatch multitasking model built into Snow Leopard, the ability to properly leverage multiple cores is a crucial task for Windows 7.  And it appears that the upcoming OS will be rising to the occasion.

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RE: DirectX 1,1
By exanimas on 10/13/2009 12:27:24 PM , Rating: 2
That's not so much an XP problem as it is a 32-bit operating system problem. Besides, general rule of thumb is that if you know how to use 4GB of RAM with XP, you probably understand why you can't on the 32-bit version.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By totallycool on 10/13/09, Rating: 0
RE: DirectX 1,1
By Ammohunt on 10/13/2009 2:11:06 PM , Rating: 2
Its called PAE which is a hack to get around the 32-bit memory address space limitation intel added a few bits when the pentium pro was introduced essential making the cpu 36-bit. Its not true addressing of the memory. you can add the /3GB switch to XP to enable the PAE functionality to XP i believe.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Smilin on 10/15/2009 2:47:06 PM , Rating: 2
/3GB and /PAE are both available switches in workstation products (xp, 2000pro, vista) but will not allow access to more than 4GB of memory.

The switches are only available in the workstation versions for the purposes of driver development and testing. It is only in the server versions /PAE can help you get past the 4GB physical memory limitation.

Note1: /3GB has nothing to do with physical memory. It merely alters the virtual address space to go from 2/2 to 3/1 for user/kernel.

Note2: /3GB and /PAE should never be used together especially on a box running terminal services. Each depletes system PTEs and when used together can cause a total depletion and a bugcheck.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By DrizztVD on 10/13/2009 2:37:13 PM , Rating: 2
No, that is definitely an XP problem, otherwise explain to me how Windows 2000 Advanced server could access 8GB and Windows 2000 Datacenter server could access 32GB of memory.

Vista 32 bit has the exact same limitation as XP. And I wouldn't be surprised if Win7 32 bit was the same. The reason is quite simple really: Developers don't expect users of these operating systems to use PAE. And with the low-level addressing drivers use, these things will crash if they're not PAE-compatible (or Large-Address aware).

So to improve the experience of the average user and keep the blue screens at bay, there is a configuration file that limits the address space. You can copy this config file out of Windows Server OS and replace it with the existing one to gain the use of PAE-like address sizes. But if your PC crashes after a driver install- I told you so.

RE: DirectX 1,1
By Belard on 10/14/2009 12:53:56 AM , Rating: 2
Er.... 32bit OS has a 4GB memory limit. It has nothing to do with forcing a limitation.

While its easily possible (and is done) to limit the number of CPUs the OS can access. Like Win7 Home = 1CPU, Win Pro/Ultimate = 2CPUs. Or memory access:

basic = 8 GB
Home = 16GB
Pro = 192GB

PAE of course is trying to fix something that is isn't broken... which of course causes problems.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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