A few of today’s Linux distributions (along with a few older ones) were installed and timed using a regular stopwatch to mirror real-world usage times, and here are the results.
- Fedora 19 64-bit
- Kubuntu 13.04 64-bit
- Linux Mint 10 64-bit
- Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon 64-bit
- Mageia 3 64-bit (LXDE)
- openSUSE 12.3 64-bit (Gnome)
- Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit
- Xubuntu 13.04 64-bit
Most installations were updated using the latest updates and kernel 3.10.12 to reflect a typical system for use. Fedora, openSUSE, and Mageia were not updated or given newer kernels. Linux Mint 10 and Ubuntu 10.10 were limited to kernel 3.4.0. 3.10.12 will install and run for Linux Mint 10 and Ubuntu 10.10, but the 3.10.12 linux-header-*-generic.deb file results in a broken package due to an outdated libc6. This means newer software will not compile, so kernel 3.4.0 was used.
VirtualBox Guest Additions were installed to all virtual machines.
- VirtualBox 4.2.18 on a 64-bit Host
- All virtual machines were given identical virtual hardware settings
- All installed to SSD (solid state drive)
The typical time it takes to perform a full, clean system installation from a Linux ISO image. Timed from the first “Install” button click to the reboot prompt once installation is complete. Any user input dialogs are included as a part of this time since input entry is a part of the system installation process.
Installed and ran each virtual machine separately without any extra host system processes
System upgrades, kernel upgrades, and Guest Additions were not included as a part of the time since the upgrade times varied too much–even with equivalent distributions.
Start to Login
“How long does it take to see the login prompt?”
The time elapsed from clicking the “Start” button in VirtualBox to the login prompt screen of the virtual machine. Username and password entry is not included as a part of the startup time since this varies based upon complexity.
Login to Desktop
“How long does it take to go from login to desktop?”
The time elapsed from pressing “Enter” at the login screen until a usable desktop appears and the user has control of the virtual machine (i.e. can do something with it).
“How long does it take to shutdown the virtual machine?”
The time elapsed from clicking the final “Shutdown” button inside the virtual machine to the disappearance of the VirtualBox guest window. The final shutdown prompt is often a confirmation dialog. The timing starts at this point.
Ease of Installation
An extra category records the relative ease of installation. Did the install prompts make sense? Were the buttons located in logical locations? Was it hard to figure things out? Linux is quite good at making system installation thoughtlessly simple. Users cannot go wrong unless delving into the advanced aspects of partitioning and LVMs (Logical Volume Managers), but the defaults are plenty for most, and the advanced functions are hidden unless needed.
Some distributions did require a little thought, but not much. The only differences were minor, and all installations proceeded smoothly.
Results Using VirtualBox 4.2.18
Linux Install Ease Start Login Shutdown --------------------------------------------------------------------- Fedora 19 64-bit 5m47s -1 16s 5s 4s Kubuntu 13.04 64-bit 2m23s Yes 9s 5s 6s Linux Mint 10 64-bit 2m27s Yes 9.69s 3s 11.85s Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon 64-bit 3m40s Yes 10s 3s 11s Mageia 3 64-bit (LXDE) 6m49s -1 13s 1.5s 8s openSUSE 12.3 64-bit (Gnome) 3m Yes 18s 3s 11s Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit 2m35s Yes 9.85s 2.85s 11.8s Xubuntu 13.04 64-bit 4m2s Yes 8s 2s 12s
m = minutes
s = seconds
Times are close approximates, not exact times. Simple observation and stopwatch button-mashing was used.
-1 means one point subtracted for ease of installation due to minor, less-than-intuitive processes during installation. For example, the continue button was located in the upper left corner of the screen for one distribution. Other distributions placed their continue buttons on the lower right to make it easy to click-click-click. Of course, this is a minor issue, but it did require some time to figure out–especially since the VirtualBox guest window was partially off-screen causing the continue button in the upper left to be hidden from view and inaccessible.
Also, for -1, installation progress buttons would not appear properly in VirtualBox. They were hidden with a black or light-yellow bar, but moving the mouse over the area would make the buttons appear. This was most likely a graphical glitch involving VirtualBox or a misconfigured display setting. Once the virtual machine was installed and rebooted, graphics behaved properly with or without the Guest Additions.
Will these times be the same for every user and every system? No. Different systems and virtual configurations will be different, and this might result in different times. However, on the test system, these times were consistent. Each virtual Linux machine was started multiple times to get an accurate reading.
Linux Mint 10 and Ubuntu 10.10, by appearance, offered the snappiest user interface response and decent boot times in VirtualBox. The later Linux distributions somehow feel more bloated, and as a result, they seem to take longer even though measurements show that increase in time is not that much.
Kubuntu 13.04 was a surprise because it offered the fastest boot-to-login time given its KDE desktop, which usually took minutes to load in the past on a normal hard drive. This speed increase might be due to the SSD. On the other hand, Ubuntu 10.10 and Linux Mint 10 boot just as fast on an SSD as they do on a normal hard drive. An SSD did not make these operating system boot or shutdown any faster, so this might be a distribution limitation.
Mageia’s LXDE offered the fastest login to desktop time at 1.5 seconds. It seemed almost instant. However, while the installation screens were slick and polished, the actual desktop environment felt like it needed improvement before becoming as usable as Cinnamon or KDE.
Ever wondered how fast Linux distributions boot and shutdown in VirtualBox? Then, here are some estimates to help provide an idea. There are far too many distributions available to test them all, but VirtualBox offers outstanding performance with Linux, so it might be safe to assume that any Linux distribution will run well until proven otherwise.