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The Performance Impact Of Ubuntu's Wubi Windows Installer

Michael Larabel

Published on 21 October 2010
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - 10 Comments

Being developed since 2007 and integrated in Ubuntu since 2008 with their Ubuntu 8.04 LTS release has been Wubi, the Windows-based Ubuntu Installer. While most Linux users tend to install Ubuntu using the LiveCD or the alternate CD installer, by using Wubi you can setup a full desktop from within Microsoft Windows. Wubi places Ubuntu into a disk image still residing on the Windows partition, thereby making it easy to install and remove without risking any problems of messing up your drive's partitions. While Wubi may lower the barrier for entry to trying out an Ubuntu Linux desktop, it does not come without some performance penalties associated to using the loop-mounted device stored on the Microsoft file-system.

Coming out of a reader request that pointed out an AskUbuntu.com question regarding Wubi performance differences, we decided to run some simple tests to quantitatively show the performance differences. We carried out a clean install of Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64 with its NTFS file-system taking up the entire disk. After Windows 7 x64 was installed, we immediately ran the Ubuntu 10.10 Wubi installer to carry out some benchmarks. After those benchmarks of Ubuntu 10.10 via Wubi were carried out, we wiped the disk using a clean install of Ubuntu 10.10 from the LiveCD with its default EXT4 file-system occupying the entire hard drive. All operating systems were left in their default configurations.

The system we used for benchmarking Wubi from the LiveCD installer to a real EXT4 partition and then when installing Ubuntu under Windows with Wubi was a Lenovo ThinkPad T61 notebook. Besides Wubi creating a disk image for the root file-system, there is also a disk SWAP image created as well. The ThinkPad had an Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 dual-core CPU, 4GB of DDR3 system memory, a 100GB Hitachi HTS72201 SATA 2.0 7200RPM HDD, and NVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M graphics. The key Ubuntu 10.10 (x86_64) components worth noting are the Linux 2.6.35 kernel, GNOME 2.32.0, X.Org Server 1.9.0, xf86-video-nouveau 0.0.16, GCC 4.4.5, and the default EXT4 file-system.

We ran a variety of benchmarks with Ubuntu Wubi but it was largely with the disk test profiles where a performance delta was found, so we published those results, which include Gzip compression, Compile Bench, FS-Mark, IOzone, Unpack Linux, PostgreSQL, SQLite, and PostMark. This testing was, of course, done using the Phoronix Test Suite.

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