Is the Windows Experience Index really of any value?

Those who follow me on Twitter (@markwilsonit) may have seen a few comments about the Windows Vista laptop that I’m currently fixing for a family member, who decided not to “bother” me when they bought a new computer, yet still relies on me for help when it doesn’t work as intended…

The laptop was woefully underpowered, with just 1GB of RAM (but only 768MB available) and an Intel Celeron 540 CPU running at 1.87GHz.  Patching the operating system seemed to improve things slightly (it was running Windows Vista RTM, with no updates successfully applied for over 18 months) but what it really needed was more RAM. The Crucial System Scanner told me it had a single memory module, with room for one more, so I invested the princely sum of £13.67 in making the system usable.

Not surprisingly, the addition of the extra memory to the machine changed the Windows Experience Index values for memory operations per second but it also significantly increased the graphics score:

Component What is rated? Fujitsu-Siemens Esprimo V5535, Celeron 540, 1GB RAM Fujitsu-Siemens Esprimo V5535, Celeron 540, 2GB RAM
Processor Calculations per second 4.1 4.1
Memory (RAM) Memory operations per second 3.9 4.4
Graphics Desktop performance for Windows Aero 3.5 4.9
Gaming graphics 3D business and gaming graphics performance 3.2 3.2
Primary hard disk Disk data transfer rate 5.1 5.1

Unfortunately, Windows Vista Home Basic doesn’t include Aero (there are some workarounds on the ‘net but they didn’t seem to work for me), so I left the system running as normal.

What I found bizarre though was that even the crippled system with 1GB of RAM and only a few MB free (which was almost unusable, it was so slow) had similar Windows Experience Index scores to my everyday laptop – a much more powerful machine with an Intel Core 2 Due P8400 CPU at 2.26GHz, 4GB RAM and Windows 7 x64:

Component What is rated? Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook S7220, Core2Duo P8400, 4GB RAM
Processor Calculations per second 3.1
Memory (RAM) Memory operations per second 4.3
Graphics Desktop performance for Windows Aero 4.1
Gaming graphics 3D business and gaming graphics performance 3.4
Primary hard disk Disk data transfer rate 4.5

Perhaps Microsoft updated the Windows Experience Index algorithm between Vista and 7, or between 32- and 64-bit systems, (I thought they just increased the maximum score from 5.9 to  7.9) but it seems to make a mockery of the “experience index” when a basic consumer system scores more highly than a mid-range business machine.

5 thoughts on “Is the Windows Experience Index really of any value?


  1. Not all that surprised to see an increase in graphics performance. I’d assume that the consumer laptop used shared memory for graphics, and with more breathing room (Vista easily uses 1Gb, as you know!) the performance of the graphics increased.

    Regarding the change between WEI in Vista and Windows 7 – there were changes in how it worked – see the e7 blog post (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/e7/archive/2009/01/19/engineering-the-windows-7-windows-experience-index.aspx)

    Out of interest, did the consumer laptop scores change after the installation of the latest service pack?


  2. Hi Dave, I was surprised because the GPU was grabbing 256MB of RAM, both before and after the memory upgrade – so no change really. The changes between Vista and 7 would explain why the Lifebook (business) model seems to be scoring badly compared with the Esprimo (consumer) model – I have to admit I stopped reading the e7 posts because they were so long (and dull) – thanks for sharing. As for the post-SP scores, I only noted the WEI after both machines were fully patched, so I can’t really comment on that.


  3. Aha – if it was grabbing 256MB regardless, then there’d probably have been impact with paging to disk, which probably didn’t happen once you’d upgraded the memory.

    Not that this helps, but it might explain it?


  4. Paging definitely explains improved performance – still can’t see how that impacts on graphics but, hey ho! My really concern was that there seemed to be so little difference between the WEI for the two machines, despite one being a lot more capable than the other! I’m not going to get them both onto the same OS to carry out a fair comparison though, so I guess I’ll never really know why…


  5. Mark, how did the boot times of the two machines compare, before and after the memory increase? When you say that your laptop is a lot more capable, in what ways is that evident in use? Boot time? App launch times? General responsiveness? How well would the WEI correlate with these? Maybe WEI measures the wrong things.

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