Benchmarking Visual Studio Performance: One Developer’s Experience, Part I

By: Mike Baker, Lead Developer

*Mike has been in the technology field for 15 years, has been a .NET developer since 2001 and served as a lead developer since 2002.

I’ve been a .NET developer since the beginning (first  Visual Studio.NET beta in 2001?).  Everyone who has worked with the Visual Studio IDE knows that it is a bit of a resource hog, and that it is always a good idea to have the best hardware you can afford to run it.  Solution loading times are not the greatest, and become worse when using  a third-party productivity tool like ReSharper.  Compilation times can also be frustratingly slow, taking several minutes in extreme cases.  I’ve been doing some research to  determine what single hardware change I could make that would get me the biggest improvements in Visual Studio performance.  Opinions vary around the net, with CPU, memory, and hard drive all being mentioned as the most important thing to upgrade.

I recently decided to put together a new home computer as my previous one was a bit outdated, so I figured this would be a good time to do some tests to see what hardware changes offer the greatest Visual Studio performance improvement.  I built the machine with the latest and greatest, choosing the Intel Core I7-920 (2.67Ghz) CPU, Kingston DDR3 2000MHz memory (6GB), and a Solid State Drive (SSD).

I was especially interested in Solid State Drives as they are well known for their very fast read times, faster than any conventional platter-based hard drive, so I figured a large performance gain could be had by using a SSD.  It was not possible to consider a SSD until recently, because the write performance was not up to par compared with more mainstream hard drives.  Over the last year or so there have been improvements, and now the write speeds are on par or even exceed what can be achieved with even the fastest 10,000 RPM SATA drives.  The drawback is that they are still quite expensive, costing $3.00/GB or more compared to the $0.10/GB cost for mainstream drives.  However, you can buy a small SSD, and use it as your OS drive (and in this case the Visual Studio drive), and use additional low-cost drives for other programs/storage.

The drive I chose was the Intel X25-M, 2nd generation (G2), 80GB:

IntelX25Drive

The drive had good reviews, and was on sale at Newegg for $239.00.  Sequential read speeds are an impressive 250MB/s, and write speeds are quite acceptable at 70MB/s.  The drive is being used as the OS drive + Visual Studio drive.

Once I put the new computer together I set up some test environments so I could break down performance based on CPU, memory, and hard drive:

Scenario 1: Tested with the OS and Visual Studio (plus Resharper and some other third-party tools) installed on the SSD, and “sped up” the CPU and memory with overclocking (CPU increased to 3.3GHz, and memory set to 2000MHz).
Scenario 2: Similar to 1, but with no overclocking of CPU (CPU was set at the default 2.67GHz, while memory remained at 2000MHz).
Scenario 3: Similar to 1, but with no overclocking of memory (CPU set at 3.3GHz, with the memory  “underclocked” to 975MHz)
Scenario 4: Tested with the OS and Visual Studio installed on a slower 7200 RPM conventional drive (with CPU set at 3.3GHz and memory set at 2000MHz)

With these four configurations I should be able to differentiate what piece of hardware is giving me the best Visual Studio performance boost.

Stay tuned to hear the results, but in the meantime, has anyone else given this a try themselves? I’d be curious to hear about your experience…

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