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Internet speeds vs. computer boot speeds: Both cases involve digital signals being decrypted, analyzed, and transmitted via software and hardware. Signals from a computer boot only travel as far as the distance between its internal components. But, internet signals travel all over the world. How come when you search Google or Amazon around the world, you get results instantly, where modern computers take between 6 seconds and minutes to boot up?

Let's analyze this further. Many factors, obstacles, and bottlenecks determine the latency and speed of internet signals. It starts with the click of the ENTER button, traveling from your PC around the world and back—ending in drawing the results in pixels on your monitor. The same goes for PC boot speed.

Additionally, the CPU core runs only one thread at a time; threads wait in queues, or tasks are split among multiple cores. When traveling around the world, there are many more signals "in line" than there are inside your own computer.

I'm no expert on digital speeds but let's think like a 6-year-old. To simplify, I'll use three factors: Hardware, Software, and Distance.

DISTANCE:

This one is obvious. Signals from the Internet travel worldwide while signals from a booting computer don't leave your desk.

HARDWARE:

Google or Amazon searches travel through many hardware components - many of which are known to be speed bottlenecks. First, it must pass through YOUR hardware: keyboard, HDD, internal parts, cables, router. Then it passes through many other components, including underwater fiber-optic cables, routers, and hard drives at your ISP, Google's and Amazon's servers, and probably 16 more places where the signals "hop" around.

On the other hand, signals only need to use the hardware within your chassis while booting up a computer.

SOFTWARE:

MANY software programs process Internet signals. A browser's software gathers input and creates packets for transmitting. Your operating system then handles everything. Then your router's software. After that, your ISP's router and server software. And finally, Google and Amazon's routers and servers use sophisticated algorithms to provide you with the most relevant results. When the packets return, your router and PC software is used again. Signals are received analyzed, and instructions are sent to the GPU to display results on your monitor. There's probably a ton more.

On the other hand, when your computer boots, it only needs some software from the BIOS, CPU, GPU, OS, and maybe a few more from various PC components. It loads some software into RAM, and ok, I think you get my point. Booting a computer utilizes a fraction of the software used for internet travel.

TO SUMMARIZE THE QUESTION:

Why do you get internet results in a split second, yet modern 2022 computers take between six seconds and minutes to boot?

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There is no connection between those two times. It's like asking why it takes 10 minutes to cook a pot of pasta but 17 minutes to listen to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Boot time is not limited by the time it takes for an electrical signal to travel from your CPU to your devices, but by other factors.

Boot time varies widely. One of the factors that often makes booting take a long time is a rather obscure matter: when you boot a computer, it probes all connected devices and accessories to find out what is attached to it. For reasons that I don't understand, apparently it can take some devices a long time to respond -- maybe as much as a minute. So, this probing process has to wait for the maximum amount of time it might take for any possible device to respond. There is no fundamental reason why it necessarily needs to take that long for a device to respond; it's just an accidental consequence of engineering and limitations in existing devices.

Another factor has to do with the slowness of hard drives. If you use a magnetic hard drive, then boot time is affected by the time it takes to read in all of the data that is needed during boot -- both the code of all programs, and all the data they use. This, in turn, is limited by the speed of your hard disk. A magnetic hard disk uses a spinning platter. So, the time it takes to read this data can depend on the time it takes for the platter to rotate around from where it currently is, to where the data you need is stored. Notice this has nothing to do with the propagation of electrical signals, but has to do with the speed of movement of a mechanical device, and the latter speed is much much slower than the speed of propagation of electrical signals.

There's a lot more one could say about the time it takes to boot, and it likely depends on many factors, but hopefully this gives you some idea about the complexity and some of the factors that can cause booting to take a while.

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    $\begingroup$ I understand what you're saying; I once owned a data recovery business. Despite this, my PC takes 6-10 seconds to boot up, even with only an M.2 Drive connected. Without going into details, I'd expect a $5K PC with a 3090 GPU to handle probing pretty well. Although I know that 6 seconds is gold, I will still compare it to the internet. Probing my components takes 2,000% longer than internet data takes to travel the world. Blows my mind. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ @ZviTwersky Search engines are literally engineered to have as much of the data you will want ready to send before you need it. Performing a search amounts to connecting with and transferring the data you asked for. Booting a machine simply has to do more work, on demand, than that. $\endgroup$
    – GManNickG
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ @ZviTwersky, yeah, I can understand your surprise. My understanding is that the time to finish probing is driven not by how quickly the devices you own respond; but by how quickly the slowest device one could possibly own responds. Why? Because the computer has to wait for responses, and the wait time needs to be as long as the delay of every possible device that might be connected to your computer. I think. I'm not an expert on this, so there could be gaps or errors in my understanding. $\endgroup$
    – D.W.
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 4:59

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