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Using the Windows Vista Performance Tools (part 2)

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5/10/2011 6:13:42 PM

Viewing System Information

Often, when working with a computer, you’ll want to gather technical specifications related to its hardware and software configuration. You can obtain the details by using several different tools and options, but you would likely need to access many different sections in Control Panel. You’d also have to look for details in the file system, Start menu, and the Registry. All of this can be a time-consuming process. Fortunately, there’s a better way.

The System Information utility is designed to collect and present data from the entire Windows Vista system. You can launch it from the Start menu. Figure 12 shows an example of the System Summary view. Important details include the operating system name and version, the system manufacturer and model (if available), and details related to the CPU, memory, and other hardware options.

Figure 12. Using the System Information tool to view a System Summary

In addition to the System Summary, you can easily drill down into the other major sections. These include the following:

  • Hardware Resources This section shows a list of the actual resources that are used by various devices and components in the computer. This information is particularly helpful when troubleshooting hardware-related issues .

  • Components This section provides details related to the various devices that are connected to the computer. For example, if you’re troubleshooting a performance issue related to the network, you can drill down to collect details about the network adapter that is in the system.

  • Software Environment This section provides numerous views that can identify the current configuration of the system. A particularly useful section related to performance optimization is the Startup Programs view. As shown in Figure 13, this provides a list of all of the programs that are scheduled to run when the computer is started, along with the full command and location of the startup configuration details.

Figure 13. Viewing a list of startup programs by using the System Information tool

Working with System Information

Although it is limited to viewing (and not modifying) configuration information, the System Information tool also provides some additional functionality. On the View menu, the Remote Computer option allows this utility to connect to a computer over the network. This is a very useful feature if you’re managing multiple computers on a home network or in a test environment.

You can save the data collected by the System Information tool so you can open it later on either the same or another computer running Windows Vista. The default file extension is .nfo. Another useful feature is the ability to export system information to a text file. This enables you to store configuration details for later viewing.

Finally, the sheer volume of information that’s available through the System Information tool can be daunting. The Find button at the bottom of the window provides a convenient way to locate particular pieces of information without having to navigate to the appropriate section manually.

Understanding the Windows Experience Index

Evaluating the overall performance characteristics of a computer can be a challenging task. Often, you must consider many different subsystems such as CPU, memory, hard disk, and network components. Performance-related details are very important in a variety of different scenarios. For example, when evaluating software packages, potential users must be able to determine whether the software will run properly on their systems. Traditionally, long lists of technical specifications are provided, and customers are expected to determine whether their systems meet or exceed the requirements.

Most consumers lack the technical knowledge to be able to collect and analyze performance specifications for computer hardware. As a Consumer Support Technician, it’s important for you to be able to translate these requirements in a way that is meaningful to users and customers. You also need to be able to run a standard set of tests that can indicate the performance characteristics of a particular computer running Windows Vista.

Evaluating System Performance

To make the process of evaluating system performance easier for both software vendors and consumers, Microsoft has developed a new set of measurements that you can use to approximate the performance of the components within a typical computer. This calculation is known as the Windows Experience Index. The overall base score returned for the entire computer is based on the lowest score of any of the components.

The specific components that are measured include the following:

  • Processor Calculations per second

  • Memory (RAM) Memory operations per second

  • Graphics Desktop performance for Windows Aero

  • Gaming graphics 3D business and gaming graphics performance

  • Primary hard disk Disk data transfer rate

Windows Vista includes a built-in set of tests that you can run for each of these components. Performance-related tests such as these are often called benchmarks. Each of these components receives a particular score when you run the measurement process. The numbers themselves have no units and are designed for relative comparisons. For example, a computer that has a processor component rating of 4.0 is significantly faster than one that has a rating of 2.0.

Viewing the Windows Experience Index Score

By default, Windows Vista performs a Windows Experience Index measurement at the end of the operating system’s installation process. You can then view these details by clicking System And Maintenance and then Performance Information And Tools in Control Panel. Figure 14 provides an example of a sample Windows Experience Index rating collected from within Windows Vista.

Figure 14. Viewing the Windows Experience Index rating for a computer

Of course, it’s possible for the system’s performance characteristics to change. Changes to the hardware configuration or the installation of new drivers require you to rerun the Windows Experience Index tests.

Using Windows Experience Index Scores

Windows Experience Index scores can be helpful to users in determining the overall performance of their computers. You can also use these scores to assess potential upgrades. For example, if a system’s lowest score is for the graphics component, upgrading to a newer or faster video card might provide the most benefit. The scores are also helpful for evaluating software requirements. Rather than stating technical requirements, a minimal score (such as 3.5) can be provided to users.

Software packages that have specific requirements might include recommendations for one or more components. For example, games and entertainment software might require a gaming graphics score of at least 4.5 (see Figure 15). Overall, the Windows Experience Index can make the job of evaluating system performance easier for consumers, vendors, and support professionals.

Figure 15. Comparing information about a game with the computer’s Windows Experience Index rating
Other -----------------
- Using the Windows Vista Performance Tools (part 2)
- Configuring Windows Vista Security : Understanding User Account Control (part 2)
- Configuring Windows Vista Security : Understanding User Account Control (part 1)
- Configuring Windows Vista Security : Managing User Accounts
- Using Windows Security Center (part 3) - Configuring Malware Protection
- Using Windows Security Center (part 2) - Configuring Automatic Updating
- Using Windows Security Center (part 1) - Overview of Windows Security Center & Configuring Windows Firewall
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