Windows XP System Performance Analysis Tools

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Monitoring and optimizing Windows XP can be a book all by itself. Please keep in mind while reviewing this section that this will provide you with the basic knowledge to optimize your system. Detailed information can be obtained through the Microsoft Windows XP Resource kit.

Before you can optimize your system, you will need to monitor all the critical subsystems, such as memory, processor, disk, and network, to see if anything needs to be changed or upgraded on your system. Windows XP comes with two tools: System Monitor and Performance Logs and Alerts. These can be found in the Performance console, under Administrative Tools in Control Panel.

These system tools will allow you to create a baseline, identify system bottlenecks, and determine trends.

A baseline is a snapshot of how your system is performing. It is a good idea to take a baseline report at the same time every day for a set period of time. This will allow you to get a real feel for how your system is reacting to different requests.

A bottleneck is a system resource that is causing slowdowns because of inefficient performance. By setting counters (which we will review a little later in this chapter), you will be able to ascertain which, if any, of your systems may be causing degraded performance.

Determining trends, on the other hand, is a proactive approach to optimization. If you monitor your system on a regular basis, you may notice that your page file usage is increasing slowly but steadily. This will indicate that you will need to upgrade the amount of RAM in your system in the future. Determining trends allows you to predict what upgrades your system may need in the future so that you can plan accordingly.

System Monitor
System Monitor allows you to view real time performance of your system. You can capture this data in a log as well, so that you can view it at a later time. When you first open System Monitor, you will notice that nothing is being tracked. This is because you must first set counters to monitor the particular process in which you are interested. These counters will be displayed on the screen.

There are three views available to you in System Monitor:
• Chart
(The default view) allows you to view a small number of counters over a set period of time.
• Histogram
(Bar chart) allows you to view a large number of counters as a snapshot.
• Report
Allows you to view the counters in text format in real time.

Performance Logs and Alerts
Using the Performance Logs and Alerts will allow you to create counter and trace logs, as well as define alerts. Counter logs record data about hardware usage and activity on a system. You can configure logging to occur on a regular basis, or on-demand. Trace logs measure data on a continuous basis. Alerts are messages that are sent to the system administrator when a specific counter exceeds, or falls below, a predetermined setting. 

Deborah Timmons is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. She came into the Microsoft technical field after six years in the adaptive technology field, providing technology and training for persons with disabilities. She is the President and co-owner of Integrator Systems Inc.

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