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The lowdown on Windows performance tools

A rundown on the capabilities of the Windows 2000 performance-measuring tools.

The lowdown on Windows performance tools
Curt Aubley

You can neither improve the performance of, nor scale, your Windows servers without gaining information about performance from somewhere. This tip, excerpted from InformIT, discusses the use of the Windows 2000 performance-monitoring tools, Performance Monitor and Task Manager, to gather the info you need to make good decisions about improving performance and scaling your servers. Curt Aubley is the author of Tuning and Sizing of Windows 2000 for Maximum Performance.

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Whether you're sleuthing server-performance problems, determining how to tune your system, or sizing a server for new applications, the first step is to learn how to leverage your OS's native performance tools. As Windows NT 4.0 became more popular and IT professionals creatively used it for more complex and larger solutions, the OS's native performance tools quickly began to show their age. Although NT 4.0's core performance tools are still available in Windows 2000 (Win2k), Microsoft has enhanced them to keep up with today's IT professionals. Win2k's primary performance tools include System Performance Monitor and Windows Task Manager. If you're familiar with NT 4.0's Performance Monitor and Task Manager, you'll quickly master Win2k's enhanced versions and enjoy taking advantage of their new features.

Which tool is best for you? Most likely, you'll use both Performance Monitor and Task Manager, depending on your mission. Performance Monitor is the tool of choice for obtaining detailed information, logging data for extended analysis and collecting performance information based on performance events that occur within your system. Task Manager provides a quick look into what is occurring on your system, but it doesn't provide a mechanism for logging. However, Task Manager lets you manage applications (that is, processes) that might be adversely affecting your system.

Performance Monitor is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in. To invoke this tool, select Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Performance. Alternatively, you can invoke Performance Monitor by selecting Start, Run and inputting Performance Monitor in the Open text box, and then pressing Enter. Win2k's Performance Monitor provides the following features to monitor and analyze your server's performance:

Real-time performance monitoring
Trace logs
Counter logs

In addition to these monitoring tools, Performance Monitor provides enhanced functionality, compared with that available in Windows NT.

Performance Monitor helps you track problems over time, but what can you do about problem processes in real time? Task Manager provides mechanisms to monitor in real time and to resolve performance problems. For example, say you have a hunch that cpustres.exe is your system's CPU hog. To activate Task Manager, press Ctrl+Alt+Del and click Task Manager. Alternatively, you can run taskmgr.exe from the command line. After you start this tool, you can view numerous columns of performance data on the Processes tab. The amount of data available on Win2k's Task Manager Processes tab is much greater than on NT 4.0's Task Manager Processes tab -- particularly finer-grain I/O information is available on a per-process basis (such as I/O reads and I/O writes). Within the Processes view, you can quickly determine what amount of CPU, memory and disk resources each process is consuming. The Applications tab lets you see which processes or applications are not responding.

To find out whether cpustres.exe is your system's CPU hog, select the Processes image name column to place the process list in alphabetical order. This action simplifies finding cpustres.exe. After you find the filename, highlight it by clicking it, and then right-click it. Task Manager presents you with several system control options, which Table 3 defines. You can lower cpustres.exe's priority by selecting Set Priority, BelowNormal.

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