We are going to look at Performance Monitor, also known as PerfMon.exe or PerfMon.msc: a complex tool used to do just what it sounds like it does - monitor the performance of your computer. Using it, you can see how your computer manages its resources. This can help you make choices about which programs work the best in unison for your computer. For example, if you like to listen to music while running an advanced program for work or a video game for play, which music client provides the least drag on your system? Also, the information it gives you, may help you make decisions about other software and hardware choices if your computer's performance is below your expectations.
How to Access the Performance Monitor in Windows 7
The easiest way to open Performance Monitor on your Windows 7 machine is to hit the Start button and type "performance monitor" in the search program and files field.
It should be the option at the top of the list.
This will open up the main panel of the program. I've noticed that some resources on the Internet get Performance Monitor mixed up with other Windows utilities, so just to make sure we're on the same page it ought to look something like this:
Alternatively, you can start the tool by going to Control Panel -> System and Security -> Administrative Tools - Performance Monitor.
How to Access the Performance Monitor in Windows 8
Unfortunately, Windows 8 has decided to hide this tool and make it harder to access it, even though it remains available, unchanged for the version existing in Windows 7.
If you search for performance monitor on the Start screen, you will not find any results. To launch this application you need to type perfmon.exe or perfmon.msc and click or tap on the only search result being shown.
If you want to go about it with the mouse, you can find the tool by going to Control Panel -> System and Security -> Administrative Tools - Performance Monitor.
It's good that at least it's Control Panel shortcut has been kept.
Analyzing your System's Performance
To begin an analysis of your computer's current performance, click "Performance Monitor" under "Monitoring Tools" on the program's main panel, as indicated below.
If you want to see how your computer performs while using a certain set of programs, make sure to open them now, so the graphs will take note of their impact on your system's resources. By default, this graph measures Processor time, which is the amount of time that the processor is busy working on running active programs (shown in percentages). This gives you a basic measure of how hard your processor is working.
These graph can be customized with additional columns and several other options. For a more in depth analysis, you can add counters to the graph that will detail other aspects of your processor's activities. To do this, hit the green plus sign above the graph, which should bring up several options.
Choose the counter sets you'd like to measure, and hit the Add button to add them.
For the graph below, I used the "Processor" counter set. It shows very technical but useful data such as Interrupts/sec (The numbers of interrupts your processor was asked to respond to. They are generated by hardware components like hard disk controller adapters and network interface cards) or %User Time (The total amount of non-idle time that was spent on User mode operations).
You can also look at the data in other formats by clicking the button below and choosing the Histogram bar or Report options.
This picture shows the data in Histogram format.
And here we have an example of the data display for the Report option.
Making Sense of All the Data
The data included in the Performance Monitor's graphical reports is highly technical and hard to understand sometimes. If you are looking for a good knowledgebase, explaining all the gibberish terms like %DPC Time or Page Faults/sec, read this entry on Microsoft's TechNet: Performance Monitor Counters.
There you will find complete information about each counter found in the standard list of reports.
This article should show you how to open and get a basic reading Performance Monitor reports and how to apply counter sets to further monitor the activity of your machine. Let us know how you use this tool and how helpful it is for your purposes. We plan to do a followup article with more in depth information, so be sure to let us know what in specific you're interested in about this program.