HP TECH TAKES
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How to Monitor Your Computer’s Performance
August 17, 2018
Whether you’re a new or experienced user, it’s critical that you’re aware of your computer system's performance. This applies to whether your device is older or brand-new. No matter its age, you can dramatically increase your computer’s lifespan with regular PC maintenance and monitoring.
Your PC’s overall lifespan may depend on varying factors, but strong upkeep and monitoring from day one is a great way to add value to just about any purchase. And when you start to notice more issues cropping up like slow computer performance, an active approach can solve the problem and prevent it from happening again.
In this article, we’ll cover how you can monitor your computer’s performance with preloaded tools, purchased software, and even your own multi-faceted maintenance routine.
There are many programs and built-in applications designed to help with PC efficiency, but it’s important that you first understand the technology you’re using and how you use it.
For example, you can take a more passive approach to management if you own a more powerful computer that’s used infrequently or for specific tasks. Also, if you don’t have an active internet connection, it stands to reason that your device will be exposed to fewer external threats.
Either way, an active approach is the best guarantee of long-term performance and functionality for any PC. Fortunately, there are many different ways to accomplish this, including background applications such as a virus scanner and something as simple as a Windows management tool like Task Manager.
To start, we’ll cover the more familiar steps that just about any PC user can take advantage of to improve their computer’s performance.
System performance monitoring for your Windows 10 PC
To keep your PC running smoothly, you’ll want to monitor a couple of key stats: processor speed and memory capacity. When your processor speed is low and you’re eating up memory, even small tasks can become painful.
Although upgrading your CPU or RAM is one way to solve these problems, you can use proactive monitoring to anticipate and prevent them. It can also help to get more familiar with your PC’s manufacturer specs and the requirements of your most frequently used applications.
For many longtime PC users, it’s likely that you’re already acquainted with Windows’ suite of performance management tools. Fortunately, the most recognizable and easy-to-use examples - Disk Cleanup and Task Manager - are still included in the latest versions of Windows 10.
Clear out unnecessary files with Disk Cleanup
Disk Cleanup is designed to provide some of the streamlined efficiency tools typically packaged into freeware like Spybot - Search & Destroy and other management software.
With Disk Cleanup, you can quickly scan for and delete temporary and redundant files that accumulate from internet use, updates, and other activity. Just select a drive to scan and then choose what you want to delete.
It’s worth running Disk Cleanup periodically to declutter your computer in the short term while cutting back on accumulation over time.
Using Task Manager and the Performance tab
Task Manager is another powerful tool that you may recognize from earlier versions of Windows. It’s essentially a “heads-up” for your system performance and includes different tabs and settings for monitoring and controlling performance.
To access Task Manager in Windows 10, simply search for and open the application as you would any other. You can also use the common shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Del and select the Task Manager in a pinch. If you’re accessing the program for the first time, you’ll probably have to click through a prompt to see the full version.
Within Task Manager you can also find the Performance tab, which provides data about your PC’s usage in real time. This includes your CPU, memory, and disk use in addition to your Ethernet and Bluetooth connections. You’ll see individual technical specifications and usage numbers, and each provides its own detailed breakdown of resources and usage.
Within the CPU heading, you can check kernel times and visualize your individual core usage in graph form. And the memory heading allows you to account for RAM. The other headings function similarly and provide a comprehensive view of your system’s basic resources and how they sync up with use.
Managing specific applications and tasks with the Processes tab
While using advanced mode in Task Manager, you can also find the Processes tab next to the Performance tab. This allows you to see which applications and processes are using the most resources in your computer.
The tab also provides a list to help you identify and stop anything that seems to be using more power than it should be. You can do this outside of advanced mode, but you’ll see less specific information about individual tasks.
Under normal circumstances, your PC’s CPU, memory, and disk usage should be relatively low. If a particular application seems to be dominating your usage, you’ve probably found your problem. Ideally, these numbers should only spike during complex tasks.
Online performance management and security solutions
You can also speed up computer performance by using third-party drive cleaning or security software. There are many programs available in both paid and free versions.
Safer Networking’s SpyBot - Search & Destroy is a well-known option that detects unwanted malware and adware that can put a strain on your CPU and memory.
There are many free options and apps to consider, and which one you choose depends on how you use your computer. For example, if you’re a gamer who’s concerned about the impact of overclocking, you can find benchmarking tools that help you hit the right balance between performance and preserving your hardware.
Concerned about keeping a regular routine? Most scan and clean software can be scheduled to run independently to help you automate more of your maintenance routine.
Options for a computer performance test online
If you’re looking for something different, there are also plenty of other system monitoring tools available.
Piriform is well-known for developing CCleaner and similar programs that support a variety of functions. These include their useful disk defragmenting software, Defraggler, and a system monitoring software called Speccy which is available in free and paid versions.
General maintenance and upkeep
While hardware performance and basic upkeep software is obviously great, you may run into more fundamental issues if you don’t perform regular OS and software updates or have too many unused applications.
It’s crucial that you’re aware of what’s going on with your computer, whether through more basic observation or hands-on system management.
Does your laptop run hot and need extra ventilation? Consider an external USB fan or laptop cooling pad to cut back on heat damage. Other details matter, too, like keeping your PC clean and dust-free, which is great for your hardware components.
Dust and particulates insulate anything they cover, so taking care to remove them regularly helps cut back on excess heat accumulation.
The benefits of routine computer performance test
There are many small benefits that come from maintaining your PC and occasionally running a computer performance test, but the real value shows itself over time. If you take a moment to make sure your computer is running to spec and is relatively clear of accumulated clutter, chances are your PC will remain more functional as it ages.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.