How do I use the System Monitor in Windows?

Question

I found a program in my computer called System Monitor. I opened it but have no idea what I am looking at. What is it and how do I use it?

Answer

This question was answered on July 14, 1999. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

The System Monitor is a utility that comes with all versions of Windows 95/98 (except older floppy disk versions of Windows 95) It is not always installed by the manufacturer of the computer but can easily be added To check if you have it currently installed, click on Start / Programs / Accessories / System Tools Towards the bottom of the System Tools list should be a System Monitor entry If not, click on Start / Settings / Control Panel, then double-click the Add/Remove icon Once the Add/Remove Programs Properties box opens, click on the Windows Setup tab at the top This should generate a list of Windows options that can be added or removed Scroll down to the System Tools option and double-click it This will open a window with all of the System Tools options Scroll down to the System Monitor box and put a check mark in it by clicking on it This will tell your system to install and add this feature to your system Depending upon your initial installation, you may be asked to get the Windows CD to complete the installation Once that is done, close the associated windows and go back to the Programs / Accessories / System Tools group and open the System Monitor The default screen typically has a chart with the Kernel: Processor Usage (%) itle This chart tracks the usage of your processor by the Windows Kernel This chart can be helpful if you wanted to track how processor intensive a particular program may be By and large, it may not be as useful as some of the other items that can be monitored For instance, you might want to track your Swap file usage to determine if it is time for some more RAM When Windows runs out of RAM it uses what is called Virtual Memory which is nothing more than empty space on your hard drive The more virtual memory that the system has to use, the slower the overall performance will be Many of you can probably relate to hearing your hard drive rattling away just going between programs or changing the screens and the associated slow down of the system during this period This is generally, because your system is using your hard drive when it should be using the must faster RAM (Random Access Memory) chips to process the request To monitor your Swapfile usage, click on the Edit menu in the System Monitor program, then on Add Item This will bring up a window with several choices in the Category box Click on Memory Manager to reveal the options in the Item: window Scroll down in the Item window until you find the Swapfile in use option Click on it, then on the OK button to add this chart to your display This will begin to generate a timeline graph that tracks the usage of your Swapfile as you use your computer If you click on the actual graph, the information about current and peak usage will appear in the small gray box at the bottom of the window If the In use number often exceeds the amount of RAM that you have installed, it may be time to add more If, for instance, you have 32MB of RAM and the Swapfile usage is often 32MB or more, you may benefit from increasing the RAM to 64MB In the same token, if the Swapfile peak is less than half of the RAM that you have installed, you most likely will notice little difference if you add RAM For instance, if you have 64MB of RAM and your Swapfile usage peak never exceeds 32MB, you most likely would not notice any performance difference by increasing your RAM These are general recommendations and apply to systems that have the default settings for Virtual Memory which allows Windows to make all of the decisions concerning the settings (Your mileage may vary!) Another item that may be helpful for tracking modem performance is in the Dial-up Adapter section Add the Bytes Received and Transmitted to track the performance of your modem while you are on-line There are dozens of items that can be monitored and since the System Monitor program makes no changes to your system, it is safe to play around with it

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on July 14, 1999