Performance Monitor Windows XP Professional // IT Management Solutions

Performance Monitor Windows XP Professional


Windows XP has several performance improvements over its predecessor Windows 2000, but it requires some more heavy machinery as well. The following paragraphs describe how to monitor, optimize, and troubleshoot performance on a Windows XP Professional system.

Memory and Processor

The amount of physical memory as well as the type and the number of processors in a Windows XP computer are the most determining factors when it comes to performance. On the Advanced tab of the Performance Options shown below (click the Settings button in the Performance section of the Advanced tab of the System Properties), you can specify how processor time and memory is put to use.

If the Windows XP computer is a regular client, both the Processor Scheduling and Memory Usage option should be set to the default selection Programs. If the computer is used as a ‘server’ i.e. running IIS or a shared application, and it is not used for the usual client software such as email and office applications, it is usually better to change the Processor Scheduling setting to Background services and/or the Memory Usage setting to System Cache.

Memory is something a computer running Windows XP should have plenty of. The minimum recommended amount of RAM is 128 MB or higher. Make that much higher if you are running Microsoft Office or any other memory consuming application. Because the amount of physical memory in a computer is often not sufficient for running large programs simultaneously, Windows XP uses virtual memory. Virtual memory is the RAM in the computer and a large file on the hard disk. This file is referred to as paging file or swap file and is named pagefile.sys on disk. Data is swapped between physical memory and the paging file as needed. Excessive swapping results in a lot of hard disk activity, which can indicate that either the paging file is too small but more often that the computer needs extra physical memory.

You can configure the virtual memory settings by clicking the Change button in the Virtual Memory section of the Advanced tab of the Performance Options. The recommended minimum size of the paging file is 1.5 times the amount of the RAM, and the maximum size 3 times the amount of RAM. For optimal performance, it is recommended that you locate the paging file on another physical disk than the operating system.

Task Manager

On the Performance tab of the Task Manager you can get a quick overview of memory (physical and paging file) and processor usage and availability. You can open the Task Manager by right-clicking on the Task bar and choosing it from the menu or by pressing CTRL-AT-DEL and click the Task Manager button.

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