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Using Performance Monitor in Windows XP Professional

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Now in its sixth year and fourth operating system generation, Performance Monitor is even more valuable today as a tool for assessing system and network performance than it was when first introduced. That's because Performance Monitor was integrated as a component of the Microsoft Management Console starting in Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 3 and has been there ever since, throughout Windows 2000 and its history of service packs. This article tells you why it can be so valuable for your needs.
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The most widely used tool for managing a Windows 2000 Workstation and Server's performance is Performance Monitor. It's clear that the same will hold true for Windows XP Professional and Server. What is truly significant about Performance Monitor is the analytical insights it can provide as to systems' performance. Performance Monitor enables you to track a variety of items and display information on their relative performance in different ways. Performance Monitor ships with Windows XP Professional and Server, and is designed to provide feedback on the relative level of performance on systems. Performance Monitor is capable of monitoring performance of systems throughout a network as well, using the DNS naming conventions supported in Windows XP and previous generations of Windows NT Workstation and Server.

Using Performance Monitor

Performance Monitor is comprised of a series of objects: counter relationships that are used for tracking the health of the system you're working with. Each object is in effect a characteristic of the system, and counters are the classes for variables that define how a system's performance is measured. The following is a list of the objects, or performance attributes, that are measured in Performance Monitor. The items in bold are the default system objects:

FTP Server
Gateway Services for NetWare
Logical Disk
MacFile Server
NBT Connection
NetBEUI Resource
Network Interface
Network Segment
Paging File
Process Address Space
RAS Port
RAS Total
WINS Server

You'll notice that as additional software is loaded onto your workstations and servers, new objects not defined here appear in the Performance Monitor. That's because applications such as SQL Server, RAS, and other network-based applications insert and install their own objects within Performance Monitor. This includes both Microsoft-specific and non-Microsoft applications.

The Performance Monitor application is actually a series of three different views on systems' performance:

  • Chart view. This is the default view in Performance Monitor, which enables objects to be graphically displayed. This view enables you to view the monitored items over a short period of time (as short as every second) by choosing the options from within the dialog boxes available in this view. This view is best for actively watching the performance of a Windows XP system, as shown in Figure 1.

    Figure 1-How Windows XP Professional portrays the Chart view of Performance Monitor.

  • Alert view. This view enables you to monitor the system in the background while working with other applications. You can define a threshold for a counter and, if it is reached, an alert will be triggered. The form of the alert can be specified to switch to the Alert view, log the event, or send an alert message directly to the person whose system is experiencing the alert condition.

  • Counter and Trace log. These log views enables Performance Monitor to record the selected counters into a file, known as a log file, while the user runs applications on the Windows 2000 system. The log file can later be examined to find potential and existing bottlenecks.

  • Report view.Using the View Report icon in the main Performance Monitor window, the objects and counters defined in the Performance Monitor Chart view is provided in tabular view. Figure 2 shows an example of the View Report icon selected in the main Performance Monitor window.

Figure 2-Using the Report view to describe the performance of a workstation.

Using and Monitoring Counters

As you can see from the series of counters included in Windows XP Professional and Server, the Performance Monitor can actively track the performance of many aspects of a workstation. Performance Monitor categorizes them into objects. These object types relate to actual devices, sections of memory, or processes. Objects contain items known as counters, which are the specific items to be measured using Performance Monitor. For example, under the Processor object, a counter called % Processor Time is used to monitor the percentage amount of total processor time that is being used by the system.

Object types also can have several instances. Instances do not already appear as objects per se, but object types such as the Processor object have an instance for each processor in a workstation or server. Instances represent an individual object out of multiple objects of the same type. Other object types—for example, the memory object type—do not have any instances.

To begin monitoring a Windows XP Professional-based workstation, you need to add counters to monitor system performance. You'll see that adding counters are identical no matter which of the four views in Performance Monitor are being used. To add counters in Performance Monitor, do the following:

  1. Launch Performance Monitor either from the command line or from within Control Panel in Windows 2000.

  2. Select the view you want to display by clicking one of the four view buttons on the toolbar.

  3. From the Performance Monitor menu, select the "+" sign to have the Add Counters dialog box. Figure 3 shows an example of the Add Counters dialog box.

    Figure 3-Using the Add Counters dialog box.

  4. In the Counter list, select a counter you want to track. If you are unsure of what a counter does and want more information on the specific object: counter relationship, select the counter and click once on the Explain button.

    The Explain button defines the purpose of the counter. The Explain dialog box is also detached from the main dialog box as well, which makes it possible to move and copy the definition for use by other members of your team in learning how object: counter relationships work.

  5. If multiple objects exist in the Instance list, select the instance of the object you want to monitor.

  6. Click Done after you have added all of the counters you want to monitor. This closes the Add to window.

  7. Be sure to save these settings as an MMC file so the counters are accessible across all views in Performance Monitor.

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