How to Monitor System Resources on a Windows PC

Monitoring your system resources is a necessary part of troubleshooting. Resources include memory, mass storage, network access, processor power, and so on. When your program needs a hardware resource, it makes a request to the operating system. Windows then tries to fulfill the request and provide the software that the resources requested. If it doesn’t, you’ll find your computer difficult to operate.

Begin by monitoring resource consumption. The easiest way to do so is from the Task Manager window, on the Performance tab. Summon the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Click the Performance tab to view some simple resource information.

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In the Task Manager, you see CPU and memory usage. (Windows XP displays page file usage, which is similar.) Information listed at the bottom of the window details other vital stats.

To see more detailed information, you can summon a resource monitor window. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.

  2. Open the Administrative Tools window.

    • In Windows 7, choose System and Security and then choose Administrative Tools.

    • In Windows Vista, choose System and Maintenance and then choose Administrative Tools.

    • In Windows XP, open the Administrative Tools icon.

  3. Open a Performance monitor window.

    • In Windows 7, open the Performance Monitor icon.

    • In Windows Vista, open the Reliability and Performance Monitor icon; click the Continue button or type the administrator’s password when prompted.

    • In Windows XP, open the Performance icon.

    Windows XP has a rather limited display in its Performance window. To view a similar window in Windows 7, choose Performance Monitor, found beneath the Monitoring Tools folder on the left side of the window. In Windows Vista, choose Performance Monitor from the Reliability and Performance Monitor window.

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    You can add or remove items to the monitor by clicking the toolbar’s Add button (the green Plus Sign icon). The new items appear as a new line on the chart, allowing you to review that resource.

  4. In Windows XP, close the Performance Window.

    But that’s about it for Windows XP; skip ahead to Step 8.

  5. Open a Resource Monitor.

    • In Windows 7, choose Performance from the left side of the window and then click the Open Resource Monitor link, found in the center of the window.

    • In Windows Vista, choose the item Reliability and Performance from the left side of the window.

    The Resource Monitor in Windows 7 or Resource Overview in Windows Vista look similar.

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    The performance window lists lots of graphical information about basic resources: CPU, disk, network, memory, and more. To see additional information for a specific resource, click the downward-pointing arrow button to reveal the details.

  6. In Windows 7, close the resource monitor window and any other open window.

    That’s about all you can do to monitor the system in Windows 7; skip to step 8. But Windows Vista has one additional window:

  7. In Windows Vista, from the left side of the Reliability and Performance Monitor window, choose Reliability Monitor.

    Perhaps the most interesting item to check is the Reliability Monitor in Windows Vista. The monitor lists events that have occurred in the computer that may affect overall performance and reliability.

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    The Reliability Monitor shows a graph detailing the system’s reliability. To see details about an event, click the icon. You see details about what occurred. It’s a helpful way to spot troublesome software that may require updating or disabling.

  8. Close all the windows you’ve opened when you’re done.

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