Hack 117. Check Your PC's Pulse and Tweak It for Better Performance
Find out how well your PC performs, peer under the hood to get diagnostic information, and get advice on tuning it with Sandra.
Do you know how well your PC is really performing? How well do you think it does compared to other systems? And do you have any idea of nitty-gritty information like its memory bank layout, the current video refresh rate, which currently running process consumes the most memory, or which services you most likely can safely disable [Hack #4] ?
Better yethow about using that information to get tips on how to get your PC to run faster?
My favorite hardware analysis and tune-up program, Sandra (http://www.sisoftware.co.uk/), will do all that and more. Sandra is shareware and free to try for 30 days, but if you use it beyond that you'll have to buy Sandra Pro for $29. Sandra Pro also gives you access to about a half dozen analysis modules that Sandra doesn't have, such as modules about your network or fonts.
When you first run Sandra, you might be overwhelmed because you'll see several dozen icons, each of which runs a different diagnostic and benchmark test when double-clicked. For example, run the Memory Bandwidth Benchmark and Sandra returns results similar to the results shown in Figure 13-5, which measure the performance of one of my PCs. As you can see, it measures the speed of your memory and compares it to other memory chipsets. It also shows you the layout of your motherboard's memory bank, including the exact memory configuration in each bank. This is important when you want to add memory. Figure 13-5 shows me that I have two memory banks, each of which has a 128MB memory chip in it. That means if I want to upgrade I'm going to have to take out one of those chips and essentially throw it away.
Figure 13-5. A memory bandwidth test and diagnostic for my PC
Sandra doesn't just give you diagnostics; it also offers recommendations on how you can fine-tune your PC. In this instance, it notes that my main system and my video system share memory, which reduces performance, and it suggests I install a video card with its own memory as a way to improve performance.
The fastest way to get an overview of your systemas well as to get comprehensive advice on fine-tuning every part of your system, not just one subsystemis to run the Performance Tune-Up Wizard. It analyzes your entire system and offers tips on tuning up each subcomponent, as shown in Figure 13-6. For my PC, it offered about a dozen tips, including which background services I might want to disable, and ways to make my video system perform faster, among other advice.
Figure 13-6. Sandra's systemwide tips for fine-tuning your PC's performance
13.4.1. See Also