Tech Tips

June 1999

By Fred Henning

Peek inside and see how hard your PC is working!

Many cars come equipped with 'tachometers' and my guess is that most people don't understand how to use them. The same is true for the System Monitor function built into your Windows95 PC.

The System Monitor shows, in a graphical view, just what the PC is doing. The default view is the percent of CPU usage. In other words, what percent of the total resources (CPU cycles) are being used. If you are doing nothing it will show close to 0%. Some programs try and use all available resources so that the graph goes to 100 percent even though you are just typing, not spell checking or anything special, just typing. Other programs try and share the system and tend to use very little of the machine's horsepower.

As I write this in Microsoft Word the system shows it is being used at 100% capacity. If you go to the Internet you will see just how little of the PC's resources are required, even when graphics and motion are being displayed.

To see the System Monitor in action:

1. Click on the [Start] button.

2. Click on Programs.

3. Click on Accessories.

4. Click on System Tools.

5. Click on System Monitor. You should see a large graph screen

6. Confirm the default settings by clicking on Edit in the System Monitor Menu Bar.

7. Click on Edit Item. You should see a line 'Kernel: Processor Usage [%]'.

8. Click on [Cancel].

9. Click on View.

10. Make sure there is a check next to Line Chart. If not, click on Line Chart.

11. To make sure that you can see the chart at all times, click on View.

12. Click on Always on Top.

To minimize the system monitor so you can see it and any application you will be running, grab a corner of the System Monitor window and drag it in to shrink it. You might want to grab the title bar and move it to the bottom right hand side of your screen.

With the Monitor active, start Internet Explorer, go to Connect to the Internet and log in with your Internet login and password. Then go to www.alexian.org. (You must have Internet Access to go to the Alexian.Org site. If you do not, you can move around the Intranet pages.)

At each step pause so that the System Monitor settles back to its low point. (near 0%). Note that even though there is motion in the 'True Spirit of Healthcare', once the page is loaded, very little CPU usage is required to continue to display the page including the motion. Next, at the bottom of the Home Page, select Alexian Brothers Congregation. (remember; wait between steps for the CPU usage to settle down)

1. When the Brothers page comes up click on History.

2. Click on Illustrated History.

Begin the Illustrated History: The Story of the Alexian Brothers (note the comment about waiting for the graphics to load)

As you can see from this experiment your PC doesn't have to work very hard when connected to the Internet. It should be obvious that the speed of your connection to the Internet is far more significant than the speed of your PC.

There are many other parts of the PC that can be monitored so have some fun - looking won't break your system.

Try the following.

1. Click on Edit on the System Monitor Menu Bar.

2. Click on Add Item.

3. Click on Memory Manager.

4. Click on Free Memory (or it might say Unused Physical Memory).

This will create a second graph that shows how much memory is used by an application. It also shows that the more programs you open on the desktop the more memory is used. Eventually, you use all of your RAM Memory and the system starts swapping out to disk. The swapping to disk is what really makes most people think their system is slow. It is also why, when you buy a new system, it has more memory. Am I really saying if you just install more memory you probably don't need to buy a new PC?