Networking / Beginners

Using System Monitor

You can use the System Monitor to view your computer's network or disk access in a graphical picture. The program enables you to monitor running processes, memory usage, dial-up access, and more. Most Windows operating systems automatically install the System Monitor.

Watching network traffic gives you an idea of where the bottlenecks are and the cause of some of the user's problems. You can use the System Monitor in Windows 2000 or Windows XP to see how network traffic affects your computer. If you have a client/server network, you can use the System Monitor to view each computer's connections and network traffic.

To use the System Monitor over the network, you need specific administrative permissions, user-level security, a remote service installed on your computer, and so on. If you plan to use the System Monitor over a client/server network, see the Windows 2000 Server documentation. For your home or small-business network, you most likely won't need anything so complex and complicated.

Using the Windows 98 System Monitor

You can use the Windows 98 System Monitor to see how your computer works with others on the network. Basically, you connect to a specific computer and then watch the interaction between the two on the System Monitor. The monitor records system processor activity, such as the amount of data flowing between the two computers, memory used, details of open files and transactions, and so on.

To start the System Monitor, click Start → Programs → Accessories → System Tools → System Monitor. To exit the program, click File → Exit.

The System Monitor on a Windows 98 computer. The peak shown in the Kernel Processor category shows heavy processor usage during that time. For more information about the System Monitor, consult the Windows 98 documentation.

Using the Windows XP System Monitor

The XP System Monitor is similar to the Windows 98 program. The System Monitor appears in a Microsoft Management Console, which is the underlying frame of all Windows 2000 and XP administrative tools. You use the System Monitor to measure processes that are most active, or that drain the majority of resources.

To start the Windows XP System Monitor, click Start → Control Panel. Double-click Administrative Tools and double-click Performance. To exit the System Monitor, click File → Exit.

The Windows XP System Monitor. You can see peaks in the graph that identify when another computer used this computer's resources.

Using third-party system monitors

You can find many third-party system monitors on the Internet. Some system monitors are targeted for viewing one computer's processes, others enable you to view the network and connections, and yet other monitors enable you to view activities over the Internet.

Internet spyware, or surveillance software, is an up-and-coming category of system monitors. This software monitors your spouse, children, or others' activity on the Internet. For example, if your daughter receives an e-mail from a friend, you receive the e-mail at the same time. Many programs can also record chats and log keystrokes.

  • System Monitor by is a program for Windows 2000 and XP. System Monitor analyzes disk usage, memory, disk drives, and network adapters. You can scan the network for available computers and view and even manage remote computers. System Monitor is shareware with a cost of $99 if you plan to use it after trying it (
  • Big Brother by Quest Software is free and available for Linux and Windows. Big Brother enables you to monitor your system, your network, and the Web. You can monitor everyone in real time to see what each user is doing at any given moment (
  • Symom by Moebius is a freeware program that monitors processes, services, bandwidth, applications, and so on and is available for Windows and Linux environments (
  • Spector Pro can record Web sites, e-mail, chats, and keystrokes so you can view the activities of anyone on your network who surfs the Internet. Spector Pro costs around $150. For more information, go to
  • Then there are anti-spyware programs, such as Cube'd Productions' System Monitor Detector. System Monitor Detector is shareware that helps you see if your system is being monitored by a program that records keystrokes, mouse movement, and so on (
  • SpyCop costs around $20 and is another anti-spyware program. SpyCop is for Windows and blocks many programs that are designed to spy, infect, and otherwise harm your computer (

Optimizing the Network

You can take some steps to optimize a network that is sluggish. Sometimes, just adding some memory helps. At other times, however, you might have to add more hardware to keep the network running smoothly. You should weigh the benefits to the cost. Adding hardware isn't a cheap way to optimize your network, but you might not think the network is slow enough to warrant these measures.

  • Most computers are at the least Pentium III and the newer ones are Pentium 4's and 5's. There are also Celeron processors, which are good for home and even small-business computers but are a bit limited in some areas, such as with some computer games and with heavy-duty accounting, graphics, or mathematics programs. Xeon is the most developed processor you can get now, and it's more in the range of a server processor because of its power, speed, and cost. Stick with Pentium to optimize network and computer efficiency.
  • Add memory to your computers if you have less than 128MB; 256MB or more is better.
  • Break up large files-video, music, data, and so on-to help reduce network traffic. If, for example, someone uses a lot of video files each day, try saving the files to a faster computer or to the user's computer instead of running the files over the network.
  • Consider changing your network design. If you're using phone line networking and you want a faster transmission speed, consider going to 10Base-T. If you're using 10Base-T, consider changing to 100Base-T.
  • If you're using multiple protocols-such as NetBEUI and IPX/SPX or TCP/IP and NetBEUI-consider changing over to just one protocol. This change could eliminate many bottlenecks and improve performance. Choose TCP/IP for the most flexibility and efficiency and remove the other, unused protocols from your computers. Extra protocols on a computer might slow the processing.
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