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Boost Your System Performance

Compared to most machines, a computer requires virtually no maintenance. That's because it has fewer moving parts compared to other machines. However, you can do some things to keep your computer running at its optimum.

For example, the more the hard drive is used to store data, the more fragmented the data on the drive becomes. That doesn't pose any problems for reading the data, but it does slow down the process. To speed it up again, you can defragment the drive. This topic, and others that will help you optimize your computer's performance, are covered in this tutorial.

Getting to Know Your System

A computer system is made up of many different components. The two main components that make up the actual "computer" are the CPU and RAM. The overall speed of your system is largely determined by the speed of your CPU and the amount of RAM in your system. The speed of a CPU is measured in gigahertz (GHz), billions of instructions per second, or for older (and slower) systems in megahertz (MHz), millions of instructions per second.

The amount of RAM determines how much data the CPU can work with at any one time without accessing the much slower hard drive. RAM chips do come in various speeds. But the amount of RAM you have, more so than its speed, really determines the overall speed of your system. RAM is measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB). A megabyte is roughly a million bytes. (A byte is the amount of memory required to store approximately a single character, such as the letter A.). A gigabyte (GB) is 1,024 megabytes. In short, the faster your CPU and the more RAM the computer has, the better its performance.

Knowing your CPU and RAM

To see the brand name and speed of your processor and the amount of RAM you have, right-click your Computer icon from File Explorer and choose Properties. Or, show the Charms Bar, type sys, click Settings, and click System in the Settings list. The System Control Panel applet that opens shows the basic computer information as well as information about the version of Windows you're using.

The Windows Experience Index provides a quick snapshot of the major components that determine how you experience Windows 8 on your computer.

Windows Experience Index

The first thing most people will notice is the Windows Experience Index. It is not a measure of your computer's overall speed or ability. Rather, it's an indicator of the weakest component in the system, the one that's most likely to give you a less than optimal experience. So don't interpret the value as being a general measure of your computer's overall performance. For a better understanding of what the number means, click the Windows Experience Index link next to the number to open Performance Information And Tools.

The second page shows that the 4.6 rating on that computer comes from the Graphics category. Notice that the index isn't an average. It's strictly the lowest score. Even with a relatively low score, your Windows 8 computer could perform quite well. For example, if you don't use any 3D business applications or 3D games, a low score for that item would likely not affect your experience with Windows. The items that have the most impact on overall computer speed are the processor, memory, and primary hard drive. If those scores are high, performance in general will be good.

None of the numbers in the index relate to Internet speed. The primary factor that determines how long it takes you to download files or other data from the Internet is the bandwidth (speed) of your Internet connection. The faster your Internet connection, the less time it takes to download data. However, the other performance indicators can impact your Internet experience. Browsing on a slow computer will not be as fast as on a fast computer.

The Performance Information And Tools page provides links to more information about the meanings of the numbers, ways to improve your computer's performance. The Re-Run The Assessment link performs all the tests needed to calculate those numbers. If you changed some hardware in your system, but still got the same performance rating, you could use that link to re-run the tests against your new hardware.

The View And Print Detailed Performance And System Information link shows all the information from the page, and additional details, and includes a button to print the page. The other blue links provide general information.

Getting more detailed information about your PC

You can get more detailed information about all the components that make up your computer system from the System Information program. To open System Information, display the desktop and press Windows+X. Click Run, type msinfo32, and press Enter. The System Information window opens.

The left column of the System Information window organizes your system information into expandable and collapsible categories. For example, clicking the + sign next to the Components category expands that category to display subcategories and the names of specific device types. When you click a specific type, such as Drives under the Storage category, the pane on the right shows information about the components installed in your computer system.

You don't actually do any work in the System Information program. Its job is to just present the facts about your particular computer's installed hardware and software. However, you can export a copy of the System Information data to a text file, which in turn you can open, format, or print using any word processing program or text editor. To export a copy of your system information to a file, just choose File → Export from System Information's menu bar.

You can also print your system information, either in whole or in part. To print all of your system information, first click System Summary at the top of the left column. To print just a category, first click a category name, such as Components. Then, choose File → Print from System Information's menu bar. In the Print dialog box that opens, choose All if you want to print everything, choose Selection to print just the text you may have selected, or choose Current Page to print the page you are viewing. To close System Information, click its Close (X) button or choose File → Exit.