The Windows operating system comes with plenty of built-in tools to analyze resource usage. The most prominent one is probably the Windows Task Manager, as it highlights resource usage of individual processes, and gives admins and users options to kill any misbehaving ones.
The Performance Monitor and Resource Monitor are two additional tools that admins and experienced Windows users may use to analyze performance or resources related issues on Windows PCs.
Let's start by taking a look at what the Resource Monitor is, and how it differs from the Windows Task Manager and Performance Monitor.
Microsoft added the Resource Monitor to the company's Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 operating systems and made it a part of any new Windows version that it released since then. The program displays information about hardware and software resources in real-time.
The Task Manager can best be described as a tool that runs on the surface. It lists processes and services, and general resource usage.
The Resource Monitor, on the other hand, gives you options to look under the surface to look up information that the Task Manager does not provide.
Resource Monitor runs under the Performance Monitor process.
Users and admins have several options to start Resource Monitor. It is included in several versions of Windows, and some options to start the tool are only available in select versions of the operating system.
The first two methods should work on all versions of Windows that are supported by Microsoft.
The Resource Monitor interface looks the same on Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. The program uses tabs to separate data. Overview, CPU, Memory, Disk, and Network are the five tabs of the program.
The program loads an overview when you start it. This overview lists CPU, Disk, Network, and Memory data including all processes that use resources.
The sidebar displays graphs that highlight the CPU, Disk, Network, and Memory use over a period of 60 seconds.
You can hide and show elements with a click on the arrow icon in title bars. Another option that you have to customize the interface is to move the mouse cursor over dividers in the interface to drag the visible area. Use it to increase or decrease the visible area of the element.
You may want to hide the graphs, for instance, to make more room for more important data and run the Resource Monitor window in as large of a resolution as possible.
The overview tab is a good starting point, as it gives you an overview of the resource usage. It highlights CPU and memory usage, disk utilization, and network use in real-time.
Each particular listing offers a wealth of information. The CPU box lists process names and IDs, the network box IP addresses and data transfers, the memory box hard faults, and the disk box read and write operations.
One interesting option that you have right here and there is to select one or multiple processes under CPU to apply filters to the Disk, Network and Memory tab.
If you select a particular process under CPU, Resource Monitor lists the disk, network and memory usage of that process only in its interface. This is one of the differences to the Task Manager, as you cannot do something like that in the tool.
You need to switch to the CPU tab if you want to monitor CPU utilization in detail. You find the processes listing of the overview page there, and also the three new listings Services, Associated Handles and Associated Modules.
You can filter by processes to display data only for those processes. This is quite handy, as it is a quick way to see links between processes, and services and other files on the system.
Note that the graphs are different to the ones displayed before. The graphs on the CPU tab lists the usage of each core, Service CPU usage, and total CPU usage.
Associated Modules lists files such as dynamic link libraries that are used by a process. Associated Handles point to system resources such as files or Registry values. These offer specific information but are useful at times. You can run a search for handles, for instance, to find out why you can't delete a file at that point in time.
Resource Monitor gives you some control over processes and services on the CPU tab. Right-click on any process to display a context menu with options to end the selected process or entire process tree, to suspend or resume processes, and to run a search online.
The Services context menu is limited to starting, stopping and restarting services, and to search online for information.
Processes may be displayed using colors. A red process indicates that it is not responding, and a blue one that it is suspended.
The memory tab lists processes just like the CPU tab does, but with a focus on memory usage. It features a physical memory view on top of that that visualizes the distribution of memory on the Windows machine.
If this is your first time accessing the information, you may be surprised that quite a bit of memory may be hardware reserved.
The graphs highlight the used physical memory, the commit charge, and the hard faults per second.
Each process is listed with its name and process ID, the hard faults, and various memory related information.
You get the same level of control in the right-click menu so that you can terminate any process using it.
The Disk tab of the Windows Resource Monitor lists the disk activity of processes and storage information.
It visualizes the disk usage in total and for each running process. You get a reading of each processes' disk read and write activity, and can use the filtering options to filter by a particular process or several processes.
The Storage listing at the bottom lists all available drives, the available and total space on the drive, as well as the active time.
The graphs visualize the disk queue length. It is an indicator for requests of that particular disk and is a good indicator to find out if disk performance cannot keep up with I/O operations.
The Network tab lists network activity, TCP connections and listening ports. It lists network activity of any running process in detail. This alone is useful, as it tells you right away if processes connect to the Internet.
You do get TCP connection listings that highlight remote servers that processes connect to, the bandwidth use, and the local listening ports.
Resource Monitor is a handy program for system administrators, experienced users, and even for regular users. It offers more information than the Task Manager, and gives you some tools at hand to dig a bit deeper when it comes to activity on a Windows machine.
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