Woody Leonhard has been one of my ongoing sources for tips, tricks, and inside Windows (and MS Office) information for over 20 years now. That’s why I was delighted to find an unusually tasty nugget of Windows insight and information in a recent Slideshow he put together for InfoWorld. Entitled “The hidden fangs of Windows 8.1 — and how to avoid them,” he includes an item on how to obtain the information that recent versions of Windows up through Windows 8 (source of the following screencap, in fact) have presented under the heading of the “Windows Experience Index,” often abbreviated as WEI.
Widely reported as no longer available in Windows 8.1, MS simply chooses not to report data that it still gathers.
As it happens, reports to the contrary notwithstanding (namely, that Windows 8.1 no longer compiles data to calculate the WEI), Woody points out that you can indeed obtain this data from Windows 8.1 if you’re willing to jump through some command line action and inspired data access to do so. Here’s how, in step-by-step form
1. Launch a command window in Windows 8.1: A search on cmd.exe will do nicely for this task; right-click the item and select “Run as administrator” from the resulting pop-up menu. On an unaltered Win 8.1 desktop, right-click the Start menu button and select “Command Prompt (Admin)” from the resulting pop-up menu instead.
2. Enter the command string winsat formal at the command line.
3. Use File Explorer to navigate to C:\Windows\Performance\WinSAT\DataStore
4. Right click the first Formal.Assessment file you see (or the most recent such file, if your file listing criteria don’t show most recent files first), click Open with, then use Internet Explorer to view the contents of this XML file (the full name of this file on my PC was 2013-11-12 18.06.44.438 Formal.Assessment (Recent).WinSAT.xml)
5. Look for the section in the XML document labeled <WinSPR>; everything inside that block up to the closing </WinSPR> tag provides the data that used to appear in the old Windows Experience Index display shown earlier (and then some).
If know what to do, and where to look, Windows 8.1 continues to provide WEI data as shown right here.
WEI is a rough-and-ready tool for assessing Windows performance and system capability. It’s not on a par with more serious performance evaluation suites like SiSoftware Sandra, PCMark, Passmark Performance, and so forth (see this great slideshow from Tom’s Guide for a list of 15 PC benchmarking programs including commercial and freeware offerings). But WEI is something familiar and comfortable that Windows users have had at their disposal since the XP days. By following these simple steps, you can see how a Windows 8.1 PC ranks on this rating scale, too.