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Using Windows Vista's Reliability and Performance Monitor plug-in

The Reliability and Performance Monitor utility in Windows Vista can help administrators troubleshoot performance problems better than Windows' traditional Performance Monitor.

Historically, Performance Monitor has been the tool of choice for troubleshooting performance problems. However, even though Performance Monitor has been around since the initial release of Windows NT, and has been enhanced over the years, it's always had two major shortcomings.

  1. Performance Monitor is not easy to use. There's nothing inherently difficult about the user interface, but without a thorough understanding of the various counters, you might not know what you're really measuring or how to interpret the results.
  2. Performance Monitor measures system performance on a global scale. While it's necessary to understand how your system is performing, it's often more important to be able to figure out which process is contributing to a particular condition. But Performance Monitor lacks the granularity necessary to relate your server's performance to a particular process. If you wanted to obtain performance data on a per-process basis, you were forced to use the Windows Task Manager.

The Reliability and Performance Monitor can be run as a plug-in for the MIcrosoft Management Console in Windows Vista. It is designed to help administrators troubleshoot performance problems more efficiently than Performance Monitor. To access this console:

  1. Enter the MMC command at Vista's Run prompt (the Run prompt is found on the All Programs | Accessories menu). Once you do this, Vista will open an empty management console.
  2. Select the Add/Remove Snap-in command from the console's File menu. Vista will now display a list of all the available snap-ins.
  3. Select the Reliability and Performance option from the list. Click the Add button, then the OK button.

The Reliability and Performance snap-in will now be loaded. This is what the console looks like when fully expanded.

As you can see, one of the things built into the console is the Performance Monitor. The Performance Monitor hasn't changed much in Vista, aside from some cosmetic changes and the fact that it is incorporated into this console. Because of that, I won't be covering the Performance Monitor in this article.

The Reliability and Performance Monitor console in Vista overcomes the two shortcomings of Performance Monitor -- its complexity and the fact that you could not break the data down on a per-process basis.

If you select the console's Reliability and Performance container, you'll see a screen similar to the one shown below. As you can see, this screen provides basic performance data related to key system resources such as the system's CPU, disk, network and memory without requiring you to use complex Performance Monitor counters.

Just below the graphs, you can see the average and maximum utilization for each resource. But this information is not as comprehensive as what you would get via Performance Monitor.

For example, the CPU section shows the current CPU utilization. That's great. . .aside from one minor problem. The machine used to take the screen capture is using multiple CPU cores. The console treats the machine as though it only has a single processor. To break the machine's performance down to a per-core level, you'd have to use Performance Monitor.

Another thing you might have noticed is that each of the summary areas beneath the graphs contains a down arrow on the far right side. If you click this arrow, the section will be expanded and you'll be able to see consumption information for the selected resource on a per-process basis, as shown in the screen below.

The console identifies the process and its process ID, but also provides a description of the process. This makes it easy to tell which application a particular process belongs to. In the case of the CPU summary, you can see the number of threads being used by the process, and the process's current and average CPU utilization values. The other resources display similar types of information that are specific to the resource type in question.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server, Exchange Server and IIS. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. He writes regularly for SearchWinComputing.com and other TechTarget sites.

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