If you’re curious about how your computer performs or need to make sure your computer is performing as well as it’s meant to, the Windows Performance Monitor (WPM), sometimes referred to as “Windows Performance Meter,” is an excellent tool for the job. This tutorial shows how to use the Windows 11 Performance Monitor and what the readings mean.
Note: the instructions here will work for Windows 10 as well as Windows 11.
Before You Use WPM, Consider Task Manager
WPM is an excellent tool, but for many users, it may be overkill when it comes to how much information it provides. In Windows 11, as well as Windows 10, the Task Manager also has surprisingly good performance summaries for all of the major components of your computer.
You’ll also find a shortcut to the Resource Monitor at the bottom of the Task Manager Performance tab. This is the same monitor that you open from within Windows Performance Monitor, so if that’s what you’re interested in, there’s no reason to get there through WPM.
What Does the Windows Performance Monitor Do?
While Windows Performance Monitor gives you access to real-time performance monitoring, its real value comes from its ability to log performance over time and keep a record of various important events. You can even use WPM to monitor the performance of a remote computer!
1. Start Up Windows Performance Monitor
Opening the Windows Performance Monitor is straightforward.
- Open the Start Menu in Windows 11 and type “Performance Monitor.”
- Click on the app in the search results to launch it.
- Alternatively, press Win + R to bring up the Run dialog box, then type “perfmon.exe” and press Enter.
2. Quick Tour of the Performance Monitor
When you first open the Performance Monitor, you’ll see a brief overview of the tool.
You’ll also see a system summary showing you the current status of your memory, disk drives, and CPU.
The left sidebar is where all the action happens. Currently, “Performance” is selected, which is where you’ll see the summary.
If you expand “Monitoring Tools,” you’ll see a live view of the “counters” that are currently being monitored. By default, there will be only a single counter: your CPU.
Under “Data Collector Sets” you’ll find a number of folders. “User Defined” will be empty until you create custom measurement sets to add there.
“System” contains two very useful pre-made measurement sets. “System diagnostics” is a collection of measurements that will give you an overview of how the various parts of your computer are working. “System Performance” has a collection of measurements designed to check how well your computer is performing.
“Event Trace Sessions” is filled with various log generators that keep record of key systems and what they are doing. You’ll notice under “status” that all of these are running.
“Startup Event Trace Sessions” is self-explanatory. These loggers track events that happen at startup. You’ll notice that some are disabled, which is normal.
Finally, we have the “Reports” folder. Here you’ll find predefined reports, but you can also create your own custom reports that go in the “User Defined” folder.
3. Adding Counters to the Performance Monitor
If you go to “Monitoring Tools -> Performance Monitor,” you can easily add additional counters to the output.
- Click the green cross.
- Select “Local Computer” or the custom name of your computer.
- Look for the category your desired counter belongs to and expand it.
- Click the “Add” button to see all of the counters on the monitor once you click “OK.”
4. Custom Data Collector Sets
If you’re just looking to do some basic diagnostics or general performance measurements, the pre-made data collector sets are probably all you need. However, you may need to monitor or log a very specific set of counters and will have to create a custom data collector set.
- Expand “Data Collector Sets.”
- Right-click on “User Defined,” select “New,” then “Data Collector Set.”
- Give the set a name.
- Choose whether you want to create a set from a template or create one manually. The template-based method is simple, but the manual mode can be more complex.
- Select “Create manually -> Create data logs,” then choose the type of data you want to collect from the three categories. Since we’re interested in performance, we are choosing “Performance counter,” but the general process is the same regardless of which type of data log you choose.
- Click the “Add” button.
- Under “Select counters from computer,” choose “Local Computer” if it’s not selected by default.
- Expand the counter categories as needed and elect a counter of your choice.
- Select which instance of that counter you want to add to your custom monitor.
- From the expanded category, choose the specific counters you want to add to the monitor. You can hold the Ctrl key to select multiple counters.
- Click “Add” with each one of your selections for them to appear under “Added counters.” Once you’ve chosen all the counters you need, click “OK.”
- Choose a sample interval and the units of that interval. Remember that sampling data too often can actually cause performance problems. The default value is a good place to start, and you can always change it later.
- Choose a location for the data to be saved or leave the default location in place.
- Click “Next -> Save and Close -> Finish.”
5. Running Collector Sets and Getting Reports
Now that you’ve created a collector set, you need to run it.
- Right-click on the collector set under “User defined” and select “Start.”
- Expand “reports” and find the report under “User defined.”
If you used a pre-made system collector set, it will work the same way, but the reports are found under “System” instead.
6. Real-Time Monitoring
Creating a performance monitor log is useful when trying to cross-reference performance issues with certain events, but it’s not a suitable way to keep an eye on things in real-time.
You can either use the Performance Monitor Window in WPM or open Resource Monitor under the WPM summary. Both of these give you a real-time view of what’s going on with your computer, but Resource Monitor is preconfigured with common performance counters, while Performance Monitor needs you to add counters manually.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I customize the Windows Performance Monitor view?
Yes, you can change the color, width, and scale of any counter in Windows Performance Monitor by double-clicking on it in the WPM window and opening the “Data” tab.
How can I monitor my system with full-screen apps?
If you’re playing a video game or another full-screen app, you can’t see what’s on the real-time monitor by attaching a second screen to your computer. Alternatively, use performance overlay software, such as Windows Game Bar or Nvidia’s GeForce Experience overlay, then pin the Windows Performance Monitor widget from either tool to your screen to see system performance as you play.
What Are “Instances” in the Performance Monitor
When you have multiple hardware devices that provide the same type of data, you need multiple instances of the same counter. For example, if you have two Ethernet network controllers in your computer, you would need two instances of a network-related counter for each one.
Image credit: Pexels All screenshots by Sydney Butler.
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