If you’re curious about how your computer is performing or want to make sure your computer is working as well as it’s supposed to, the Windows Performance Monitor (WPM), sometimes referred to as the “Windows Performance Meter,” is an excellent tool to get the job done. This tutorial shows how to use the Windows 11 Performance Monitor and what the readings mean.
Note: The instructions here work for both Windows 10 and Windows 11.
Before using WPM, consider Task Manager
WPM is an excellent tool, but for many users it may be overkill for how much information it provides. In both Windows 11 and Windows 10, the Task Manager offers surprisingly good performance overviews for all the important components of your computer.
You can also find a shortcut to Resource Monitor at the bottom of Task Manager’s Performance tab. This is the same monitor that you open in Windows Performance Monitor. So if that’s what you’re interested in, there’s no reason to get there via WPM.
What does 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 record various important events. You can even use WPM to monitor a remote computer’s performance!
1. Start Windows Performance Monitor
Opening 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, type perfmon.exe and press Enter.
2. Short tour of the performance monitor
When you first open the Performance Monitor, you see a brief overview of the tool.
You’ll also see a system summary that shows you the current status of your memory, disk drives, and CPU.
The left sidebar is where all the action happens. Currently “Performance” is selected where you see the summary.
If you expand “Monitoring Tools” you will see a live view of the “Counters” that are currently being monitored. By default, there is only one counter: your CPU.
Under “Data Collector Sets” you will find a number of folders. Custom remains empty until you create custom measurement sets to add there.
“System” contains two very useful ready-made measurement sets. “System diagnostics” is a collection of measurements that give you an overview of how the different parts of your computer are working. System Performance contains a collection of measurements that you can use to check how well your computer is performing.
“Event Trace Sessions” is filled with various log generators that record important systems and their activities. You will see under “Status” that these are all running.
“Startup Event Trace Sessions” is self-explanatory. These loggers track events that happen at launch. You will find that some are disabled, which is normal.
Finally, we have the Reports folder. Here you will find predefined reports, but you can also create your own custom reports, which will be placed in the Custom 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 on the green cross.
- Select Local Computer or your computer’s custom name.
- Find and expand the category that your desired counter belongs to.
- Click the Add button to display all the counters on the monitor once you click OK.
4. Custom Data Collection Sets
If you just want to run some basic diagnostics or general performance measurements, the pre-built data collection sets are probably all you need. However, you may need to monitor or log a very specific set of performance counters and create a custom data collector set.
- Expand Data Collector Sets.
- Right-click Custom, select New, and then select Data Collector Set.
- Give the set a name.
- Choose to create a set from a template or create one manually. The template-based method is easy, but the manual mode can be more complex.
- Select “Create Manually -> Create Data Logs” and then select the type of data you want to collect from the three categories. Since we’re interested in performance, we’ll choose Performance Counters, but the general process is the same no matter what type of data log you choose.
- Click the Add button”.
- Under “Select meter from computer,” select “Local computer” if it’s not selected by default.
- Expand the counter categories as needed and select a counter of your choice.
- Choose which instance of this counter you want to add to your custom monitor.
- From the expanded category, select the specific counters you want to add to the monitor. You can hold these ctrl key to select multiple counters.
- Click Add on each of your selections so they appear under Added Counters. When you have selected all the counters you need, click OK.
- Choose a sampling interval and the units of that interval. Keep in mind that sampling data too frequently can actually cause performance issues. The default value is a good starting point and you can always change it later.
- Choose a location for the data to be saved or leave the default location.
- Click Next -> Save & Close -> Finish.
5. Running collector sets and retrieving reports
After you create a collector set, you need to run it.
- Right-click the collector set under Custom and choose Start.
- Expand Reports and find the report under Custom.
If you used a pre-built system collector set, it works the same, but you’ll find the reports under “System” instead.
6. Real time monitoring
Creating a performance monitoring log is useful when trying to correlate performance issues to specific events, but it’s not a viable method for keeping an eye on things in real time.
You can either use the Performance Monitor window in WPM or open the Resource Monitor under the WPM summary. Both give you a real-time overview of what’s going on on your computer, but Resource Monitor comes pre-configured with general performance counters, while Performance Monitor requires you to add performance 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 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 other full-screen app, you can’t see what’s on the real-time monitor by connecting a second display to your computer. Alternatively, you can use performance overlay software like Windows Game Bar or Nvidia’s GeForce Experience overlay, and then pin the Windows Performance Monitor widget from either tool to your screen to view system performance while gaming.
What are “instances” in System Monitor
If 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 need two instances of a network-related counter for each.
Photo credit: Pexels All screenshots by Sydney Butler.
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