Sunday Jul 06, 2008

Remotely troubleshooting Windows performance

Spent a couple of hours on the phone to my dad, over in the UK. He had home network troubles, the wireless network wasn't working, and the USB modem was sluggish. We switched to the the wireless router, which eventually came up with a combination of multiple reboots and ensuring that the cables were firmly plugged in. The PC got solved with a (typical) reinstall of the wireless network card driver.

Once the PC was up and running, I wanted to check the performance issues. One of the things we'd been meaning to try was crossloop which is a vnc client/server behind a user-friendly front-end. This worked very well despite a noticeable lag between the UK and California.

I'd planned to use the Performance tool that comes with XP, (Start|Control Panel|Administrative Tools|Performance). This gives a useful system-wide view of performance. It really only indicates what component is maxed out, not what is maxing it out. I did consider getting wintop, it no longer seems to be distributed by MS. However, I did locate Process Explorer (part of the sysinternals collection) which seems to do a much more thorough job than wintop.

There was one only one background process which was consuming significant resources, and that was bigfix, as far as I could tell the app was no longer supported by the company (amusingly, the link "Why is bigfix free?" describes that the free version is being EOL'd!).

I couldn't tell responsiveness over a vnc link, but apparently swapping to the wireless network rather than the DSL modem, and also removing bigfix had made the PC more responsive. Process Explorer also reported adequate free memory and low disk activity.

About

Darryl Gove is a senior engineer in the Solaris Studio team, working on optimising applications and benchmarks for current and future processors. He is also the author of the books:
Multicore Application Programming
Solaris Application Programming
The Developer's Edge

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