Back to Just Do It!
Up to Table of Contents
Ahead to Wintune 95 Guided Tour

Test It

Put your PC to the ultimate test with Wintune

By David W. Methvin
Senior Technical Editor

Do any of these sound familiar? You've just unboxed that sleek new Pentium system and started it up. But something must be wrong; it doesn't seem much faster than your old 486! Where is the problem? Your old system just seems to be getting worse with each passing day. Maybe it's your imagination, but it sure didn't seem to take this long to start your word processor six months ago. Whenever you install a new piece of software, you notice your system seems to have gotten slower. Why would that happen? If you're looking for answers to these problems, you might want to try Wintune, the freeware from WINDOWS Magazine that lets you test and tune your PC for maximum performance.

Tuning In

There are already lots of benchmarks that will give you one or more numbers that evaluate your system's performance. Some are low-level tests that try to stress a particular area of the system and find its limits. Others try to simulate real applications to give you an idea of real-life performance. Others don't simulate applications; they use the actual programs and run them through an automated macro facility.

So why did we invent the Wintune wheel if there were already plenty of tires around? Because we thought those wheels had a few flat spots. For example, most benchmark programs just give you a number or two. After you look at the numbers, you're left with questions like:

Wintune helps you answer these kinds of questions by flagging questionable results, looking for common system configuration problems, and keeping a database of results you can use to compare your system to others. This can help you whether you want to tune your current system, buy an upgraded component or purchase a whole new system.

We had a few other goals in mind with Wintune that make it quick, portable and easy to use. For example, Wintune fits on a single floppy disk, so you can take it with you and easily install it on other systems. It's small enough to download through the Internet or an online service. We offer Wintune on our Windows CD-ROM Magazine, but it doesn't require a CD-ROM to install or operate.

Wintune is self-contained. It doesn't need anything beyond the standard Windows installation to operate. No applications are required, although Wintune optionally supports Word and Excel macro tests if you already have those two programs installed.

WINDOWS Magazine is making Wintune results available for all the systems that we test-on our Web site, CompuServe and America Online. That means you can download results, add them to your Wintune database, and compare them to the results you're getting on your own system.

Top Where's Wintune? Running the Tests Tour De Tune Under the Hood Swapping Results Cache In, Cache Out Past and Future Wintune

Where's Wintune?

There are two versions of Wintune available today. Wintune 95 is the version you'll want if you're running Windows 95 or Windows NT 3.51 or later. The older Wintune 2.0 is designed for use with Windows 3.1x, Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and Windows NT 3.5. They perform similar duties, but aren't quite the same in how they look and what they do. (To find out why, see the sidebar "Past and Future Wintune.") Most of the tuning discussion applies to both versions, but the specific details of program operation or the messages you get will be different in the two versions.

The latest versions of Wintune can always be found on WINDOWS Magazine's online sites. There you'll also find the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) files, which can help you diagnose and fix common problems that may keep Wintune from running properly.

On CompuServe, use GO: WINMAG and look in the Wintune library area. Technical support discussions are handled in the Wintune message section. The WINDOWS Magazine area on America Online (Keyword: WinMag) has a similar layout.

You can also get Wintune and the FAQ files from our Web site, Click on the Downloads icon and follow the directions to Wintune. Although other locations on the Internet may make Wintune available for downloading, the one at our Web site will always be the latest official version.

If you don't have online access, or just prefer to avoid the download time, you can get Wintune as part of the Windows CD-ROM Magazine. It is available at most newsstands for $12.95, or subscribe by calling 800-234-7233.

Top Where's Wintune? Running the Tests Tour De Tune Under the Hood Swapping Results Cache In, Cache Out Past and Future Wintune

Running the Tests

Most of the time, you'll want to run all of Wintune's tests, so we've made that easy. In Wintune 95, you click on the Analyze Now button. For Wintune 2.0, click on the Start button. Wintune will go through all of the tests for each subsystem of the PC. You'll see a progress bar that tells you that the tests are running their course.

During the video subsystem test, Wintune will display a window on your screen and draw or scroll a variety of text and images in that window. These tests will sometimes cause an error if the video driver has software bugs. If Wintune displays an error message during the video tests, the most likely cause is a bad video driver. You can check this by changing to another video driver (for example, a different resolution or color depth), or use the standard VGA (640x480 pixel, 16 colors) driver. If the problem goes away, you should contact the vendor to see if it has an updated driver.

Once you've become familiar with Wintune, you may also want to try our Word and Excel application macros. These will give you an idea of real-world application speed as another check of your system's performance. In Wintune 95, you can even run these macros as part of the testing that is done when you click on the Analyze Now button, or you can write your own macros. The Wintune 95 online help has more details on this feature; go to the Details tab, right-click on the Apps item and select Tell Me More.

Once the tests are complete, Wintune analyzes the results and looks for system settings that are significantly out of whack. If it finds any problems, Wintune will generate tips on how to tune or fix the problem. Tips are sorted in order of their importance.

What if you don't get any tips? That's not bad at all in most cases. It means that your system doesn't have any serious problems. However, you may still be able to get better performance by doing a bit of tuning and tweaking. The best thing to do is compare your system to similar systems in Wintune's database and see if yours is up to snuff.

Top Where's Wintune? Running the Tests Tour De Tune Under the Hood Swapping Results Cache In, Cache Out Past and Future Wintune

Tour De Tune

Once you've run Wintune, you'll have a lot of new information. What do you do now? First, check out any tips that it's given you. Click on each tip and read the description. Double-click on a tip if you want more detailed information, and browse the related topics in the Help file for further details. Also don't forget to check out the article in this issue titled Tune It. There you'll find plenty of tips on how to keep a PC in top shape.

But what about all those numbers? Wintune 95 provides many different ways to view and use the data it gathers so that you can make sense of the results. Wintune 95's user interface consists of a set of tabbed dialogs that give you different views of the performance data. The tabs are:

Top Where's Wintune? Running the Tests Tour De Tune Under the Hood Swapping Results Cache In, Cache Out Past and Future Wintune

Under the Hood

Both Wintune 95 and Wintune 2.0 perform tests on and analyze four major performance subsystems of your computer.

For each subsystem, you get one or two top-line performance measurements, detailed performance results and tuning tips when appropriate. Each analyzer also has an online Help file that provides full details on all the topics.

Wintune 2.0 uses a 16-bit version of each of these benchmarks, and Wintune 95 uses a 32-bit version. The 32-bit version of the benchmarks, not surprisingly, runs significantly faster. On a multiple-CPU workstation running under Windows NT, Wintune 95 will test all the CPUs concurrently and show a total performance measure for all processors.
Finally, a memory copy test is performed; this operation is typical of many buffer-copying operations that run within applications and operating systems.

Top Where's Wintune? Running the Tests Tour De Tune Under the Hood Swapping Results Cache In, Cache Out Past and Future Wintune

Swapping Results

Wintune 95 has a special file format, called a Wintune exchange (.WTX) file, that makes it easy to exchange results with other users. This file contains plain ASCII text, so it can even be sent in the body of an e-mail message. The person who receives the file can import it into his or her own Wintune 95 database and examine the results.

The most common thing you'll want to do is to export the current set of results to a .WTX file. You can do this by selecting File/Export Current from Wintune 95's menu. If you want to export your database, go to the Database tab, select the results you want to export, then right-click on the last system and click on Export All Selected. You'll create a single .WTX file with the results for all of the systems you selected.

Importing results into your database is simpler still. You can either select File/Import from the menu and choose the names of files there, or just drag the .WTX files and drop them on the Wintune 95 window. The database will be updated to reflect the new entries, and you can now use them in charts and reports.

One note of caution: Since the WTX format is plain ASCII, it's possible for an unscrupulous user or vendor to edit the results to make a system appear better than it really is. If you didn't get the results directly from WINDOWS Magazine or a trusted friend, remember that the numbers could have been changed.

Now that you've gotten the tour of Wintune's capabilities, it's time to park the PC under a shade tree, put on your overalls, pull out the toolkit and get to work. Check out the article Tune It and see how you can get the best performance out of your system.

Top Where's Wintune? Running the Tests Tour De Tune Under the Hood Swapping Results Cache In, Cache Out Past and Future Wintune

Cache In, Cache Out

Click Here to see a 12KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Cache In, Cache Out

These three charts show the disastrous effect that a disabled cache can have on performance. Wintune 95 generated these charts in the Charts tab using the Memory Read Performance item. This test is a good diagnostic for the efficiency of memory caches because it reads data from memory at a wide range of block sizes. For small block sizes, the cache can help performance, but at large block sizes the caches have less of an effect. The system tested here was a 90MHz Pentium, but you'll see similarly shaped graphs for any 486 or Pentium system.

In the first graph, you see a healthy system. It has the three levels of performance that are typical of a system with both an internal and external memory cache. The first two bars represent performance inside the Pentium's internal 8KB data cache, which is extremely high. The next few bars show the speed of this system's 256KB external cache, which is much lower than the internal cache but still faster than main memory. By the time you get to the bars at the end of the first graph-when the test reads very large blocks of memory-performance has dropped to the speed of main RAM and caches don't seem to help much at all.

The second graph shows the same system with the external memory cache turned off. Notice that once the block sizes exceed the Pentium's internal cache, performance drops immediately to that of main memory. Since the internal cache is still working, you may not even notice the 10 percent to 20 percent performance drop that comes from running without an external cache. In fact, some "value line" 75MHz Pentium systems leave out the external cache to save money-at the expense of performance.

If you're lucky, you'll never see the last graph. This performance disaster scenario arises when both the internal and external caches are turned off. The effect on system speed is very noticeable, so you'll want to fix that pretty quickly if you ever see it.

So how do you resolve a problem with cache? The most common cause is an incorrect setting in the system BIOS or possibly a jumper. BIOS software is like snowflakes-no two ever seem to be quite the same-so it's impossible to give specific directions. The best thing to do is to look for BIOS settings with "cache" in their name and make sure they're all turned on.

Top Where's Wintune? Running the Tests Tour De Tune Under the Hood Swapping Results Cache In, Cache Out Past and Future Wintune

Past and Future Wintune

We began the Wintune project in 1993 with a modest goal of providing a set of performance numbers that we-and our readers-could use to compare systems and peripherals. In addition, we developed a set of macros for Microsoft Word and Excel that could measure performance in real-life applications. The result of that effort, Wintune 1.0, was released in November 1993.

As we began to use Wintune for our testing, and as we analyzed the Wintune results our readers were reporting, we found that a lot of systems weren't performing up to their expected level. Often these problems were caused by incorrect software or hardware configurations, so we decided to have Wintune detect and diagnose these problems where possible. When Wintune 2.0 was released in December 1994, it could diagnose more than 40 performance-related problems in Windows 3.x.

Making a version of Wintune for Windows 95 was quite a challenge. We needed the benchmark to be available as soon as Windows 95 shipped, and it had to be a 32-bit application to be able to call the new Windows 95 APIs. Our 16-bit Visual Basic user interface from Wintune 2.0 couldn't be ported because Microsoft's VB 4.0 wasn't available. We instead had to write a user interface from scratch in C++. Then we had to collect performance and tuning tips for an operating system that wasn't even finished yet. A dedicated set of Wintune beta testers helped us track down bugs and work out the tuning tips.

Where we go from here depends on what you, our readers and Wintune users, would like to see. We're working on an improved user interface, more tests, more tips and more tuning details in the Help file. You can help by sending suggestions to, or by visiting our Web site at

Back to Just Do It!
Up to Table of Contents
Ahead to Wintune 95 Guided Tour