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Running on NT
by John D. Ruley

You get an impressive set of performance-optimization tools for NT by doing one thing: installing the operating system. With NT Workstation and NT Server, you get Performance Monitor and Task Manager, and NT Server administrators also get Network Monitor.

Performance Monitor is the primary tool for observing NT performance. It works as a software chart recorder that gleans information from a variety of objects in the NT system; you can have Performance Monitor display the information, log it or signal an alert based on certain conditions. The utility lets you peek at the system's processors, as well as memory, disk and network subsystems. In many cases, you can break down performance on a per-process or per-thread basis. You'll find Performance Monitor in the NT Desktop's Administrative Tools folder.

In NT 4.0, Performance Monitor is augmented by an enhanced Task Manager with CPU and memory-charting capabilities. Though it's less flexible than Performance Monitor, it's easier to use. You just right-click on any open portion of the NT Desktop's taskbar and pick Task Manager from the resulting pop-up menu. The Performance tab gives you a quick look at CPU and memory utilization. The Tasks tab lets you break the utilization down and find out which programs are using the most resources.

Performance Monitor
Take a Peek. NT Performance Monitor displays details of systems (and application) operation. Here you can see CPU utilization on a dual-processor system. Neither processor is fully utilitized.

With Performance Monitor and Task Manager, the key to optimizing NT performance is to observe CPU and memory utilization and look for a bottleneck--a situation that occurs when programs request more resources than NT has available. Frequently, you'll find the problem is one or two applications that are hogging resources. For example, if Task Manager's Performance tab shows CPU utilization saturated at 100 percent, you should look at the Tasks tab to determine the processor hogs.

Unfortunately, while the tools to find such problems come free with NT, actually solving the problem often involves spending money. A common performance problem in NT is "thrashing," which results from trying to run too many applications on a system with insufficient RAM. You can work around such a problem by identifying which applications use the most memory and not running them all at the same time. For example, we've found that Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word will run fine on our test system with 32MB of RAM individually--but the system thrashes when we try to run them together. To completely eliminate the problem, we had to add RAM, which is cheap now but still not free.

NT Server administrators can extend bottleneck-detection to the network, because Performance Monitor can observe many network objects. NT Server 4.0 also includes a functional protocol analyzer in software: Network Monitor, which is installed as a network service.

You can start Network Monitor from the Administrative Tools folder. To capture network data, select Capture/Start. After a dozen or so network frames have been captured, select Capture/Stop and View, and you'll see a screen with summary data. Double-click on any frame in the summary, and you'll see Detail and Hex windows for that frame. Network Monitor helps the most when you can tell (from Performance Monitor) that you have too much network traffic, but you can't figure out where the traffic is coming from. It lets you examine the actual bits going over the wire.

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Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.