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How (and why) to measure computer performance

Tech Talk

 

How do we tell if a computer is fast or if it's faster than that computer over there? What's fast anyway?

We need an objective way to measure a computer's speed overall, and it would be nice to break down the major parts of a computer and get ratings for them, too. That's where benchmarking comes in.

Gamers have used benchmarks to rate their computers for years-both for bragging rights and also to make sure their computer can play specific games.

Even if you're not looking for bragging rights or trying to figure out if your computer can play a certain game, benchmarking is useful. When you benchmark a new computer, you can benchmark it again in a year and see how your system is holding up. If your computer isn't new, you can run a benchmark now and another one later to see if there are any changes over time.

There are two types of benchmarks: real world and synthetic. Real world benchmarks are based on things like opening a file and writing to the hard disk. Synthetic benchmarks run a series of tests designed to push your computer's components as hard as possible.

At the end of the test, you'll have numbers for each system in your computer and an overall rating. Most benchmark programs also offer suggestions on improving the performance of your system, from adding more RAM, to replacing the processor, hard drive, or graphics card.

Benchmarks can be useful in checking that your computer is running the way it's supposed to, or spotting problems before they occur; which is where the hard drive-specific benchmarks can come in handy.

Other programs running on your computer can affect your computer's benchmark scores. I suggest running benchmarks on a freshly-booted system and running the test three times, then averaging the results.

Most benchmarking software programs have an accompanying site where you can compare your scores against other systems.

Here are the computer benchmark programs I use and recommend:

Novabench is a good overall benchmarking program, and it's free. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux:

http://www.novabench.com.

UserBenchmark gives you more information about your computer than Novabench. When complete, UserBenchmark takes you to their website for your results. Also free, but Windows only:

http://www.userbenchmark.com

These tools are best run regularly and checked against your previous results to see if your computer is having any performance problems.

Hard drive benchmarks

If you just want to benchmark your hard drive, Windows users can use CrystalDiskMark Standard Edition, and macOS users can use Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. Both programs are free and work with SSDs and mechanical drives: crystalmark.info/en/software/crystaldiskmark and itunes.apple.com/us/app/blackmagic-disk-speed-test/id425264550?mt=12.

Internet benchmarks

Anything can be measured, right? Even your current internet connection. To check your current download and upload speeds, use one of these internet benchmarks: http://www.speedtest.net or Netflix's fast.com. You can even type "internet speed test" into Google and have Google do a test for you.

Speedtest gives you more than just your download and upload speeds. It also tests your ping time (30 milliseconds or less is good for a broadband internet connection), it also confirms your ISP and tells you what your external IP address is.

Problems and solutions

Here is a list of aircraft problems reported by pilots at the end of the day followed by the notes the mechanics left for the pilots to read the next morning:

(P) Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.

(S) Almost replaced left inside main tire.

(P) Something loose in cockpit.

(S) Something tightened in cockpit.

(P) Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.

(S) Evidence removed.

(P) Volume unbelievably loud.

(S) Volume set to more believable level.

(P) Number 3 engine missing.

(S) Engine found on right wing after brief search.

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at greg@tech-hachapi.com.

 
 

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