Using The System Monitor

Windows' System Monitor utility lets you nurture your inner geek and keep an eye on your PC's performance at the same time. In Windows 98 and Me, you'll find System Monitor by clicking Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools. (If it's not there, select Start, Settings, Control Panel, open Add/Remove Programs, select the Windows Setup tab, scroll down the Components list, double-click System Tools, and check System Monitor.) In Windows XP and 2000, open Control Panel, double-click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Performance.

The PC performance statistics that System Monitor tracks include memory use, hard disk operations, and network connections. You can watch the numbers or graphs change in real time on your screen as your PC adjusts to the needs of different programs. It's a great tool for identifying when your hard disk is most active, which programs stress your CPU, and how your PC uses its memory.

To set or remove what's being watched in Windows 9 x or Me, use the Edit menu: In the Add Item dialog box, pick a Category and then an Item. In XP and 2000, right-click the blank area on the graph, click Add Counters, select a Performance object from the drop-down list, choose a counter from the list below, and click Add. Watching your system's performance change as you add and remove hardware and software can tell you which of your components need a tune-up, and, if necessary, an upgrade.