Test your PC's performance with these benchmark tools

With some programs or tasks, the performance of your system is a bit disappointing. Is it the processor or graphics card, disk or internal memory? Benchmark tools allow you to thoroughly test these system components. It becomes clearer where the potential bottlenecks are and what you can do about them.

Tip 01: Synthetic vs. real

The term benchmarking refers to testing a product where you use some reference point to indicate to what extent the tested product performs better or worse than other (comparable) products.

If you google for such tools, you will often come across the term "synthetic benchmark". These tools have their own built-in tests that generate a particular workload from which a performance score is derived.

A smaller part of the test programs belong to the category of 'real world' benchmarks. They use real software, such as that used by the user himself (think of real games or real office applications, etc.) and calculate a performance index on that basis. A typical example of this are test programs that test the graphics card, which do little more than monitor the number of frames per second during live gameplay. This is useful, for example, for gamers who want to know how well a particular video card performs in specific games.

Tip 02: UserBenchmark

We start with a synthetic benchmark that can measure the performance of various system components. Surf to the site www.userbenchmark.com and download the free portable tool UserBenchmark. When you start the program, you see which components are being tested (including the processor, graphics card and the drives) and you also get some explanation about this. as soon as you click run clicks, the tests are run sequentially; make sure that your firewall is not blocking the connection to the internet. The whole process takes barely two minutes. It is a good idea to close all other applications and as many background processes as possible while the tests are running. This also applies to all benchmarks in general.

You will immediately see the results afterwards. You get to see how well your own system performs as a game PC, desktop and workstation. The higher the percentage, the better your own system is suitable for that type of use. Via this link you can see how UserBenchmark exactly calculates these percentages. For example, for the gaming percentage, the following formula is used: 25% processor + 50% video card +15% ssd + 10% hard disk, where the processor score is composed of 30% singlecore, 60% quadcore and 10% multicore.

Tip 03: Test Results

It is worth looking a bit further on the webpage with the test results. At the High level summary you get a description of the performance of the various system components, compared to other PCs that have the same components. Even lower down the page you get even more details for each part. For example, with the processor score you see your own score as well as the average score, and you also see the distribution of the different scores in a graph.

At the bottom of the page, in the section Custom PC Builder you can go through the link Explore upgrades for this PC determine the performance effect of replacing one or more specific components, and the approximate cost. At the top left are the parts of your own PC (Baseline), to its right the components of a possible alternative (alternative). You determine the composition of this alternative yourself. To do this, click open the various tabs at the bottom left (such as CPU, GPU, SSD etc.) and give to Change Alternative […] each time which upgrade you are considering for each of these parts.

Sometimes a hardware upgrade is the fastest way to better performance

Tip 04: Real software test

While UserBenchmark is clearly a synthetic benchmark, the well-known tool PCMark 10 works with real applications. PCMark 10 consists of several editions, including a free Basic Edition and a paid Advanced Edition (27.99 euros). We started with the paid version.

Launch the tool after installation and click on the top right Benchmarks. You can basically go straight on run click in the module PCMark 10, but the Details button gives you more feedback about the test items. In addition, you can click the custom run decide for yourself which tests you want to have carried out.

You notice that PCMark 10 is mainly focused on benchmarking PCs for business use, with items like Video conferencing, Web Browsing, Spreadsheets and Photo Editing. Although there is also a part Rendering and Visualization, but you're better off using a more specialized gaming PC benchmark (see tip 8). A full round of testing can easily take twenty minutes or more. Afterwards you will receive a detailed result of each part. You can save the test results and also compare them with already recorded results. Via the button View online you can also compare the test results with those of other systems.

Tip 05: Disable Services

If you find the system performance on the low side, the following tips may help to make your PC a little smoother. Start by figuring out which programs start automatically with Windows. This can be done via the Windows Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc), but even better with a tool like Autoruns. All you need to do here is uncheck the box next to any redundant item to make sure it no longer starts up automatically.

Also check that no redundant or unwanted services are running. Open the Windows Task Manager again and go to the tab Services. Via the link Open Services can you from the Characteristics-menu it Startup type of a specific service. At the bottom of the webpage you will find recommendations about which services you can opt for Manually or Turned off can put.

Tip 06: Processor

UserBenchmark and PCMark 10 may be very different benchmarks, but they are both intended to provide an overall picture of a system. However, there are also benchmarks that focus specifically on a particular component. The free Cinebench, for example, tests your processor by rendering a 3D image in high quality. All you need to do is launch the tool and CPU on the button run to click. A little later you get the score expressed in 'cb' and the performance of your processor is shown in a comparative table. Through File / Advanced benchmark find you at CPU (single core) another runbutton, which measures the speed of individual processor cores. The designation MP ratio indicates the ratio between singlecore and multicore.

AIDA64 is an extensive suite for system information and diagnosis, but this program also has various CPU benchmarks on board. You can download a free trial version here. Start the tool and open the rubric Benchmark. There you will find eleven cpu and fpu (floating point unit) tests. You don't have to do much more than on Start to press. If you wish, please add first parameters how many processor cores are used and whether hyperthreading may be used. Via the F1 key and the option Benchmark guide you get information about each of these tests.

Tip 07: Overclocking

If you want higher performance for your processor and replacing it with a more powerful one is not an option, you may want to consider overclocking the processor. You then run a stress test on your cpu before and during the various overclocking steps, for example with the free Prime95 in combination with a tool such as HWiNFO, so that you can continuously monitor the temperatures of your processor.

If you have a modern uefi bios in your pc, you might find a category there called overclocking or tweaking or something similar, possibly with out-of-the-box overclocking profiles. If necessary, you can adjust the multiplier value yourself in small steps. For AMD Ryzen CPUs, it is best to download the Ryzen Master tool.

Overclocking often leads to better performance, but you do it at your own risk

Tip 08: Video card

One of the most popular graphics card benchmarking tools is 3DMark, from the same makers as PCMark. The Basic Edition is free and you can use it for testing DirectX 10, 11 and 12. The tool itself proposes the most suitable test for the detected hardware, but you can choose other tests yourself. The PDF that you can download via this link contains detailed information about the various test procedures.

Another well-known tool is Heaven UNIGINE, available for Windows, macOS and Linux. The free Basic version shows 26 consecutive and graphically demanding scenes by default, where you can set all kinds of parameters yourself, such as the OpenGL or DirectX11 APIs, anti-aliasing, resolution and so on. Afterwards you will see the average, minimum and maximum fps value, as well as a global score so that you can compare with other systems.

If you'd rather use a real-time benchmark that measures frames per second during your gaming sessions, consider tools like Fraps and Bandicam. The latter is a lightweight program that can handle DirectX, OpenGL and Vulkan, and also supports a variety of video and audio codecs.

Tip 09: Faster GPU

If you would like to achieve 60 fps for your games, but your graphics card is clearly lacking, you can check whether you have the latest drivers for your video card. Look for Nvidia products here and for AMD here. Also check that you have installed all patches and bug fixes for your games. Optionally, you can set some graphics settings a little less ambitious, such as those for textures, HDR effect, shadows, motion blur and so on.

If that does not give the desired result and another graphics card is not an option, you can also consider overclocking your gpu, using tools such as MSI Afterburner or EVGA Precision X. We do not have the space here to go into this matter in more detail. , but via the links and www.tiny.cc/ocgpu you will find web pages where you will find a lot of concrete instructions. Note: overclocking is always done at your own risk.

Tip 10: Disk and SSD

You can also find out the read and write speeds of SSDs and hard drives with benchmark tools. One of the best known is ATTO Disk Benchmark, which can handle hard drives, SSDs and raid arrays. You can set various parameters for the speed tests. You determine not only the block size (between 512 bytes and 8 MB), but also the size of the test files (up to 2 GB) and the 'Queue Depth' (the maximum number of read/write commands that can be executed at any given time ). It is also useful that you can use the option Direct I/O test the drive without using system buffering or caching. The built-in help function of the tool gives you further information about this.

Crystal Disk Mark is also a popular benchmark, which is also suitable for various storage media such as SSDs, hard drives and memory cards. Here you determine the size of the test file and the tool automatically performs both sequential and random read and write tests.

AS SSD, on the other hand, is specifically intended for SSDs, also copies with the fast nvme protocol. The tool contains six synthetic tests for measuring sequential and random read and write performance. In one test (the option 4K-64THRD) measures the performance on randomly chosen 4K blocks, divided into 64 threads so that you can check the operation of the ncq function (native command queuing).

Tip 11: Speed ​​up disk

If you have a slow hard drive, defragmenting the hard drive today most likely provides little performance gain (most operating systems already do this automatically in the background). The most noticeable speed gain is achieved when you replace it with an SSD.

If you have a sata model ssd, be sure to check the disk mode in your system's bios and make sure it is set to ahci and not on idea. After all, ahci supports ncq and that ensures faster processing of parallel read and write commands.

With the free tool Disk Alignment Test you can check whether your SSD is aligned correctly; normally this happens automatically if you have partitioned the drive with Windows 7 or later. If necessary, you can brush up on that with a tool like the free MiniTool Partition Wizard Free, where you can Align Partition chooses.

Also, to be sure, check whether the trim function is activated on your SSD. Open the Command Prompt and run this command:

fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify

You get DisableDeleteNotify = 0 back, then trim is indeed active. Is that value 1, then you can still activate trim with the command:

fsutil behavior set disabledeletenotify 0

Tip 12: Internal memory

There are several tools that you can use to measure the performance of the internal memory, including the aforementioned UserBenchmark and AIDA64. PassMark Performance Test (30 days free trial) also contains an extensive module for such a benchmark.

As soon as you get to Memory Mark on run click starts a combined memory test, which performs database operations, read tests, a write test, and a latency check. The entire test takes barely a minute and afterwards you can compare your own test result against systems with comparable memory modules.

MemTest86, also from PassMark, is a popular tool (also available in a free version), but it is mainly intended for memory stress testing. After all, imperfect or unreliable memory can cause the strangest phenomena, such as unexpected crashes. An enclosed PDF explains exactly how to use MemTest86 and how to interpret the results.

In any case, do not be tempted to use a so-called 'ram booster'. That is software that claims performance improvements by “freeing up unused memory”. In almost all cases, it just comes down to useful data being moved from the RAM to the slow paging file on the disk, so that doesn't help you at all.

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