There are times when you need to monitor your system’s performance to know if your computer can cope up in running most of the installed programs smoothly without constantly putting too much stress on the hardware. This will result in more heat being generated on the computer, shorten of battery life and annoyance because of the time wasted in waiting for the processing to complete. Other than just monitoring the CPU usage, you will also need to look at the memory usage, disk and network utilization because your computer will still come to a crawl if a program is hogging on to any of the mentioned areas.
You can find a very basic system monitoring feature built into the Windows Task Manager at the Performance tab where you can see the current CPU and memory usage that may contain insufficient information. Here are 8 free system performance monitoring tools that shows the CPU, RAM, HDD and Network usage in real time.
1. Moo0 SystemMonitor
Moo0 SystemMonitor is a lightweight system monitoring tool where it is able to monitor 4 main components of your computer which is the CPU, memory, network and hard disk drive and provides information for more than 30 over signals. Running the program the first time will show a vertical bar with all the important hardware usage information. Right clicking on the bar will open a context menu allowing you to select the different signals to monitor, layout, size and skin selections, refresh frequency, keeping program on top, languages and etc.
What we liked about Moo0 SystemMonitor is it shows which hardware is currently the bottleneck and also the process that is causing the burden. As you can see from the screenshot above, it clearly shows that Firefox is the cause of the bottleneck as it is hogging on to the CPU usage. During testing, Moo0 SystemMonitor takes up merely an average 4MB of memory usage and 3-5% CPU usage due to the constant refreshing to get the updated numbers. Works from XP to Windows 7 and comes in both installer or portable version.
Glint is actually an activity monitor that supports a whopping 200 indicators. The default interface looks like an audio equalizer bar that does not really reveal anything important and you can change it to either Glint Lights or Graphs by right clicking on the window. A combination settings of Graphs, unchecking mini-bar, and selecting Larger view option will give you a much clearer idea on your system’s performance. It also shows the active processes with most CPU activity at the right hand side.
Accessing the Glint Monitor Settings allows you to select the objects for monitoring and displayed at the main window. 13 main indicators are selected by default that includes performance from memory, network, disk, processor and system.
Glint is free, portable and runs on Windows 2000 to Windows 7.
3. System Monitor II
System Monitor II is a gadget based utility that can be configured to stay on top of all windows to show the current CPU and memory usage. If you have CoreTemp installed and running in background, System Monitor II is able to pull and display the core temperature information on the program itself.
The good thing about System Monitor II is you can find other individual gadgets from the official website to monitor other hardware components such as network, process, GPU, battery, mouse and keyboard. This way, you can only install the gadget that you want to monitor instead of using one heavy weight program that is capable of monitoring everything. Do take note that the downloading this program can be a bit tricky because by default it will prompt you to use a downloader to download System Monitor II. Simply cancel the download, scroll down a bit and click the button where it says “Please CLICK HERE to download clean gadget, without installer”.
4. System Performance Monitor
System Performance Monitor is a free, simple and portable tool that is suitable to display the usage of 4 main components which are CPU, memory, disk and network on demand. All you need to do is run the executable file and the usage of the monitored hardware are shown in one window on graphs. The only options you can find is the ability to change the monitored disk location and selecting a different network adapter. System Performance Monitor is only for Windows 7 32-bit and 64-bit.
5. Performance Monitor
Just like most of the system monitoring tools, Performance Monitor also monitors 4 components on the computer which are CPU, memory, disk and network utilization in 4 customizable panels. The panels can be hidden, moved to any where on your screen and the positions of the panels can be backed up so you can easily restore back the positions if you accidentally move it away from the saved location.
If you do not like a system monitoring tool to take up any space on your desktop, you may find Perfgraph useful because it integrates nicely by displaying the graphs on your taskbar. You can add as many instances as you want by right clicking on one of the graphs and select “New Perfgraph Instance”. A new graph will appear and you can then configure it to show the CPU load, memory load, network load, ping or temperature through the hardware sensors.
Do note that enabling the Perfgraph toolbar in Windows 7 will warn that it is not compatible but it works fine when we tested it in Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit.
7. Rubber Ducky System Monitor
If you are tired of looking at those graphs generated by the system monitoring tools, here is a rather interesting and cute program called Rubber Ducky System Monitor. Basically every elements on the aquarium represents a system information, for example the water level indicates the memory usage, the water color for swap file usage, fish as network traffic, plants waving as hard disk activity and bubbles as CPU usage.
There is nothing much to configure on this program, other than auto startup, transparency, always on top, and restoring it back to the default location which is at the bottom right. Although it has a cute concept, but it takes a bit of time and effort to memorize the meaning of the elements.
8. Resource Monitor
Although it is well known that Microsoft utilities are never really that useful, but surprisingly that the built-in Resource Monitor tool is one of the best if compared to the list above. At the main overview tab, you can find history graphs located at the right hand side and on the left pane, it shows very detailed usage information of CPU, Disk, Network and Memory for each running process.
Resource Monitor can be launched from Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Resource Monitor. Alternatively you can also type resmon at the Run window (Win+R), or at the Search bar in Start Menu.