Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Coctail Party TipsTo understand the secrets of performance and to get the most performance possible from a PC, you have to do more than just buy new parts or change software settings.You have to understand the basics workings of a PC and the factors that determine its performance.The first step in gaining that understandinthe to realize that performance analysis is a discipline in its own right, a discipline with its own technical and intellectual underpinnings. Learning those basics will take you a long way toward being able to boost PC performance.
In this chapter we explain those basics. Our goal here is to give you the background you need to make the most of the material in the chapters that follow.We readily admit that you can get plenty of the value of this book by skipping this information and jumping right into the test results.You can, for example, skip to Chapter 9, "Optimizing Your System's RAM," locate our RAM recommendation for your system, and you and your PC will be fine. Doing so, though, would limit your ability to know how to react as the operating system and applications you're running evolve and their RAM requirements change. If instead you take the time to learn the key elements of performance analysis, you'll be able to cope with such changes easily.
By understanding the factors in PC performance you'll be able to better extrapolate from this book to almost any performance-sensitive situation you may encounter.To make sure you have the knowledge you need to face such situations, in this chapter you will learn:
- Why performance matters
- The ways most people think about PC performance, and review the factors thatdetermine it
- The way your interactions with your PC help define what you perceive as its performance
- Why, despite so much advertising to the contrary, there's a lot more to your PC's performance than the megahertz (MHz) of its processor
- That the processor is certainly a major factor in how well a PC performs, but that the right supporting players can make a PC look dramatically better-and the wrong ones can cripple it
- The factors that contribute to the overall performance of your PC
- What bottlenecks are
- That perhaps the most important concept in performance analysis is the bottleneck, which can cause an otherwise good system to perform poorly
- Specifically how bottlenecks affect performance
- That no matter what you do, in the end, every system has bottlenecks: It's the nature of performance
- How one piece of a system can slow down the rest of that system, sometimes dramatically
- How to find the bottlenecks in a system
- Why it's important to use the right benchmark
- The differences between benchmarks that characterize the performance of the whole PC and those that gauge the speed of only one part of the PC
1.1. Cocktail Party Tips
PC performance is much easier to discuss informally than it is to define precisely. In most conversations, if someone mentions PC performance, you know at an abstract level what they mean: How fast the PC goes.
More precisely, most folks intuitively understand that performance is a measure of how much work a PC can do in a given amount of time. The more work you can accomplish in a fixed amount of time, the better.
Most people also intuitively understand a corollary, that doing the same amount of work in less time is another way to express better performance. If your spreadsheet recalculates more quickly, your performance is better.
Pretty much everyone will also agree that more performance is better.Whether the work you're doing is spell checking, spreadsheet recalculation, or playing video clips, a PC that performs better will make your computing experience better.That's about where the agreement ends, however. Dig deeper, and you're likely to find that what one person means by performance may be very different from your own conception. People who stay in the same application all day, for example, may not care at all about how long that application takes to load. They might even count on using that load time each morning to get their coffee. If, by contrast, you start and stop different applications all day, the time your PC takes to launch those applications might be the single thing that annoys you most about the system's performance.
Clearly, the critical part of the PC performance equation is the definition of the work the PC needs to do.That definition will vary from person to person, because each of us uses our PC differently. What each of us quite rightfully wants is a PC that is fast at doing the work we demand of it...