Free but helpful

Provides 29 kinds of info to help you determine what's limiting your system's performance.

Tracking how your system uses its resources can help you determine what may be limiting your system's performance. This free utility monitors 29 resources--including CPU, memory, network, and HDD usages--so you can pinpoint where your system needs optimizing.

Moo0 SystemMonitor launches a vertical bar you can drag anywhere on your desktop. You can specify its transparency or modify as a toolbar button through a right-click menu. Resizing the bar by turning the middle scroll button of the mouse made viewing and hiding the bar easier. Its color coding--light green for satisfactory or optimal usage, red for spikes and resource issues--quickly provides a visual flag for areas to investigate.

This little freeware utility performed very well in our tests. The information was brief but useful, and we liked that an error report could be saved as a text file for easier follow-up or tracking. Our favorite feature was the Bottleneck display, which turns red and displays item-hogging resources at the moment problems occurred. We also liked the real-time graphic display of hard-drive input/output performance and network speed.

Power users may prefer a few more bells and whistles, but SystemMonitor's ease of use and helpful data make it an excellent choice to add to your optimizing toolbox.

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