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by Chris Taylor

I keep track of my computer’s performance. I almost always have the Task Manager icon in the System Tray. At a glance, I can see if my CPU is being taxed to the extent it will slow down everything I am doing.

But what about other important performance metrics?

If a download from the Internet is slow, is it because my bandwidth is maxed out or is it because the server at the other end is slow?

When I hear my hard disk chugging away, it might just be some small, low priority background task. Or it might be something bigger that can slow me down when I am trying to load a 600MB Photoshop file for editing.

How do I know if memory is over 95% in use? That could certainly cause major slowdowns when I load a big program.

XMeters from Entropy6 is a great little free program that monitors four metrics; CPU, Storage, Network, and Memory. It loads into the system tray on the taskbar where you can see the status at a glance.

Right-click on the XMeters section of the taskbar to customize the configuration. You can turn off any of the 4 metrics you don’t want to monitor. Each metric can be displayed as text or a chart (bar or pie). Colours are customizable. Additionally, the metrics have some further customizations.

CPU can display either total utilization or it can separate out system and user processes. You can opt for separate displays for each processor core and even each logical core.

Storage shows read separate from write. You can have it display a combination of all disks or a single physical drive.

Network splits out send from receive. If you have multiple network interfaces, you can choose which one you want to monitor.

Memory simply displays the percentage of memory used.

Following is the explanation of the tray icons.

To the left is CPU, shown here as an aggregate of all cores in a single yellow bar chart. It is showing over 80% utilization. If I saw this constantly, it would be cause for concern.

Next is Storage, which I set to display as text. It is showing 138 KB/sec read in green and 1 MB/sec write in red.

Third is Network, also set to display as text. It is showing 75 KB/sec send in red and 208 KB/sec receive in orange.

Finally, Memory is set to a pie chart and is showing about 50% in use in purple.

XMeters is great to let you know when you have an issue, but it won’t help fix it. If you want to dig deeper into what is causing a bottleneck, left-click on any part of the XMeters section of the system tray and Task Manager will load, which provides a wealth of information on performance metrics.

Entropy6 says “XMeters is designed to be as lightweight and battery-friendly as possible.” It doesn’t show up in Task Manager, so it is hard to quantify memory and CPU usage. Even Mark Russinovich’s Autoruns and Process Explorer are unable to find it. The author of XMeters told me XMeters is an out-of-process COM server loaded by Windows Explorer and therefore the CPU and memory usage are a portion of what is reported for Windows Explorer. I can happily report that XMeters uses a trivial amount of CPU and memory.

The free version of XMeters only supports refresh rates between 3 and 10 seconds. If you want a version that you can set to refresh more frequently, it is a mere US$5.

XMeters is a v1 program and is impressive as-is. But I can see some possible enhancements that would be nice.

It would be handy to have user-configurable thresholds. If a threshold is passed, change the display colour or make it flash to draw your attention. For example, if CPU utilization exceeds 80%, display it in flashing red.

As shown in the screen shot of the tray icons, with Storage displayed as text, an up-pointing triangle indicates read and a down-pointing triangle indicates write. With Network displayed as text, an up-pointing triangle indicates send and a down-pointing triangle indicates receive. Both Storage and Network are similar in appearance, making it difficult to know what you are looking at. It would be nice if, rather than using triangles, XMeters used R and W to indicate read and write, and S and R to indicate send and receive.

No word (yet) from the author as to whether he agrees that these changes are worthwhile.

But that is nit-picking! I think XMeters is a very useful addition to my computer that enables me to monitor its performance. As long as its usefulness holds up, I will be sending in my $5. Not because I need the capability of adjusting the refresh rate to faster than 3 seconds, but because it is a great program that deserves to be supported.

Bottom Line:


Free version: max update every 3 seconds
$5 version: allows more frequent updates
System requirements: Windows 7 through 10

Originally published: September 2018

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