We love performance testing. Whether it’s cars or computers, we want to know which one is the fastest, which one can carry the most weight, which one will get the job done better, which is quicker, or which is cheaper.
In addition to satisfying our curiosity, performance testing allows us to make smart purchases. After all, if you’re going to spend $2000 on a new desktop computer, you want to know for a fact that it outperforms the model that only costs $1500.
But how do you accurately test a PC’s performance?
It can be difficult to accurately measure and compare and the performance of one computer with another. Fortunately, though, the Windows Experience Index Score offers a way to reliably test the performance of different Windows PCs.
Let’s take a look at what the Windows Experience Index Score is, how it works, and how to see your PC’s score in Windows 10.
The Performance Problem
Coming up with a reliable and scalable performance test for IBM PC compatibles – what we would call a Windows PC today – actually bedeviled the computer industry for decades.
The problem is that there are a lot of different things to test on a PC – how fast it can do mathematical computations, how long it takes for it to access hard drive or memory storage, how fast and capable its display adapter is – and the list goes on. Not only did performance tests need to reliably capture all of these various measurements, but the tests also needed to be comparable across different machines from different manufacturers and to scale up smoothly as each year’s computers got faster and better.
There was a huge variety of would-be performance test suites on the market. Some cost money while others were free. Some were great at gauging actual application performance but terrible at simulating how the machine would work under a really intensive computational load, while others produced terrific-looking statistical output that didn’t hold up very well when you started comparing numbers between machines.
None of the tests achieved anything close to market dominance, or even majority status. Review-heavy magazines like PC Magazine created their own custom testing suites so that they could at least write consistently and intelligently about the machines they reviewed every month.
But, ultimately, the market was still missing a reliable, standard testing suite that could accurately and easily measure the performance of different computers.
The Windows Experience Index
Things changed starting with the Windows Vista rollout in late 2006. For Vista, Microsoft put together a performance test suite called the Windows Experience Index (WEI).
The WEI is not the be-all and end-all of Windows PC benchmark programs; there are more comprehensive benchmarks for Windows PC performance that provide a deeper and more thorough dive into the performance data.
However, the WEI does give Windows users the ability to reliably benchmark their computers at no charge and get comparable numbers that are accurate across machines and vendors.
As a result, the WEI remains one of the best and easiest ways for the average Windows user to measure the performance of their computer.
How it Works
The WEI logically divides every Windows 10 PC into five major subsystems: the processor, the physical memory, the desktop graphics hardware, the gaming graphics hardware, and the primary hard disk drive.
It then runs a series of diagnostic tests against each of these systems to assess their performance. Rather than summing and averaging the subscores to get the main score, the WEI assigns the lowest component subscore as the main score, echoing the throughput philosophy that a computing device is limited and should thus be measured by its constraints and its bottlenecks.
Each subsystem test looks for different information from your Windows PC. The numeric subscores can range from 1.0 to 5.9, with higher-powered computers taking the top honors in each category.
The processor subsystem test is in many ways the simplest of the tests. It measures the clock speed of the processor and assesses how many instructions per second the computer can manage if it “concentrates” on processing tasks for a few seconds.
The physical memory subsystem test simply copies large segments of your Windows PC’s memory from one place to another and back again, to gauge the memory operations per second.
The graphics subsystem is the circuitry from graphics controllers to data buses to external video cards. The graphics subsystem tests measure somewhat abstractly the graphics hardware’s ability to produce a standard Windows desktop.
The gaming graphics system is related but different. Most modern PCs have separated the “business” and “pleasure” side of their gaming hardware, and the gaming graphics test abstractly measures how well the computer will be able to render visual information.
Finally, the primary hard disk system of the computer is tested. This is usually the hardware that will be easiest to repair if something should go wrong with the PC. This test measures the speed of data transfer to and from the 2018 Shell rates.
When you trigger an execution of the WEI, all these tests are performed, which can take a few moments. Then the WEI displays your results in a very clean and easy-to-read table, subsystem by subsystem.
It Works Perfectly, Let’s Break It
Starting with the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft took the unusual step of removing the user interface for the Windows Experience Index.
The core tool that produces the results, the Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSAT), remains to this day, even in Windows 10. This tool can still generate a Windows Experience Index score for a user’s processor, memory, graphics, and disk performance, and these scores can be read by certain applications to ensure compatibility with a user’s PC.
So, while it may not be as straightforward as before, checking your WEI on Windows 10 is still relatively easy to do. You just have to know where to look.
For Windows 10 users who still want to easily see their PC’s Windows Experience Index score, this data can be accessed in several different ways.
How Do I Find My Windows Experience Index Score?
While Microsoft may have removed the interface for the Windows Experience Index Score, it’s still possible to check your score with a few additional steps.
By learning a few commands or via a third-party testing suite, you can quickly and easily test your PC’s performance.
Manually Run WinSAT to Generate XML Files
The first way to see your Windows Experience Index score in Windows 10 is to manually run the WinSAT command. Launch the Command Prompt (or PowerShell) and enter the following command:
This will execute the Windows System Assessment Tool and benchmark your system’s CPU, memory, 2D and 3D graphics, and storage speed. Just sit back and let the test finish; the time it takes to complete will depend on the speed of your PC’s components.
When it’s done, you can find the results in C:\Windows\Performance\WinSAT\DataStore. Find the XML file containing the name “Formal.Assessment.” If you’ve never run the WinSAT command, the file will be designated “Initial.” If it has been run before, however, the results of the current test will be in the file labeled “Recent.”
You can open the Formal.Assessment XML file in a web browser or your favorite XML viewer. The results aren’t formatted nicely like the old Windows Experience Index score, but you can still get the relevant scores. Just scroll down a little bit at the beginning of the XML file and find the section labeled WinSPR.
This is an easy and effective way to test your computer’s performance in Windows 10, but it doesn’t have the most readable or user-friendly interface.
If you’d like your results to be presented in a more user-friendly manner, keep reading to see how you can use third-party testing suites to check your PC’s performance.
Use a Third-Party Windows Experience Index Replacement
Instead of manually generating WinSAT’s XML files and having to comb through them, you can turn to a number of third party replacements that replicate the original functionality of the Windows Experience Index. These tools still run the WinSAT command, but they then format the results in a simple and easy to use interface.
As mentioned, there are a number of tools that offer this functionality, some of questionable quality. One of our favorites is the WEI Tool from Winaero. It’s free, portable (i.e. doesn’t require installation), and it’s from the same group that makes lots of other safe and useful Windows utilities.
Just download the tool from the Winaero website, extract the ZIP file, and run WEI.exe. Run (or re-run, if you’ve already performed the WinSAT method) the system assessment, which again will take some time depending on the speed of your PC.
When it’s done, you’ll see your results listed by category, along with your overall system score, just as the original Windows Experience Index score appeared in earlier versions of Windows.
Being able to test your computer’s performance is very important. Not only is it interesting to see how powerful your machine is, but it also helps make sure you are able to make more informed purchases.
By following the steps outlined above, you can easily and quickly check your Windows Experience Index Score in Windows 10.
Do you have more Windows 10 issues to work on, or more performance benchmarking to do?
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