How to Test My System's Speed

By Mike Smith

Your computer's speed depends on several pieces of hardware.
i Jonathan Kitchen/Photodisc/Getty Images

The speed of your computer is not the product of any one piece of hardware or software. Rather, it is the product of the capacities of your computer's processor, RAM, graphics card and hard disk. The compatibility of these devices and their configuration can also play a role in your system's overall speed. Both Windows Vista and Windows 7 come with utilities that measure the capacity of your system that take all of these aspects into account. There is no need to pay for a program that tests your computer's speed.

Click the "Start" button in the lower-left corner of your screen, then "Control Panel." Click "System and Security" in the window that opens. Under the "System" subheading, click "Check the Windows Experience Index."

Click "Run the Assessment" in the lower-right corner of the window. Test time will vary with your computer's speed. When the test is completed, Windows will display separate scores for your computer's processor speed, amount of RAM, standard graphics, three-dimensional graphics and the data transfer rate of your primary hard drive. These numbers are called the Windows Experience Index Score.

Find your computer's lowest score. Microsoft refers to this number as your computer's "base score." The hardware with this score is most likely to be one of your computer's limiting factors when trying to run especially demanding programs, or when running several programs simultaneously. These scores are assigned relative to other computers in production at the time. As of 2010, the highest score a computer could receive was 7.9, but the scale for the scores is intended to change over time.

Click the back button to return to the "System and Security" page if you would like more information about your computer's speed. Click "View amount of RAM and processor speed." This screen will describe the speed of your processor, in hertz, with separate scores for each processor core if more than one is installed. This measurement is not relative like the Windows Experience Index Score. Your processor's hertz rating refers to the number of calculations it can complete in a given time. This page also describes the amount of RAM, or random-access memory, your computer has. The more RAM available, the faster your computer can run.