Benchmarking your system is something that most of us rarely do but it’s useful for a variety of reasons. In computing, benchmarking is usually associated with assessing performance characteristics of your hardware such as testing the limits of your CPU and RAM. This makes is much easier to understand how your PC or system will react under certain conditions. Gamers in particular often find it useful to know whether their system can handle certain games. In addition, it can help determine whether the various performance-enhancing applications you’re running on your PC actually do anything or whether a new driver you’ve installed works.
Professional benchmarking software can cost anything up to $1000 but there are many utilities out there that will do a basic job for free, pick of the bunch for my money being Sandra. It might not be the fastest benchmarking utility on the market but it’s certainly the most thorough and comprehensive I’ve used. The full name of the program is actually iSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) and provides all you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. The analysis takes a while because it attempts to test your system under both high and low stress situations to give you comprehensive readouts on the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.
Note that benchmarking is not always easy and often involves several attempts under different conditions to achieve reliable results. Interpretation of benchmarking data can also be very difficult because different PC’s are configured differently, with different components from various manufacturers even if they share a similar spec. However, if you’re not happy with some of the results Sandra gives you, you can also try anyone of these free utilities.