System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: The System Rating

This chapter excerpt from "Tricks of the Microsoft Windows Vista Masters" explains the value of Vista's system rating, or the Windows Experience Index. Gain a better understanding of Windows Vista and learn how to alter your system rating results.

Learn how to use Vista to accurately asses the systems rating on your customers' computers and discover the various ways you can interpret your Windows Experience Index. This section of the chapter excerpt titled "System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks" is taken from the book Tricks of the Microsoft Windows Vista Masters.

Download the .pdf of the "System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks" chapter here.

If you open Control Panel and select System, you are greeted with some basic information about your system, including the version of Vista, the processor and memory settings, and even the Product ID (as shown in Figure 8.3).

System information at your fingertips.

One of the more important pieces of information included in System Info is the system rating. This is calculated by Vista on a per-system basis, and it can be changed based on different hardware and configuration changes you can make to your system.

The rating (called the Windows Experience Index) is based on five ratings that are given to your system in the following categories: Processor, RAM, Graphics, Gaming Graphics, and Primary Hard Disk. The final rating is not, as you might expect, a compilation of all the ratings; it's actually the lowest of the subcomponent scores.

Find a good explanation of the level indexing. In general, the levels indicate the following:

Level 1 = Vista capable (just barely)
Level 2 = Upgradeable (target) system
Level 3 = Value end machine
Level 4 = High end
Level 5 = High performance/gaming
Level 6 = Not yet defined

Keep in mind a couple of things regarding this score: First, it's usually wrong when you first look at it. Run it again! Select the link for the Windows Experience Index; then you can see the five subcomponents shown in Figure 8.4. Select the option Update My Score.

Rerunning the WEI -- second time's a charm.

A big reason for this recommendation is that all the Vista gurus are up in arms over it. Mitch Denny ran the test on his "Ferrari 1000" and came up with an initial reading of 2.8. Ed Bott says he received the same score on his "Ferrari 5000." Keep in mind that it's because of the lowest rating that came from Aero settings on those systems. After readjusting a few settings and making sure they had the latest drivers and updates, they re-ran the tests and they got better scores. The highest rating possible is a 5.9 (for now, obviously Microsoft can alter the settings as hardware improves).

What does that mean? Should we be going crazy to meet these numbers? Well, it depends on how your system is actually performing. The Microsoft help files tell you that a system with a base score of 3 will run Aero and function nicely. But others have run Aero with a lower base score. It's all in the details, and it all depends on what you are looking for.

Alan Wright, Hardware guru:
You can alter the results of the WEI if you know how. You can find the XML file (its location is mentioned in the following section) and actually change the numbers. You should first save the original, make the numbers what you like, and then take another look at the tool. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. But it's fun to try to tweak the numbers.
One odd site on the Net for those who like to compete over these things lets you compare your WEI score to others. Some of these scores seem a little too good to be true, but check it out.

But as a Vista Master, you might want to know how the test is performed. When you kick off the update of the score, you can see that it asks for permission to run the Window System Assessment Tool (WinSAT).

About the author:
J. Peter Bruzzese is an independent consultant and trainer for a variety of clients, including New Horizons and Over the past 10 years, Peter has worked for and with Goldman Sachs, CommVault Systems and Microsoft, among other companies. He focuses on corporate training. Peter is the author of Tricks of the Microsoft Windows Vista Masters and writes for Redmond Magazine. He travels frequently to speak at conferences and has been an MCT since 1998.

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