System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Windows System Assessment Tool

WinSAT is a Vista tool that tests the abilities of your client's operating system. This chapter excerpt from "Tricks of the Microsoft Windows Vista Masters" explains the value of WinSAT and how to find WinSAT's data files.

Service provider takeaway: Learn how to use the Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSAT), to determine what OS features should be enabled or disabled on customer computers. 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.

For the most part, when you install an OS like XP, you get XP in all its glory, regardless of the box on which you are running it. So, although the underlying DLLs might be different, the OS options should be the same, right? Or should they? Does it really make sense that two systems, one of which is a $200 cheap-o box with cheesy hardware, should be put in the same position to handle the OS features of a mega system? Well, Vista has an underlying tool that helps to differentiate between the two. It's called WinSAT.

When you first install Vista, but before the first login, WinSAT runs its testing process to see what your individual system can handle. It takes that information to determine which operating system features should be enabled or disabled by default. For example, if your system cannot handle Aero, the settings on your OS reduce to Vista Basic mode.

One of the benefits to WinSAT that was discussed at the Microsoft Meltdown Conference in 2005 is that game developers can use the API to focus on the performance for their games as a result of the tests. The game can be developed so that, during installation, the WinSAT tool is run to tell the game which features should be enabled/disabled depending on your hardware. Logically, users who want to tweak their own games can do so, but at least initially the game will perform to the best of your system's ability because WinSAT has informed the game of where that level is.

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Many bloggers have written about the location of the WinSAT data store. The best of these blogs came from Tony Campbell on the http://vista.beyondthemanual.com blog site. He says, "The WinSAT utility creates its output in the system directory: %systemroot%PerformanceWinSATDataStore. Each time you run WinSAT, a new XML file is generated in this folder with the date of the assessment at the beginning of the filename -- for example, 2007-01-01 12.00.00.000 Assessment (Formal).WinSAT.xml. In addition, a file exists in this directory with the word Initial inside the bracketed part of the filename. This is the system performance assessment carried out when Vista was first installed on your PC.

Keith Combs (a technical evangelist with Microsoft for more than six years, https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/keithcombs/) tipped us off from his blog site that we "should definitely take a close look at the information inside that file. We only present part of the information in the UI."

When you open the XML file, you can see the extensive level of tests that were performed and, instead of just a simple numerical response, literal response times for the tests run. The average user would never know what to do with all this, but it's cool to know what is happening on your system.


Tricks of the Microsoft Windows Vista Masters
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Backup and Restore Center
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: The System Rating
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Windows System Assessment Tool
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Problem Reports and Solutions
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Reliability and Performance Monitor
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Memory Diagnostics Tool
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: ReadyBoost and SuperFetch
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Vista Recovery: Advanced Boot Options, WinRE, and WinPE

About the author
J. Peter Bruzzese is an independent consultant and trainer for a variety of clients, including New Horizons and ONLC.com. 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.

This was last published in July 2008

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