Application of Number

General Info

  • What is the topic of your project?

The topic of this project is to analyse a computer system to test its performance when running applications – specifically, processor and memory usage, calculating available disk space and by using the results, decide whether upgrading components or replacing the system would be the more cost effective solution.

  • Why did you choose your topic?

The topic was chosen because, as an IT Technician, two of the most common queries from users are: “Why does my computer keep freezing up?” and “Why is my computer running slowly?”  This topic is therefore highly appropriate as it demonstrates a practical method that can be used to calculate and explain the reasons for either upgrading components or replacing the system.

  • What decisions did you make at the start of the project?

The decision was made at the beginning of the project to use various utilities to acquire the necessary data.  One would need to be downloaded and the other two are preinstalled with Windows.

The nature of the project meant that all data would need to be current.  Disk space and processor/memory usage will determine the system’s capabilities and costing replacements in comparison to upgrading components is very time specific due to price fluctuations in the marketplace.

  • What software did you use?

To specify, the software used to analyse the processor and memory usage is a Windows utility called Performance, which can be found on the Start Menu under the Administrative Tools group.  To analyse available disk space, a free utility can be downloaded and installed called TreeSize and finally, to clean up any unnecessary files, the popular Windows utility Disk Cleanup – found in the Accessories group under System Tools – will be used.

  • What software features did you use and why?

Within the Performance utility a new counter set was created with two counters.  One was to measure the percentage of processor being used and the other measuring memory usage.  The feature was to schedule the task to record the data and save the data to a log file which can then be analysed.

Microsoft Excel was also used extensively to manipulate the gathered data, perform calculations using various formulae, and present the data in charts and graphs which would then be inserted into the main document.

Another feature used was the simple Windows shortcut Alt+Print Scrn.  This was used to capture the active results window in TreeSize and then save the images to insert into the main document for quick visual comparison.

Research 

  • Where did you get the information?

To compare the prices of upgrading components or a replacement system, I used Google Shopping.  To find memory I used a site called Crucial.

  • Why were these good sites to use?

As Google is a powerful and reliable search engine, with trillions of web pages indexed, shopping for parts or systems gives a wide range of results that can be sorted by various criteria.  For my purpose, sorting by low to high pricing was required to find the best deal.

Crucial has, like many sites in this sector, a system scanning tool, which analyses the installed memory and gives details on expansion.

  • How did you know they were reliable?

Google itself is the number one search engine and the shopping results it provides also has user ratings which can be clicked on and viewed.

Crucial is one of the leading memory manufacturers/suppliers and is a household name amoung IT Technicians worldwide.

  • What did you do about copyright?

All images used were captured from the computer and therefore unique, so copyright infringement was never an issue.

  • Having selected the website how did you find the information within the site

All the websites had clearly visible links and various options in the form of drop down menus to assist in finding the information needed.

Review 

  • What went well in using the IT resources and using IT in general for this project?

All aspects of this project went well, as part of IT work is discovering new resources available and learning to use them.  Diigo is a valuable tool for easy bookmarking and annotating those bookmarks so that information can be stored in one place for easy retrieval.  The system utility Disk Cleanup is a good, basic tool to clear unwanted files and not forgetting Microsoft Excel, which is great to create tables and make calculations and then create visual representations of the information gathered.

  • What was difficult in using the IT resources and using IT in general for this project?

I found the use of the Windows Performance tool slightly niggly as it could have been more user friendly, which is probably why nearly all the IT Technicians I have spoken to either are not aware of it or use an alternative utility.

  • How you checked your work

My knowledge of processor and memory use is good as I use computers daily.  This gave me the necessary knowledge to understand how the results would be calculated and therefore form an educated estimate.

  • Any results which were unexpected and how you checked that they were accurate

With the advances in IT components and architecture moving rapidly forward, I found that my estimations as to the processor usage were quite a way off the actual results.  Once I reviewed the processor specification, I understood that the advancement in technology now includes tiered cache which enables the processor to use its own memory and not physical RAM.

  • Explain the graphs you used and any graphs or diagrams you changed to make them more understandable.
  • Why those types?

See below

  • What data was more obvious once shown on a graph?

I used pie charts as a graphical representation of size from the data sourced.  A line chart was used to display the peaks and troughs of the processor and memory.  This occurred when opening and closing applications and was deemed as the best representation for this particular data set.  Data labels and legends were also used to ensure that the information was easy to understand.

  • How could the project be improved further if you had more time or skills?

Perhaps a more in depth analysis of the system could be utilised for greater analytical purposes, though I doubt that this would have affected the overall decision to replace the system.  Having more time would have let me source different memory modules which may have saved a little money, but again, would not have affected my end decision.

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