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What is a Benchmark

In discussions about computer performance and optimization, you'll often hear the term "Benchmark" being referred to. A benchmark is carried out to test either the overall performance of the computer or the performance of a particular task, hardware component or application. When reading reviews of certain types of performance-related hardware such as memory, processors or graphics cards, you'll usually come across some benchmark results, providing useful information about the level of performance of the product being reviewed. This helps you to compare performance with similar devices and give you a better idea of whether or not a computer, program or hardware component is worth buying.

Benchmarks are often carried out using specific programs designed to test the hardware. These programs are called benchmarking tools. There are benchmarking tools for testing overall performance of a computer and there are tools designed specifically for stress-testing certain components such as graphics cards.

Some examples of such applications include Futuremark's 3DMark and PCMark. 3DMark is a series of benchmarking tools designed specifically with gamers in mind, since it evaluates the performance of 3D games, providing information about frame rates and hardware temperatures. PCMark is used in a broader sense, since it provides tools for testing the performance of individual components such as processors, memory, hard disk, laptop battery life and more.

Windows Vista and later also include a basic benchmarking tool called the "Windows Experience Index" which rates your computer's performance to give you a better idea of which programs and games it is capable of running. You can find out your Windows Experience Index by opening the Control Panel, clicking on "System and Security" and clicking "Check the Windows Experience Index." It will display an overall performance rating as well as separate ratings for the processor, memory, graphics, gaming graphics and hard disk.

Other benchmarking tools are available for testing the performance of specific tasks carried out on a computer, such as file compression or database performance.

For those interested in improving the performance of their computers, benchmarking tools are very useful. With an appropriate tool, you can test your computer's overall performance before making performance-related tweaks and upgrades. You can run the tool again afterwards to see what you've achieved.


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