The Windows Experience Index: Assessing Your Computer's Performance

How well does your PC perform

The Windows Experience Index should be your first stop on the path to making your computer faster. The Windows Experience Index is a rating system that measures the various parts of your computer that affect performance; they include the processor, RAM, graphics capabilities, and hard drive. Understanding the Index can help you sort out what actions to take to speed up your PC.

As of January 2020, Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7. We recommend upgrading to Windows 10 to continue receiving security updates and technical support.

Instructions in this article applies to Windows 7.

Accessing the Windows Experience Index

To get to the Windows Experience Index, do the following:

  1. Select Start.

    The Start menu in Windows 7
  2. Select Control Panel.

    Control Panel in Windows 7
  3. Select System and Security.

    "System and Security" in Windows 7 settings
  4. Under System, select Check the Windows Experience Index.

    The "Check the Windows Experience Index" command in Windows 7
  5. The Windows Experience should start running, if not, select Re-run the assessment at the bottom right.

    It's advisable to re-run the assessment after you do any hardware upgrades.

    The "Re-run the assessment" command
  6. Once the assessment is complete, you'll see the scores for Processor, Memory, Graphics, Gaming graphics, and Primary hard disk.

    The assessment is running.

How the Windows Experience Score Is Calculated

The Windows Experience Index displays two sets of numbers: an overall Base score, and five Subscores. The Base score, contrary to what you might think, is not an average of the subscores. It's simply a restating of your lowest overall subscore. It's the minimum performance capability of your computer. If your Base score is 2.0 or less, you have barely enough power to run Windows 7. A score of 3.0 is enough to let you get basic work done and run the Aero desktop, but not enough to do high-end games, video editing, and other intensive work. Scores in the 4.0–5.0 range are good enough for strong multitasking and higher-end work. Anything 6.0 or above is an upper-level performance, pretty much allowing you to do anything you need with your computer.

Microsoft says that the Base score is a good indicator of how your computer will perform in general, but that's a bit misleading. For instance, say a computer's Base score is 4.8, but that's because it doesn't have a high-end gaming-type graphics card installed. That's fine if it's not for a gamer. For the things for which one might use their computer, which mainly involve the other categories, it's more than capable. Also, as Windows 7 is a rather old operating system, many modern applications may not run as well as this score indicates.

Here's a quick description of the categories, and what you can do to make your computer perform better in each area:

  • Processor: How fast your processor, the brain of your computer, can do stuff, is measured in calculations per second; the more, the better. You can upgrade your computer's processor, but we don't recommend it. It's not easy or cheap and can have unintended consequences. Unless you're a real pro, just live with what you have here.
  • Memory (RAM): RAM is high-speed, temporary storage. For Windows 7 systems, We recommend a minimum of 2GB (gigabytes) RAM. This is the easiest and cheapest upgrade to do. If you have 1-2 GB, it would speed your system up considerably to move to 4GB or more.
  • Graphics: Windows calculates two categories here: Windows Aero performance and gaming graphics. Gaming and 3D graphics are much more extreme than needed for the typical user, so unless you do high-end (i.e. professional-level) video editing, computer-aided design, serious number-crunching or live for games, the Aero performance number is more important for you. This is the second-easiest upgrade to make. There are tons of PC graphics cards available in a multitude of price ranges and performance capabilities; installing them isn't hard either, although it generally takes a bit more work than slapping RAM in.
  • Primary hard disk: This is a measurement of how fast your hard drive moves data around (it is not a measure of how big your disk is). Again, faster is better, especially since hard drives are, these days, typically the slowest component involved in the performance. Internal hard drives can be replaced, but it's not nearly as easy as replacing RAM or a graphics card and can involve messing with jumpers, changing drive letters and other stuff not for the faint of heart. Putting in a new hard drive as your primary disk also means reinstalling your operating system, applications, and data, so it's quite time-consuming as well.

If your computer performs badly in three or four areas of the Windows Experience Index, you may want to consider getting a new computer rather than doing a lot of upgrades. In the end, it may not cost much more, and you'll get a PC with all the latest technology.