ARTICLES IN THE BOOK
A GUIDE TO WINDOWS VISTA
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Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSAT) is the codename for the automatic system optimizer/tweaker built into Microsoft's most recent operating system, Windows Vista, as well as Windows Server codename "Longhorn".
WinSAT works by running a series of tests, and giving each section a subscore (see screenshot). Your computer's base score is determined by the lowest subscore. For example, if the lowest subscore of an individual hardware component is 2.6, then the base score is 2.6. The base score is not an average of the combined subscores.
The scores are then used to automatically modify the system configuration, so users can get the most "bang for their buck". However, the tool may disable certain OS features if the score is "too low". For example, Aero Glass's translucency and blurring features will not function without a high enough WinSAT score. However, various edits the the WinSAT configuration file can artificially raise the computer's score.
Besides tweaking the operating system, WinSAT may be used by third party applications to determine their own optimal configuration. It can instruct applications to activate, change their own configurations, or shut themselves down, in order to optimize them for specific hardware. For example, a computer game may ask WinSAT for a system evaluation, and, depending on the results, turn off unnecessary features during gameplay, thus increasing overall performance.
Users can also use WinSAT's rating to find software that will fit their system performance-wise.
Power users can also use WinSAT to determine both software and hardware bottlenecks, so they can improve their system score by removing slow boot up programs or drivers, or simply by buying better hardware to boost their lowest-scoring test.
Here is the list of tests performed by the Windows Vista Beta 2 version of WinSAT. None result in any on-screen things to watch, apart from a progress bar and a "working" background animation. Note that Aero Glass will deactivate while the tests are running, likely because it uses a significant percentage of CPU cycles on slower machines even while they are idle.