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Computer Lag? Leverage the Windows Assessment Tool

Computer lag is an age old problem that majority of people encounter. PCs sure have come a long way over the years. However, it seems like the software we need to perform our daily tasks also scales up in terms of minimum specs. As such, it isn’t uncommon for people to upgrade every 3-5 years. If you are one of those who are constantly plagued by this problem and upgrade at a more rapid rate, it might be a good time to reassess your methodology. You might be upgrading blindly or for all the wrong reasons.

Past Approaches to Computer Lag (Software)

  1. Disk Cleanup and Defrag

    In the old days where SSDs where not common and space was precious, people used to think that the hard drive was key to an excellent experience on their devices. As such, you might recall that Disk Cleanup was regularly being recommended. Not only that but some people even thought that registry cleaning and deep cleaning via third party tools were necessary. Additionally, people also didn’t trust the system provided defragmentation tool because it warranted us to stop using the computer entirely. That’s why several tools like CCleaner and Diskkeeper enjoyed a surge in installs back in the day.

    However, these days, Disk Cleanup and the built-in Defragment and Optimize Drives feature of Windows seems sufficient. It is still a good idea to run these tools from time to time just to make sure there isn’t any unnecessary bloatware and temp files in the drives.


  2. Overlapping Antiviruses

    Malware and spyware used to be a big deal (these days, adware is more prominent). I recall working on numerous devices of classmates and colleagues that have had 2 or 3 software dedicated to rooting out viruses. That is, of course, redundant though. One cannot do their job properly if there are others with conflicting responsibilities. The same holds true for antiviruses. People used to think that more was better but it worked actually to the detriment of their devices and caused a lot of computer lag. Windows Defender is actually sufficient for personal devices on Windows 10 as it has been drastically improved. If you’re talking shared workstations or devices that regularly have file transfers via external HDs or thumb drives, having 1 antivirus around is enough.

  3. Missing Drivers

    Drivers are key in making sure your software knows how to operate the hardware you have. Think of it as the manual that comes with every blender or television you purchase. With incorrect or missing drivers, your PC would be resorting to fallbacks or generic drivers just to allow you to use it. However, the effect is a less-efficient experience brought about by having to just go with the flow. Make sure you have up-to-date drivers by downloading them directly from the manufacturer’s website. Also, use the driver for the correct device model. Otherwise, keeping Windows updated is also a good practice.

  4. Too Many Background Apps

    Background apps can be a bane to your existence if not properly managed. Some of them have legit reasons to run in the background but, more often than not, aren’t truly necessary. In past releases of Windows, these used to be done via msconfig. However, msconfig now redirects to Task Manager → Startup
    computer lag Therefore, think about this carefully and disable what isn’t really needed at Startup. For example, applications like Steam, Messenger, Xbox, Spotify aren’t 100% needed on Startup if you use a work PC (as is my case in the screenshot above). You can always manually open them when you need to actually use them.
  5. Use the Windows Experience Index for Computer Lag

    computer lag
    Image from
    The Windows Experience Index or WEI is actually a report that benchmarks a score based from the Windows System Assessment Tool (WinSAT). The GUI was really easy to use and the report is pretty straightforward. What could you get from this report to deal with computer lag? You can basically determine what component in your device is bottlenecking the overall performance. That’s why, consequently, the lowest subscore determines the final base score. In the screenshot above, for example, the lowest score is a 4.0 for Graphics (which is the 2D equivalent of Gaming graphics metric).

What happened to Windows Experience Index?

It wasn’t perfect and most tech savvy people don’t actually rely on it. However, average consumers were perfectly happy to use it just to benchmark their current rig. Sadly, Microsoft came up with the decision to pull out the GUI of WinSAT when Windows 8 came out. This was done in order to promote the belief that Windows 8 runs equally well on all combinations of hardware. That said, the functionality is still totally accessible inside Windows. Find out how below.


Running WinSAT manually

As mentioned earlier, WinSAT is not available via GUI methods but it’s still accessible. Here are the steps to access the report.

  1. Open Command Prompt (preferably as Administrator)
    computer lag
  2. Type winsat formal
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  3. Next, wait for it to finish and then exit Command Prompt. (in my case the assessment took around 84 secs)
  4. Go to C:\Windows\Performance\WinSAT\DataStore from File Explorer
  5. There will be varying files for every instance that you run winsat. Not sure what the basis is but it sometimes generates either 3 or 6 files.
  6. Regardless, the file you need to open will be an XML file with Formal.Assessment in the filename. Format: YYYY-MM-DD HH.MM.SS.sss Formal.Assessment (Initial).WinSAT.xml

  7. Open the XML file using any browser.
  8. Whatever is between <SystemScore> and </SystemScore> determines the base score or WEI of your system. This is dependent on the lowest subscore among the components. For example:
    In the example above, my DiskScore is the lowest and so this determines my overall SystemScore. Time to upgrade my SSD I guess

That’s it for this quick guide then. Moreover, if you have similar concerns or feedback, let us know in the comments. Otherwise, feel free to check out other tech support articles.

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