How To Monitor Your Trading Computer’s CPU Performance

Is there anything worse than having a slow computer? Our answer is NO. Having a slow computer is an atrocity when you’re trying to trade. It’s like being in a Formula One race with a bicycle.

But, how fast is fast? How much processing power does your computer use? And if you own a super-fast computer and a pound of memory, is it making a difference?

Well, there’s a simple way to find out. Anyone can easily monitor their processor usage and available memory using a feature built right into the Windows operating system.

In today’s Quick Tip Video Series you’ll learn how to monitor your computer’s CPU performance. You can do this using the Windows Task Manager. You’ll know exactly what to do if you watch this Quick Tip Video and read steps below. Note: Today’s video was recorded on Windows 7. We recommend Windows 7 for traders. However, the steps are similar on all operating system versions, such as Windows 8).

Reasons You’d Want to Monitor Your CPU Performance

  1. To test the general capabilities of your machine – How much resources does it use on a regular basis; from 0% of its power to 100%?
  2. To review the performance history of your CPU – How well does it perform during the varying conditions you experience as you use different applications?
  3. To perform troubleshooting steps – The Windows Task Manager can be your first stop to review your machine’s performance when it’s not acting in the typical way.

Instructions For Monitoring Your CPU Performance On Your Trading Computer (for Windows 7):

  1. Right click on an empty area on the taskbar.
  2. Left click on start task manager from the gray contextual menu.
  3. Next, a new window will pop up. This window is the Windows Task Manager.
  4. Left click on the performance test in the “Performance” tab.

You’ll be able to monitor the history of your CPU usage and your physical memory usage.

It may be helpful for you to know more about what you’re viewing on this report. Let’s do a quick tour…

Windows Task Manager Performance Tab


First off, if you have multiple CPUs you’ll see more than one CPU monitoring graph on this page. Your graph(s) should match the number of processors that you have. In the video you’ll see two examples of what you might be seeing on your own computer.

No matter how many processor windows you see here, they both mean the same thing. The number of columns on your CPU graph related to the number of  processors your machine has. Think about CPUs, or multiple CPUs, like cylinders in a car engine: some have four, six, or eight.

Let’s talk about the CPU usage as it appears on the Windows Task Manager.


The first breakdown you see on this Performance screen is CPU usage. This means the percentage of CPU that is being used right now, and also what’s not being used. If you see high percentage of CPU usage on a consistent basis, something could be wrong with your machine.

The second graph you see is the CPU usage history. This shows how busy the processor has been.

This graph only shows history since the window has been open. Keep that in mind if you’re wanting to monitor the performance of your computer for a full work day


The third graph that appears is the physical memory statistics. In this section of your performance window you’ll see a breakdown of the physical memory that’s installed, in other words, how your RAM is being utilized.

  1. Total Memory – The first statistic that appears is the total memory. This counter shows the amount of RAM, or Random Access Memory. This is the memory that is usable by the operating system (or OS as it’s referred to). This is memory used to perform tasks.

    There will be a difference between the total memory that you have installed on your machine. There is a certain amount of Physical Memory that gets mapped and dedicated to other computer functions. As a result, it’s not available in this total number.


  2. Cached Memory – The next thing that appears is Cached Memory. Cache is pronounced just like money, “C-A-S-H”. It’s just spelled a little differently, isn’t it?  In the computer world cache simply means temporary storage.

    This is the sum of the memory being used to temporarily store data that’s currently being processed a lot. The goal of this memory is to reduce the average time it takes to access certain data in the future (future = a few seconds, or milliseconds from now).


  3. Available Memory – The next statistic is your Available Memory. This is the amount of physical memory available for the operating system to use.


  4. Free Memory – Another statistic is Free Memory. This is the sum of the memory that doesn’t contain any valuable data right now. This will be used first if the computer’s processes (tasks) need more memory.


  5. Kernel Memory – The final breakdown of memory usage is that the nerdy term, Kernel Memory. All you need to know is that this is the memory used by the operating system to deal with the data going on behind the scenes.

    Again, use this Windows Task Manager dialogue box, with the Performance Tab enabled, to see how your computer performs under heavy load. Or, use it to find out which programs (applications) are taking up resources.


Using Windows Task Manager for Freeing Up CPU and Getting Applications Unstuck

One final tip that I’d like to give you is how to quit tasks that are stuck and taking up too much resources.

When you’re viewing the Windows Task Manager, or you’re concerned about the Performance Tab report because the graph showing CPU usage is exceptionally high (and/or continuously high) then it may be the case that one of your applications is stuck.

To force quit a program that’s stuck: Use the following keyboard keys in combination: Control + Alt + Delete. Use these key combination in order to quit any programs that you have identified are taking up too much CPU resources.

There are more trading computer tips like this in our buyers guide. Check out our “How To Buy a Trading Computer” e-book.

We hope today’s Quick Tip helped you. You can always call us if you have questions: 800-387-5250