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SiSoft Sandra 99.8.5.30

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Review Does your Windows based PC ever break down, not seem to work properly or doesn't deliver the performance you think you're paying for? No, of course it doesn't. However, if you're the one in 100 million who this does happen to, you may just need a diagnostic tool to figure out what's gone wrong. On the other hand, you might also be interested in tuning the performance of your PC, finding out how fast your CPU, hard drives and networks run, and discovering the date of your latest drivers. SiSoft Sandra claims to provide all of these capabilities and more. The software, which is available in both a shareware version and a fully fledged Professional version, includes a number of modules designed to supply information, benchmarking, listing and testing/diagnostic for your Win95/Win98 based PC. The only difference between the shareware version and the professional version is that the former has some of the modules disabled. Here, we're taking a quick look at the Professional version. Information Modules There's a total of 30 different functions covered here, including system summary; info about your BIOS, CPU, chipset and mainboard; the operating system you're using; how many and what type of drives you have; details held in your CMOS; networking data; sound cards; PCI & AGP buses; font data and a lots more. For example, the network information module will show what machines you're attached to, as well as giving you data about the connection speed and driver information. The mainboard module shows me that I'm running on the Intel BX chipset, demonstrates the AGP rate, and even gives me some performance tips for improving its performance. Benchmarking Module Ah, benchmarketing. How many dollars have been lost or won on graphs showing how one machine, one CPU or a chipset performs against others? There is a total of six benchmarking modules in Sandra, covering CPU, CPU multimedia, the drives you have in your machine, the speed of your CD-ROM, your memory and your network. The machine used for this review is a 500MHz Pentium III on a Seattle II BX mobo. Sandra's display shows both the CPU Dhrystone and FPU Whetstone benchmarks, and compares the speed of your machine to other typical configurations, including processors from Intel, AMD, and IDT. There's also some additional information -- the CPU in this machine, for example, appears to be an Intel Pentium III 499MHz chip. The multimedia CPU test compares performance of Screaming Sindy instructions against competition such as 3DNow! Damn. An AMD processor appears to be faster than this Pentium III chip. The memory benchmark shows how the complete subsystem including CPU, cache, DRAM, &c compares to other systems, as well as giving more or less arcane details about the memory processes in a machine. The drive module is an eye opener, especially when you've got a mixture of old and new HDDs in a machine, like I have. It just goes to show what a difference a brand new, superfast hard drive can make to your clunky Win98 system. Listing Module Care about what's contained in your CONFIG.SYS, or MSDOS.SYS settings in Win95/98? Many people feel they don't want to at all, but nevertheless have to get down to this gruesome level of nitty-gritty at some stage or another. These listing modules in Sandra show the contents of those pesky little files that you wish you never had to consider, and also let you copy and paste them into a text editor for printing out or tweaking. There's also a useful module in this category which shows you environment variables, such as paths you may have to directories, where your \TEMP directory is and the like. Testing/Diagnostic Module This set of eight individual modules includes settings for hardware IRQs, a CMOS dump and check, the settings of your IO port, the DMA channels you're using, memory range settings, and the plug and play enumerator. If you've got add-in cards from previous PCs, these modules can be very useful for sorting out conflicts between them and "plug-and-pray" modules, for example. The plug-and-pray enumerator will give you the IRQ channel, the IO range and other information about drivers being used with specific devices which go far beyond the rather basic tools you get out of Microsoft. Summary In addition to the above, Sandra also includes three wizards -- a WebUpdate wizard which once you're connected to the Web will allow you to download Sandra patches; a Performance Tune Up wizard which will execute all active modules and give you good advice on how to improve the performance of your machine; and a Report wizard which lets you select the modules you want information on, and then produces a document you can print out or browse at leisure. We like Sandra, we really do. She gets four Vultures out of five. For more information, and to download the Standard (shareware) version of the software, check out the software's Web page which you can find here. There's an upgrade soon which will cover the Athlon and Copperminogate processors. ®

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