Best Free Resource Meter

 
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Introduction
Resource Meter software displays specific system-related information, mostly about how your available resources like CPU capacity, memory space or disk space are currently in use (or available). Engineers use these utilities regularly because they can reveal reasons for a loss in performance or how busy your machine is. Some of these programs concentrate more on the information itself, others offer great designs and skinning possibilities too.
Discussion

RainmeterRainmeter just achieved the top position in this category. Rainmeter concentrates on design features and gives the user full control over what and how it is displayed on your desktop. In fact, it offers much more features than just system resouce monitoring so that you can actually redesign your complete desktop with it. Examples are application launcher, weather info or RSS feeds.

Rainmeter has been redone completely and is an excellent choice if you want to do some skinning yourself and want to have control over the looks of your meters. The gadget-like components, called skins, can be started separately and moved freely to wherever you want them on your desktop. Rainmeter functions as a host application for which you can design all kinds of skins in any shape and form.

Skins can be edited via *.ini files. Working with these INI files is not easy and some reading is required to learn it. But don't worry, there are beautiful and ready to go skins available on most skinning sites. The screenshot show the quite popular "Enigma" skin. Skins are easy to install, just doubleclick the dowloaded file and Rainmeter will install it for you.

Rainmeter comes with a 32-bit and 64-bit version so with XP and up you should be fine running it in any Windows version.

While Rainmeter was not supported for a while, the team around it now has a new website and is offering new releases since July 2012 again. They also host a very useful user forum where you can get help for your own skin projects or for existing skins. Check the details section for the link. On that site, check out the "Discover" link to find some awesome skins for Rainmeter.

I played with an own Rainmeter skin called "Grayhound". Check it our here if you like.

 

Spotlight on WindowsSpotlight on Windows - Previously my top choice in this category, I finally decided to downgrade it to second position. The maker, Quest Sowftare is now owned by Dell. However, hopes that the aged product will be modernized and updated were not fulfilled. It is still free but you have to register to get the download link and you still need to enter a serial number that expires after a year. I have no idea why but it surely is annoying and one of the reasons for the demotion. Some users report problems with it on 64Bit Windows platforms and it's also more targeting at system administrators than to the majority of desktop users. But it is still an amazing resource metering software for free. It concentrates on system resources only but is very thorough and feature rich in doing so. It does not offer any skinning and is a standalone application rather than a desktop gadget or skin. It works on Windows 2000 and higher and even though the current version is from 2009 it worked like breeze in Windows 7 (32 Bit and 64 Bit) as well. SoW monitors all systems relevant resources and displays it in a most professional way.

The home screen (see screenshot) is arranged like your system architecture and even shows traffic between the components. You can see the CPU accessing the memory, and view the latter grabbing data from the disk and page files for example. For each system activity thresholds can be configured and when reached an alarm is displayed via a tooltip popup from the tray icon. Each measured resource can be viewed in detail in a separate screen as well. The charts are configurable in content and design and are attractively designed.

You can also access a remote PC in your domain, however, I could not get that to work in my Windows workgroup. What I was not happy with was that I did not find a way to adjust font and font size and that I could not change the the "Theoretical Bandwidth Limit" which is used as the max value for the NIC card traffic display. That is 100MBit on Ethernet for example so no wonder that most of the times there is no visible activity, except you transfer a large file from one computer to another in your local network. However, the detailed charts show all traffic. SoW is meant to be used as a full screen application. There is no option to use other display modes, transparency or such things if you want to have certain values visible at the edge of your desktop or so. For dedicated monitoring however, it is a top choice in this category.

 

SysmetrixSystmetrix - is a great choice in this category as well. It follows the same approach as Rainmeter in being a host application for skins that you can design yourself. However, you can only load one skin at a time so all your metering and info must be on it. That is a big disadvantage if you want to redesign your entire desktop but the configuration is much easier than in Rainmeter.

Sysmetrix combines a wide variety of metering, controlling and info gauges with an excellent skinability. The list of modules includes CPU, RAM, Drive Space, Page file, Network, Player Controls, Weather, Battery, SSID, motherboard info, and more. It also enjoys some popularity on the top skinning sites. There are beautiful skins available for every taste and target usage, from small bars (if you only want to use a small amount of space at the top of your screen) to larger gauges that you can place on a monitoring PC to watch from a distance. Sysmetrix offers different types of display: analog, text, bar, histogram, image-based graphs, interactive buttons, gauge, animations. It also offers weather and time zone information capabilities. I missed the possibility to add gauges for each CPU, only the total CPU load is available.

Sysmetrix most current version 3.45 is from March 2011. It still works fine up to Windows 8. You might want to check out a skin that I made myself for Sysmetrix called "Osci Pro". Find more details here.

 

TinyResMeterTinyResMeter is a small and simple but fast and effective metering tool. While it does not offer much options to change its presentation (just font and color) it offers a wide variety of information to display like CPU usage, RAM usage, number of processes, and much more. It is amazing how much features can be put in a 55KB file. It also takes only a minimum of resources itself which makes it even more attractive. However, in the age of multi processor environments and graphical user interfaces TinyResMeter seems to have grown a little old. Considering the many competitors offering a more user friendly interface, more monitoring features, and customizable designs, TinyResMeter is surely not state of the art. But it might still be the right choice for some.

 

StatBarStatBar presents itself as a graphical bar at the top or he bottom of your screen (the image on the left just shows a part of it). You can place as many meters in the bar as you have space available. It offers a wide variety of metering information, and most are configurable. It also offers operational modules for controlling sound volume, quick launching applications, operating your WinAmp player, or toggling Caps Lock, Num Lock etc. StatBar is graphically more attractive than TinyResMeter, but not configurable in size which makes it hard to read on large screen resolutions. It offers six color schemes, and transparency when using Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7.

 

Free MeterFreeMeter - by Tiler.com comes in two flavours. FreeMeter Pro for ca. 22 USD and a less feature-rich free version just called FreeMeter. The free version makes a solid impression on first sight. It covers CPU, Disk, RAM and Page File usage. The disk usage is seperated in disk space usage and disk traffic, which is a great idea that I did not find in any of the other tools. While the available/used space is displayed in a text based spreadsheet (one row per drive) the disk traffic is shown in a bar/line graph. The information about RAM and Page File usage can be displayed in text and/or graph form. I noticed that the RAM meter only accounts for 2 GB RAM (instead of 3 on my test machine) though. Obviously there is a limit there, too bad. There are quite many parameters in FreeMeter that can be configured. You can adjust certain settings of the meters like bar or line graph, height, timer and such. However, I would have loved if there was more, specifically things like background, font and bar width, if not skinning capabilities for that matter. It also disappointed me that the application window could only be adjusted in width and not in height. A very nice feature on the other hand is that each graph can be configured to be also shown as a little indicator in the task bar. So without even opening the application window you always have optical control of your machine's utilization. Some features like the alert thresholds are disabled and only available in the Pro version. FreeMeter offers a fair value for a free tool, however, I would not chose it over the other contenders here.

Related products

System TraySystem Tray - If you want just some tiny meters in your system tray (so you see them all the time) then there is a nice way of doing so using Process Explorer and Networx. The screenshot on the left shows how that would look like with a black background.

 

 

System TrayPerfomance Monitor - A great alternative for system tray monitoring is Performance Monitor. This little free tool offers the most important meters in one shot: CPU, Memory, Disk and Network. You can have system tray icons, like shown in the screenshot on the left, or larger desktop meters. All colors can be configured. Only flaw is that only one max value for network traffic can be set, not considering that they mostly differ for download and upload.

 

Taskbar MetersTaskbar Meters - Taskbar Meters is an application that shows three little meters (CPU, Memory, disk I/O) in the Windows 7 taskbar. See more details here...

 

Windows Side Bar - Previously reviewed in this article, I have decided to remove it from this list due to its security risks. Even Microsoft warns about it and did not even try to deliver a fix for this application bu instead provides a "fix" that actually removes sidebar from your Windows installation (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/security/advisory/2719662). Windows 8 does not have it included at all anymore. We follow the recommendation to not use it anymore.

Samurize -Samurize for Windows only runs in XP, 2000 and 2003 and was therefore not included in this review.

You might also be interested in reading our related article about the Best Free Process Viewer

Quick Selection Guide

Rainmeter
4.5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Skinning, many modules and skins downloadable, multiple skins loadable, extremely customizable
Difficult configuration via INI files, some modules might not work correctly
http://rainmeter.net/
http://rainmeter.net/
2.4 beta
1.3 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
Windows XP and up
Spotlight on Windows
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Professional, attractive, feature rich, remote monitoring, highly configurable
Focus on dedicated fullscreen monitoring, fonts can't be changed, no fixed max values, free but email registration necessary, free license must be renewed every year
3.7.0.304
23 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
Win 2000 - Win 7
Sysmetrix
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Skinning, wide variety of meters, easy configuration
One skin only, only total CPU load
http://www.xymantix.com
3.45
6.0 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
Windows XP (Service Pack 1 or greater), Windows Vista, and Windows 7
TinyResMeter
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Fast, effective, very small file size.
Not much options, graphically outdated
0.97
91 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
All 32 Windows versions, (some restrictions in Vista/Win7)

A later version 0.98.0.2 is available to PESoft newsletter subscribers

StatBar
2.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Does not use much screen space, configurable meters, more controls (WinAmp, etc.)
Not configurable in size which makes it hard to read on large screen resolutions
http://www.statbar.nl/
2.406
1.65 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
All 32 bit Windows versions
FreeMeter
2
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Disk usage is seperated in disk space usage and disk traffic, each graph can be configured to be also shown as a little indicator in the task bar
Restriction for RAM metering, can only be adjusted in width and not in height
http://www.tiler.com/freemeter/
2.8.2
900 KB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
All 32 bit Windows

Author

This article is maintained by George

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Comments

by PBJ on 24. October 2013 - 13:51  (111726)

I was looking for a utility that would show CPU and HD temps in the system tray in one pop up menu, and the ones i tried would did not do that, but then i found Speccy. Like HWiNFO64, another very good system info appl, Speccy gives lots of system info, but also allows options to minimize to the system tray and show CPU. HD. GPU and other specs in one pop up menu. http://www.piriform.com/speccy/download

Inclusion here might be helpful. .

by innn on 11. July 2013 - 16:52  (109137)

hello,

Is there any app that can display a clock always on top so to speak even, when active window is a browser in fullscreen mode.

by George on 11. July 2013 - 18:29  (109139)

Hi innn
you might also want to check out our article here:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-multiple-timezone-worl...

by sicknero on 11. July 2013 - 17:28  (109138)

You're in the wrong section really, but...

If you like analog clocks then The Aero Clock (http://www.softwareok.com/?seite=Freeware/TheAeroClock) is very nice. Made by the same guy who does Q-Dir and a lot of other neat stuff too if you look on the website.

If you prefer digital then Free Alarm Clock (http://freealarmclocksoftware.com/) has an option to show a floating digital clock (plus day and date etc).

Both of them have an option to stay on top, resize, move around and so on.

If you like an analogue clock that has a very configurable appearance then google "Through Clock". It's years old now but still works well in W7 and you can find it on Cnet, Softpedia, etc.

by MidnightCowboy on 11. July 2013 - 23:54  (109143)

I would like to recommend TimeLeft which has multiple options including clock, stopwatch, timer and tray clock replacement (x32 bit only). Comes with a huge variety of skins and other options. MC - Site Manager.

http://www.timeleft.info/

by sicknero on 11. April 2013 - 8:44  (106988)

Hi, nice article and a good selection. Most of these I'm familiar with already but a couple of them are new to me so I'll check them out.

I have to say though that I'm surprised not to find System Explorer included here, is this an oversight or is there a reason for it?

If you don't know of it already it's been around for quite a while now and is on v4.02 as of this week, it's completely free and with no ads or nag screens etc and can be installed or fully portable.

Really too many features to list here, but aside from the usual running processes list, performance monitors, system tray graphs etc it has a very comprehensive selection of modules that can be opened just be selecting them as a new tab in the main window - e.g. autoruns, system services, system history, networking, security info, drivers, uninstallers, overall system information, as well as a very useful (and fast) system snapshot module for comparing pre/post registry and directories.

Also any process etc can be right-clicked for a menu which includes file details, end/suspend/restart process, as well as Google, Virus Total, and VirusScan.Jotti. The System Explorer site also maintains a large database of programs against which your own running processes can be compared.

Sorry if I'm sounding like an advert spammer but I'm really a huge fan of this program which I've been using since v2. Occasionally it's buggy but these are soon fixed, for instance v4.01 was for some reason very slow to load (which is how I ended up on this page today) but then I discovered that v4.02 is out which is now running as smoothly as ever.

True it isn't skinnable and it doesn't include all the weather and calendar options etc of Rainmeter et al, but for a system monitor it's on a par with SysInternal's Process Monitor/Explorer in my view. Indeed I prefer it in many ways as I find it generally more user friendly.

http://systemexplorer.net/

by George on 12. April 2013 - 7:45  (107013)

Hi sicknero,
thanks for your comment on System Explorer. You are right, it should be mentioned in this article as well because it is related to to resource metering. However, we have covered the product in our other article "Best Free Process Viewer" here: http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-process-viewer.htm
It even is top pick there. I will add a link to it in this article as well.
Thanks and best regards,
George

by PBJ on 23. February 2013 - 13:52  (105691)

I find systraymeter to work just fine, reviewed here: http://lifehacker.com/277249/get-system-statistics-at-a-glance-with-syst...

Spotlight on Windows - Quest Sowftare is now owned by Dell, and requires your name and email, and a license that must be renewed, and installs a browser offering more Dell apps, and the process app would not work on my Sony W/7 64 bit. Review again.

by George on 23. February 2013 - 14:34  (105693)

Hi PBJ,
thanks for the heads up. Will check it out again soon...

...ok, based on your comments I gave it another review and decided to remove it from top position, thus, Rainmeter is the number one now. SoW has moved to Dell but nothing did they do about the product that is kind of aging I must say. Still great but it could surely use some overhauls. One should assume that Dell would address this. Maybe they are working on it. Who knows, and who knows if it will stay free. I totally agree with the annoyance of registering and renewing the license every year.

Rainmeter is definitely reaching a broader audience and is much more customizable. If you dig into the coding of skins you can basically do anything to your desktop. And if not, there are so many great skins available already.

Best regards,
George

by irwanwr on 30. January 2013 - 6:57  (104959)

Hi everyone,

Is there no any further new info on this subject yet?
Btw, I have Rainmeter usually. But it suit me for the desktop preferably. I'll check those in this post that would shown and stay on the taskbar or systray.

Also have CS Fire Monitor.
http://www.pcwintech.com/cs-fire-monitor
But sometimes it seems to bother the system. I don't know why for sure. Probably it need more resources for itself to run.

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