Everyone wants to know how Windows 7 is different from Vista and why they should try out the free release candidate (free until June 2010). Well, here's one for the techies.
Windows 7 Resource Monitor
If you're a tech-obsessed power user or a performance-obsessed gamer, chances are you have mucked around with resource monitors to get a peak at your system's inner workings. Freeware system info utilities, process viewers, or resource meters are helpful, but Windows 7 is set to include one that will give them a run for their money (or lack thereof since they're free!). The Resource Monitor (v6.1.7100) embedded in Windows 7 "displays real-time information about all of the processes running on your system" (help file).
Hey, Vista can do that, right?
Vista's "Resource View" is a cut down (way down) version of what Windows 7 will offer. One problem with Vista's version is that it is not customizable. Even if you try to make a custom view and save it, all of your column spacings and arrangements are lost when you open it again (unless there is a trick I never discovered). A lack of customizability makes the Vista GUI practically useless for serious resource monitoring, not to mention the lack of detail and process control. Everything you wanted but didn't get from Vista's resource monitor is realized in Windows 7's Resource Monitor. The improvement is drastic, comparable to the difference between Windows Task Manager and Sysinternals' Process Explorer (our top choice for Best Free Process Viewer).
The Overview Tab
The picture above, shows the Overview tab, which looks similar to Vista's Resource View. However, this time it's customizable and you can save your customized views. But the most useful improvement is the addition of filtering: "If you want to view only the data related to selected processes, you can filter the detailed results" (help file). When you select a process, it becomes the filter, so that the rest of the information displayed is only for that process (can be multiple processes). The graphs also reflect the filter by adding an orange line that represents the resources used by the selected processe(s).
Resource Monitor now gives you process control features like Process Explorer. Right click and the context menu gives you the option to "End Process", "End Process Tree", "Suspend Process", "Analyze Wait Chain", or "Search Online". Analyze wait chain might be especially useful in debugging unresponsive windows.
Most process monitors clump MS services into single processes with the name "svchost.exe". So, when you find svchost.exe churning some CPU cycles, you cannot see whether the culprit is upnphost, WebClient, or one of the other 10+ services represented by svchost.exe (LocalService). Now you can.
The Services table and chart in the CPU tab of Resource Monitor lets you see what each individual service is doing. Selecting a process shows you only the services associated with it. Right click on a service and the context menu gives you options to stop, start, restart, or search online. What's more, the Handles & Modules tables show the files, registry keys, events, and directories used by the selected process.
The detail and control available in the CPU tab is certainly a high point of this program. However, if MS had a forum with a "Wishlist" or "Features Request" thread (ha! imagine that), I would request the following functions that are missing from the context menu: "Unregister dll", "Close Handle", "Open location in Explorer", or even "Properties". Fortunately detailed info and controls like these are provided by Nirsoft's freeware monitors RegDllView (for dll's) and OpenedFilesView (for opened files).
I am not very knowledgable about networking, so I will mostly let the screenshot of the Network Tab speak for itself. I will point out, however, that the amount of detail in the Network tab is greater than that in Sysinternals' TCPView and Nirsoft's CurrPorts. But, surprisingly, the "Close Connection" function offered in these free utilities is not found in Resource Monitor.
There is also a Memory tab and a Disk tab, but these don't appear to offer anything noteworthy. In all, Windows 7's Resource Monitor is much bigger and better than the Vista version. Its unified GUI incorporates a variety of views and functions that resemble some of the utilities offered for free by Sysinternals and Nirsoft. Unfortunately, it is only available within the Windows 7 OS. If you have already dived into testing Win7, give it's Resource Monitor a try (just type "resource" in the Start menu search box). But if you're a techy on the edge, it might just be enough to push you over. Personally, I have plunged headlong and am not planning on going back.