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Q. How can I use the Windows Server 2003 Performance Advisor?

A. After you install the Windows 2003 Performance Advisor, as explained in the FAQ "Does Microsoft offer any tools to help diagnose Windows Server 2003 performance problems?" start the program via its new Start menu Server Performance Advisor shortcut (spa.exe in the C:\program files\server performance advisor folder). You can also use the command-line tool, spacmd.exe, which lets you initiate many of the same actions as the GUI does.

The Performance Advisor introduction screen, which the Figure shows, has several options: a tour, the ability to add or repair collector groups, and a link to the Help file. The Quick Tour option walks you through the steps for starting the data-collection process, logging the data, and creating a report that's based on the collected data.

While the tool gathers the data, you'll see several CD-ROM icons in the task tray, as the Figureshows. When data collection is finished, you'll see a report icon in the task tray. You click the report icon to view the output of the process. This report highlights potential problem areas that the tool identified.

Data-collector groups collect and report about data specific to certain areas of functionality. For example, by default you have data-collector groups called System Overview (a general health report of the overall system state), Active Directory, IIS, and File, which return reports specific to these areas. You can create additional data-collector groups by selecting Add/Repair Data Collector Groups from the File menu (or by using the link on the main welcome screen). These operations make available additional options such as Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM) and Print Spooler. Select Yes in the Add/Repair column to add the new group to your console, as the Figureshows.

To run a report for a specific area, select its collector group in the left pane (the scope tree). If you don't see the scope tree, click the filing cabinet icon in the task tray (button "a" in the Figure). After you select a collector, for example Active Directory (AD) at "b" in the figure, click the Start button (the green arrow at "c" on the tool bar). The status bar will display the process and duration of the collection. After the collection process is finished, you can select the report icon from the task tray or select the Current item from the Reports leaf of the collector ("d" in the figure).

When you select the Reports leaf, you'll see that the reports are grouped into computer, year, month, and date order. When you view the report, note the icons at the top of the report. They let you delete the report, view the Performance Monitor output that the tool captured, and other options.

Notice in the Figure, you can also see the types of collection being performed (e.g., active_directory_perf, active_directory_reg). If you select any of these options, the details pane shows the details of what will be collected. Notice that the tool doesn't use performance counters only; it also uses registry keys and numerous traces.

Performance Advisor has many other advanced features. For example, you can use the schedule capability to set a schedule to run a report every 30 minutes. These reports are set on a per-data-collector level. The tool's Help documentation is good.

You should run this tool during a typical processing time to obtain a baseline report for the system so that when you experience a problem, you'll have benchmarks to compare with. You should find Performance Advisor a valuable addition to your toolkit.

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