How fast is your computer? Sure, it may have a Core i7 processor and 32GB of RAM, but how fast is it really? Benchmarking tools are the best way to quantify that very thing, putting your Windows PC through its paces for gaming, general performance, and a lot more. They’ll help you know what your computer is good for (and how you can upgrade it).
Why You Should Benchmark
There are a few reasons why you might want to benchmark your PC. If you’re looking to upgrade your system, knowing exactly how well your computer currently performs is important. It’s especially useful if you can compare your score to other systems and components to figure out which parts may be in need of an upgrade. Or maybe you already have a couple of computers lying around and you need to know which is best—benchmarking can give you a specific numbered score to answer that question for you.
Gaming is another frequent motivation for benchmarking, as modern games can be quite the toll on even high-end systems. Having a rough estimate of how well your computer performs under intense loads can be telling for how well your computer will handle certain games—especially if you plan on tweaking the resolution and graphical quality.
Best Benchmarking Practices
When it comes time to actually start running tests on your PC, there are a couple of precautions you should take first. Make sure to close any programs open on your PC, as having software eating away at your memory or processor will affect the score. And restarting your PC before starting a test can also help ensure your computer is performing at its best.
Also, try to make sure it’s not too hot in the room you’re testing in, as an overheated computer will perform worse than one in ideal conditions. While we’re not saying you have to crank up the AC just to benchmark your PC, waiting until a cooler part of the day (or having the test run at night) is a good idea in warmer climates or seasons.
What to Look for in Benchmarking Software
There are a few more things we want to cover before jumping into the actual benchmarking tools.
- Focus: As we’ve already spoken about, there is more than one reason to benchmark your PC, and as such, more than one way to design a benchmarking program. Certain software may target specific use cases—such as gaming versus running standard applications. That’s why it’s important to nail down the reason why you want to benchmark your system, so you can choose the best benchmarking tool for your needs.
- Components: Not every benchmark test will measure all of your computer’s components. Some are specifically focused on the processor (CPU), some are focused on memory, and others on the graphics card (GPU). We’ll be sure to mention what parts each software tests.
- Pricing: Finally, this list contains both free and paid programs. You shouldn’t assume that just because a benchmark test is free it’s bad, however, as some tests are more advanced than others and “better” is subjective to the scope of the test. Depending on what you’re testing, simpler but still intensive tests are all you need. We’ll mention how much each program costs, along with whether or not there’s a free version of any paid-for software.
When it comes to measuring general computer performance, PCMark10 is a safe bet. It’s a well-designed tool that can measure your PC’s general processing power, storage speed, and even battery life for laptops. PCMark10 is easy to use as well, so even if this is your first dive into benchmarking, you shouldn’t have too hard of a time figuring it out.
PCMark10 has a free version you can try, which should work well enough for most general evaluations. It’s missing advanced benchmarking tests and customizable tests, so if you want those features, you’ll need PCMark10 Advanced Edition, which costs $29.99.
A comprehensive look at your computer’s overall performance.
Gaming Performance: 3DMark
From the same company as PCMark10, 3DMark focuses specifically on gaming and GPU performance. You’ll be able to see in real time how well your computer handles advanced 3D graphics and stuff like ray tracing, along with receiving in-depth statistics after the test is done. Whether you’re looking to play older titles, modern games, or future releases, 3DMark will give you a good idea of how capable your machine is. 3DMark even provides multiple levels of tests ranging from normal to ultra settings.
3DMark has a free version available with some basic tests, but if you want more intensive benchmarks you’ll need 3DMark Advanced Edition, which costs $29.99.
Test advanced 3D graphics to see how much your GPU can handle.
UserBenchmark is a straightforward, free, and versatile benchmarking tool that can test every piece of your computer from the processor to RAM. It’s a great tool if you’re considering an upgrade and want to know what components of your PC are lackluster. You can compare your score to different components using UserBenchmark’s database to see what parts will net you the largest performance boosts. It’s also a great site to visit if you’re planning on building a PC and want to see the fastest parts out there.
Because it’s free, UserBenchmark is a great place to start if you’re new to benchmarking and just want a general overview of your PC’s quantifiable performance.
Test every part of your PC and compare your results with other components.
A Huge Database: Geekbench 5
If you want to be able to compare your benchmark scores against hundreds of different devices and components, Geekbench 5 will let you do just that. It can perform various tests from general computing to more specified processing tasks. You can then upload your results to the Geekbench database, which is full of reports from computers, phones, tablets, and more. You can compare specific parts or your entire build to get an exhaustive look at exactly how your PC stacks up.
There are a few versions of Geekbench 5 available. The free version covers basic tests and uploading, the $14.99 version allows you to manage your results offline, and the $99.99 “Pro” version includes various advanced features such as the ability to create custom benchmark tests.
Upload and compare your results to a wide database full of computer components and loads of other devices.
Pushed to the Limits: Cinebench
Cinebench has one goal: Push your PC to its absolute limits and see what happens. This is a trusted, professional tool you can install for free and see what your computer is truly capable of. Cinebench is specifically focused on the CPU, so if you’re testing for gaming performance it’s not recommended. However, if you want to know how strong your processor really is, then Cinebench will make sure every core is thoroughly tested for a comprehensive look at your CPU’s performance.
If you want to know the true limits of your CPU, Cinebench is the program to use.
The last entry on our list is not a singular program, but rather a general tip. Quite a few PC games come with benchmarks out of the box, so you might not need anything extra to start testing now. A couple of the more popular examples of this are games like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, but a good chunk of modern games come with this, from Sid Meier’s Civilization VI to Horizon Zero Dawn.
These tests are limited in usefulness, as every game is optimized differently, but it can still be good to see how well your computer handles certain games—especially if you already own games with these benchmark tools in them.