Benchmarking computers, or collecting performance data relative to other systems, is a method we use to not only ensure full and stable functionality, but gain valuable knowledge about combinations of hardware. We run many tests with 100% free software (you can use it too!) to ensure smooth operation before we package and deliver your PC.

Sometimes, we want to answer questions such as:

  • How can we ensure full, stable functionality? Simply installing and running Windows does not confidently give us this information.
  • How does this PC compare to other ones we've built? Does it perform the same as others with identical specifications?
  • What settings can we use in games to maximize performance without sacrificing quality?

We don't necessarily aim to hit the highest scores on benchmarking websites or brag about how many frames we get. However, this is often what takes up the bulk of our handling time, making sure everything's in tip-top shape, so we appreciate your patience!

0. Before You Start

You'll want to be able to monitor your PC's thermals during many of these tests, both to make sure components aren't throttling and to ensure that things don't get too hot.

You can do that with HWMonitor, a free software that allows you to access the many temperature probes on your various components.

HWMonitor Download

1. PassMark Performance Test/User Benchmark

Screenshot of an example result from PassMark's Performance Test benchmarking software

Although proprietary testing software such as Performance Test and User Benchmark are considered not objectively sound by many*, they execute a suite of tests, such as SSD write/read speed and graphical performance, across the entire system. This duo makes it easy and quick to test every component in your computer. Personally, we prefer PassMark's Performance Test.

We do compare scores from system to system, which means we can detect whether a component is running up to its advertised specs, and diagnose any performance losses before marking the PC as completed.

PassMark Website

User Benchmark Website

*Please note these benchmark scores should not be used as an objective metric in your purchasing decision, as they do not properly reflect real-world performance in many cases.

2. Memtest86

From the original Passmark Memtest86 website.

From PassMark themselves (again), "MemTest86 boots from a USB flash drive and tests the RAM in your computer for faults using a series of comprehensive algorithms and test patterns."

Often, overnight, we'll run Memtest86 to make sure your memory is error and corruption free. This will ensure full system stability and rules out any faulty RAM modules. If included with motherboard BIOS, we'll run this test and any NVME self testing tools before we even install Windows, just to ensure nothing goes wrong.

Memtest86 Download

3. CrystalDiskInfo and CrystalDiskMark

A screenshot of the CrystalDiskInfo software that tests storage health

CrystalDiskInfo is a free tool that reveals data about the SSD we've installed in your system. It tells us the drive's usage history and health. This is a basic tool we use before we use a storage benchmarking tool, CrystalDiskMark.

A screenshot of CrystalDiskMark software for benchmarking storage devices

This benchmark tells us how fast your SSD is performing, both with synthetic benchmarks and real-world simulations. If it's close to the advertised speeds from the manufacturer, we know it's running properly. If not, we'd RMA the drive. The screenshot pictured is a demo version of the test, an actual run we'd use would take quite a long time, but give us more data.

CrystalDiskInfo Download

CrystalDiskMark Download

4. 3DMark and Superposition

3DMark screenshot from official website

These similar tools are heavy-hitting GPU stress tests that run the video card at 100% load for an extended amount of time. Here, we can test system stability for overclocks, undervolts, as well as thermal performance. We'll look for crashes of the overall system and thermal throttling (overheating). This will tell us if we need to check the thermal pads and paste on the heatsink or if we need to RMA the card for a new one.

3D Mark Download

Superposition Download

5. Cinebench

Cinebench screenshot

Cinebench is one of the best CPU benchmarks out, and it's also totally free. Honestly, we don't really know how it works, but it does. here, we can test for system stability and CPU thermals. This is great for learning more about how your cooling system is functioning.

Cinebench Download

Bonus "Benchmark": Gaming

Screenshot of GTA V from GameSpot article by Eddie Makuch, https://www.gamespot.com/articles/check-out-these-new-gta-5-xbox-one-ps4-pc-screensh/1100-6423422/

Gaming is a pretty demanding activity for your computer, requiring the CPU and GPU to work together, often on full throttle, to deliver the best video game experience. Also, we like to give ourselves a little bit of a breather sometimes.

Our favorite games to play range from indie titles such as Dead Cells and Hades, which aren't too graphically intensive, to RTX-enabled Call of Duty Vanguard and Battlefield V. We also include GTA V, Fortnite, Apex Legends, and God of War to the mix sometimes.

Conclusion

Stock image of gloved hands cleaning desk with laptop nearby, Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Benchmarking is a great habit to get into. Whether the computer is fresh off the press and you'd like to test for functionality, or if the computer's a few years old and you'd like to see how it's holding up, stress testing your hardware can often provide valuable information.

Dust buildup and old thermal paste can cause thermal issues and storage devices can corrupt over time. Keeping up with computer maintenance isn't just updating your Windows or making sure your recycle bin is empty, there's some diligence required to make your machine last as long as possible.

Thanks for reading!

- Lawrence