Having read a few articles about computer performance, I often come across the "big four", the four components of your computer that might be impairing performance: CPU, memory, hard drive, and NIC.
When a computer is running slowly, CPU and memory are pretty easy to check. Windows Task Manager does a nice job. When I want a little more information, Process Explorer is a great resource.
I've found analyzing the hard drive to be a little trickier. To check the health of the hard drive itself, I'll use HDTune. The graph is useful, and comparing the Access Time to published values is also useful.
More-often-than-not, the hard drive's health is just fine, but it's older, runs a little slow, and it's being over-utilized by one or more processes. To check this, I'll open Task Manager, sort on I/O Reads (or I/O Writes), and watch the bigger numbers to see if they're growing.
Alternatively, I'll fire up Process Explorer and sort on I/O Reads Delta (or I/O Writes Delta), looking for big values.
So what's my question? I'm looking for critiques of my process. Am I missing a key parameter? Are my existing steps misguided? Please be candid.