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Many PCs are dual or multi-core and have CPUs faster than 1GHz. That is a lot of instructions per second.

So when a PC decides to stop for even a few seconds, or does that thing where it will slowly refresh the screen from top to bottom I often wonder what the heck it's doing.

Is there any way I can get some kind of fairly low-level breakdown of what it's doing?

Maybe even something like a list of categories of API calls with %s next to them (more interested in this than what programs are taking up the time).

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closed as not a real question by sblair, Breakthrough, ChrisF, Sathya Jan 4 '12 at 6:42

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What is the specification of your PC, we could try and help you by working out your bottleneck if you have one – CodeBlend Aug 23 '11 at 14:23
I'm asking in the general case really. It's not a specific pc that has the issue. I'm asking because many pcs with different setups often seem to 'pause for breath' sometimes. Just wondering if it's typically disk access, memory access etc. – George Duckett Aug 23 '11 at 14:24
Ghz and instructions per second are not directly correlated. – digitxp Aug 23 '11 at 14:33
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Is there any way i can get some kind of fairly low-level breakdown of what it's doing?

I have found the SysInternals utilities very useful for this. Particularly the old filemon and regmon - though they seem to have been superceded by process monitor.

Process Monitor is an advanced monitoring tool for Windows that shows real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity. It combines the features of two legacy Sysinternals utilities, Filemon and Regmon, and adds an extensive list of enhancements including rich and non-destructive filtering, comprehensive event properties such session IDs and user names, reliable process information, full thread stacks with integrated symbol support for each operation, simultaneous logging to a file, and much more. Its uniquely powerful features will make Process Monitor a core utility in your system troubleshooting and malware hunting toolkit.

I expect process explorer is also worth trying

Ever wondered which program has a particular file or directory open? Now you can find out. Process Explorer shows you information about which handles and DLLs processes have opened or loaded.

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Could you add a link for this application? What does it do? – Simon Sheehan Aug 23 '11 at 14:27
I have updated the answer with links and brief descriptions. – RedGrittyBrick Aug 23 '11 at 14:36

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