Sysinternals and PAL

Sysinternals and PAL (Performance Analysis of Logs) are two fantastic tools for general server information gathering and troubleshooting on Windows.

Sysinternals suite is a set of tools that can be downloaded freely from Microsoft. One thing that is particularly attractive about them is that they can be run directly after downloading without special installation and all the footprints a typical installation leaves on the host machine (new directories under C:\Program Files\, registry entries, data files and what have you). I found them very valuable and handy.

In particular, psInfo provides good summary information of the server. For example, psinfo -s -h -d provides basic information about the system, software installed, Windows hot fixes installed, and disk volume information.

PAL: install PAL on your test/analysis/general purpose machine. Install the mschart control as it is a prerequisite of PAL. Here is how I used it:

1. Produce Perfmon data gathering template files using PAL. I exported 3 template files: overview, quick overview, and SQL Server 2005/2008;

Perfmon is the general-purpose data instrumentation tool on Windows. Through Perfmon you can gather system wide counters for things like CPU, memory, network, and disk IO. In addition, a lot of applications such as SQL Server, Exchange, and others, expose application level Instrumentation data such that you can collect them via Perfmon as well.

It is best to have a few handy data collection template, hence this step.

2. On the Windows server that I am interested in monitoring, import Perfmon counter template file produced above by opening a DOS prompt under Administrator and executing:

logman import -n templateNameIdefine -xml pathAndName2TemplateXmlFile

3. Open Perfmon, find the one you imported, and start collecting

4. After collection is done, copy the log file and use PAL for analysis. It will generate a very nice and intuitive report. Please don’t run PAL on the system you are diagnosing. Run it somewhere else. Be patient, as it will take a while for PAL to churn through the data (it took 2 hours on a Rackspace cloud server with 2 CPUs and 1 gig of RAM for a file about 30 meg)

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