System monitor

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Example of a software system monitor.png

A system monitor is a hardware or software component used to monitor system resources and performance in a computer system.[1]

Among the management issues regarding use of system monitoring tools are resource usage and privacy.


Software monitors occur more commonly, sometimes as a part of a widget engine. These monitoring systems are often used to keep track of system resources, such as CPU usage and frequency, or the amount of free RAM. They are also used to display items such as free space on one or more hard drives, the temperature of the CPU and other important components,[2] and networking information including the system IP address and current rates of upload and download. Other possible displays may include the date and time, system uptime, computer name, username, hard drive S.M.A.R.T. data, fan speeds, and the voltages being provided by the power supply.

Less common are hardware-based systems monitoring similar information. Customarily these occupy one or more drive bays on the front of the computer case, and either interface directly with the system hardware or connect to a software data-collection system via USB. With either approach to gathering data, the monitoring system displays information on a small LCD panel or on series of small analog or LED numeric displays. Some hardware-based system monitors also allow direct control of fan speeds, allowing the user to quickly customize the cooling in the system.

A few very high-end models of hardware system monitor are designed[by whom?] to interface with only a specific model of motherboard. These systems directly utilize the sensors built into the system, providing more detailed and accurate information than less-expensive monitoring systems customarily provide.

Software monitoring[edit]

Software monitoring tools operate[3] within the device they're monitoring.[4]

Hardware monitoring[edit]

Unlike software monitoring tools, hardware measurement tools can either located within the device being measure, or they can be attached and operate from an external location.[5]: p.84 

A hardware monitor is a common component of modern motherboards, which can either come as a separate chip, often interfaced through I2C or SMBus, or as part of a Super I/O solution, often interfaced through Low Pin Count (LPC).[6] These devices make it possible to monitor temperature in the chassis, voltage supplied to the motherboard by the power supply unit and the speed of the computer fans that are connected directly to one of the fan headers on the motherboard. Many of these hardware monitors also have fan controlling capabilities.[6] System monitoring software like SpeedFan on Windows, lm_sensors on Linux, envstat on NetBSD, and sysctl hw.sensors on OpenBSD and DragonFly can interface with these chips to relay this environmental sensor information to the user.


When an individual user is measuring the performance of a single-user system, whether it is a standalone box or a virtual machine on a multi-user system, access does not impede the privacy of others.[5]: p.114  Privacy becomes an issue when someone other than the end-user, such as a system manager,[5]: p.115  has legitimate need to access data about other users.

Resource usage[edit]

When events occur faster than a monitor can record them, a workaround is needed, such as replacing event recording with simple counting.[5]: p.89 

Another consideration is not having major impact on the CPU and storage available for useful work. While a hardware monitor will usually have less impact than a software monitor, there are data items, such as "some descriptive information, such as program names"[5]: p.91  that must involve software.

A further consideration is that a bug in this domain can have severe impact: an extreme case would be "cause the OS to crash."[7]

List of software monitors[edit]

Single system:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ G. Wiesen; Heather Bailey (1 December 2010). "What Is a System Monitor?". wiseGEEK. Archived from the original on 7 December 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2018. A system monitor is a program or piece of hardware that monitors various aspects of a computer system and then displays information regarding the status of that system. This sort of monitor typically takes the form of a software program provided with an operating system (OS) or used as a standalone program. Hardware system monitors are also available, though these are fairly specialized devices and not as frequently used as software monitors. A system monitor will typically track various aspects of a computer system, including what programs are running, how resources are being used, and certain details regarding the hardware installed on a computer.
  2. ^ Halil Kaskavalci (22 October 2015). "Installing system monitor conky on Ubuntu". Archived from the original on 22 October 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2018. What is a System Monitor? System monitors show various system indicators like HDD, Network, and CPU usage. If you want to learn more about your computer, it's a must have tool.
  3. ^ "The Best System Monitor for Linux". LinuxSecurity.
  4. ^ J. D. Biersdorfer (22 August 2015). "Unseen Burdens in Chrome That Can Lead a Mac to Lag". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019. opened the OS X system monitor to see what was going on
  5. ^ a b c d e Liba Svobodova; Edward J. McCluskey (1976). Computer Performance Measurement and Evaluation Methods. ISBN 0-444-00197-2.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Constantine A. Murenin (17 April 2007). Generalised Interfacing with Microprocessor System Hardware Monitors. Proceedings of 2007 IEEE International Conference on Networking, Sensing and Control, 15–17 April 2007. London, United Kingdom: IEEE. doi:10.1109/ICNSC.2007.372901. ISBN 978-1-4244-1076-7. IEEE ICNSC 2007, pp. 901—906.
  7. ^ "Overtime will never be this much fun again". Computerworld. 24 November 2016.
  8. ^ a b Constantine A. Murenin (21 May 2010). OpenBSD Hardware Sensors — Environmental Monitoring and Fan Control (MMath thesis). University of Waterloo: UWSpace. hdl:10012/5234. Document ID: ab71498b6b1a60ff817b29d56997a418.
  9. ^ Nadel, Brian. "Inspector Gadgets: Windows 7 Gadgets for Monitoring Your PC". PCWorld. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  10. ^ Zhang, Gary. "HWmonitor–CPU Temperature Monitor for Windows 10". Garyzzc. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  11. ^ "symon-2.88p3 – active host monitoring tool". OpenBSD ports. 12 December 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2019.

External links[edit]