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Posted on September 19th, 2013 by Darien Graham-Smith

Farewell to the Windows Experience Index

The Windows Experience Index in Windows 8

When the Windows 8.1 Preview appeared back in June, a few sharp-eyed souls noticed that the Windows Experience Index (WEI) – introduced in Windows Vista – had quietly vanished. Now we can see that it’s not in the RTM either. After seven years, it looks like Windows’ built-in benchmark has finally been laid to rest.

The idea behind the WEI, as originally implemented in 2006, wasn’t a bad one. After five years of XP, it provided a handy, albeit rough, guide to the hardware demands of Microsoft’s next-generation OS. A still-live page on the Microsoft website helpfully explains that Vista systems scoring 1.0 to 1.9 will support “business programs, web browsers and email programs”, with performance and graphical capabilities improving as you move up the scale.

It was also hoped that WEI would serve as a universal, easy-to-understand way for software developers to communicate system requirements. It has to be said, “this game needs a WEI score of at least 4.0 to run smoothly” would probably have been more accessible to the man in the street than a big list of GeForce and Radeon model numbers.

What was wrong with WEI

WEI never caught on, and there are probably several reasons for that. For one, the score, tucked away in the System properties window, wasn’t easy to find – at least not for the non-technical users it was primarily aimed at.

It was always doubtful how closely WEI scores reflected the user’s real-world experience

What’s more, the headline score wasn’t particularly informative. The WEI process tested five aspects of PC performance, namely 2D graphics, 3D graphics, CPU, disk and memory speed. But the “base” score – the one shown in the System properties – merely reflected the lowest of these subscores. A heavy-duty graphics workstation with a mechanical hard disk would thus get a lower score than a lightweight Ultrabook with an SSD.

For a slightly more informative overview of your system’s capabilities, it was possible to dig into the subscores. These were hidden behind a link, but they were there. However, since the exercises were wholly synthetic, and tested each aspect of performance in isolation, it was always doubtful how closely these scores reflected the user’s real-world experience.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that over time WEI quietly dropped off the radar. No one I know who’s tried out the Windows 8.1 Preview – or, latterly, the RTM – seems even to have noticed its absence.

How WEI went off-message

Pruning away an unused feature makes sense on its own terms, but I wonder whether there might also have been a strategic agenda behind WEI’s removal. Though WEI was never widely used, it represented an official acknowledgement that not all PCs are created equal, and that more powerful hardware makes for a better overall experience.

That’s an idea that Microsoft now evidently wants to distance itself from. The whole Windows 8 concept hinges on the idea that one device can do it all – somewhat the opposite of the WEI message. Visit the Windows 8 website today and you’ll see Atom and Core i5 systems showcased as mere variations on a theme. The huge performance gap between them is barely hinted at:

Core i5 and Atom systems together

In fairness, the typical user experience differs less between these systems than a synthetic benchmark would imply. Modern high-end PCs deliver far more power than the average user will need or notice, and with the arrival of Intel’s powerful Bay Trail platform, the usability gap between low-power and full-fat systems this Christmas is going to be narrower than ever. It’s understandable that Microsoft might want to downplay the importance of sheer number-crunching power.

I would have been happier to see WEI not junked, but updated into a practical guide to the differences between Windows 8 systems, as was intended for the original Vista implementation of WEI. Precisely because the Windows platform now sees Atom processors rubbing shoulders with Core i7s – not to mention ARM-based oddities running Windows RT – there’s a greater need than ever for clarity.

What we get however is an online questionnaire which walks you through five airy questions about your computing preferences before, as if by magic, popping up the single Windows 8 device that’s supposedly perfect for you. In stark contrast to WEI, it’s an approach that seems designed to discourage comparison, and to obscure the very different capabilities of different systems… which I guess is the point.

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Posted in: Windows 8


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24 Responses to “ Farewell to the Windows Experience Index ”

  1. Neil M Says:
    September 19th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Just upgraded the Mrs’ Netbook with an SSD and love seiing the WEI CPU is 2.3 and the SSD is 7.2.

    Don’t get rid of it

  2. Pass Mark Says:
    September 19th, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Shame to see it go, I’d have liked to see it improved rather than chopped.

    I agree with much of the premise of the article, but feel that Microsoft could have tempered the performance debate with voltage and power draw analysis as a counterpoint to raw performance.

    Still rely on for anything deeper so nothing lost overall.

  3. Duncan Smart Says:
    September 20th, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Apparently the command-line interface to it winsat.exe is still there. I’m sure some enterprising soul could stick a UI on it!

  4. James William Says:
    September 21st, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I only ever use WEI once, and I don’t even know what those number means, it’s not really helpful
    Although I agree it should be improved, then can be used as easy to understand score to compare each machines

  5. Gimboids love WEI Says:
    September 22nd, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Excellent indication of how bloated the latest and expensive release of Windows has become without a further hardware upgrade.

  6. Stewart R Says:
    September 23rd, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    While WEI may not have been entirely representative, nevertheless it was handy in quickly identifying any obvious issues with a PC, particularly around graphics adapter. Many a time I have used to check the grapics subsystem is doing something rather than nothing!

  7. Eduardo Says:
    September 24th, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Article failed to mention AMD CPUs. WEI has never reflected user experience, so it was not useful. Someone above mentioned Passmark, but it has gone useless with the release of version 8. It has become another Sysmark, or Intelmark.

  8. Gezzer Says:
    September 28th, 2013 at 5:44 am

    I agree, while the information WEI provided was very minimalist, the idea was sound. I think probably it’s biggest draw back wasn’t so much what it didn’t show, but what it did.
    For the neophyte, computers of any stripe are a commodity item with the first and major feature for most users being the price. It isn’t too surprising when a game forum is flooded with questions about “why doesn’t this game run for me?” When the answer is the PC you bought has on board graphics and no upgrade path to discrete. In other words you bought the wrong PC for what you wanted. As often as not they respond “But I paid over 500 for it!” with no idea what a true gaming PC is and costs.

    So with this in mind do you really think any OEM wants a performance number on any product they’re selling? Of course not. They want everyone to think their 500 dollar PC is the bomb until they find out otherwise. So if the OEMs won’t/can’t support it why should software manufactures? I’m afraid it was a dead horse even before Vista shipped.

  9. JDM Says:
    October 18th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Just installed the windows 8.1 and I’m also sad to see WEI missing. I was just about to try and overclock my 6.9 rated graphics card in an attempt to get a 7+.

  10. stuart Says:
    October 19th, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    The reason it was removed is that every computer upgrading from windows 8 to 8.1 dropped in performance and they didn’t want complaints. I noticed today and updated earlier today the first thing I wanted to do after getting all the things the upgrade broke working again was to see if it had slowed down my laptop.

    Now I am stuck with the new start button which is appalling compared with the classic8 free start button. so I have two start buttons.

  11. windows 8.1 user Says:
    October 20th, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Agree with stuart above, after checking my index score in 8.1 (using this method, I noticed the scores are lower than in windows 8. But maybe they could have just changed the rating scale like they did from windows 7 to 8.

  12. ITGrouch Says:
    October 22nd, 2013 at 8:00 am

    stuart, download Classic Shell. It’s free and you will get your old start menu back and you can opt to skip the Metro interface from loading.

  13. L Hong Says:
    October 23rd, 2013 at 4:15 am

    PC Manufactures Hate it, that why MS killed it. WEI show deficiency of the PC, tablet, specially on the low power device. PC manufacture can not easily hide low end graphic card, cheap memory or hard drive bundle from the savvy buyers.

  14. SteelCity1981 Says:
    November 10th, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Could care less about WEI it was a basic watered down version of a true benchmark software that really never gave you a real benchmark on your hardware. With programs like 3DMark, PC Vantage, Cinebench etc.. that gives you real accurate detailed information about your hardware’s performance there was no reason to even bother with WEI.

  15. Russ Collins Says:
    November 28th, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Inaccurate article, what very poor research has gone into this. It has not gone.. only the GUI has in control panel.
    fire up a CMD prompt and type

    Winsat formal -verbose

    would be nice to see people with real IT skills write articles for a change :)

  16. Lee Says:
    December 4th, 2013 at 1:49 am

    It was a great tool for shoppers to use to compare laptops and see where the gotchas were. so much so most retailers would lock it down so you couldnt run it. I would request someone get the admin password and run the thing. lots of times we found scores where the disk outscored the PROC!

  17. Haggy Says:
    December 9th, 2013 at 3:00 am

    There were bigger problems than that. The overall score was meaningless. The computer is only as good as its bottleneck if one exists, and that depends on how it’s being used. If you have a low graphics score but your hard drive is slowing down your system, then raising your overall score might be irrelevant. And it might be perfectly clear without software that the HD is your bottleneck and you don’t really need a WEI to tell you that your new SSD is better.

    But the flip side is worse. If I develop software, how do I decide what to tell potential customers? If my own machine ranges from 4.2 to 7.7, then I know that if a customer has at least a 7.7, my software will run. My 4.2 is irrelevant because it might be that a 4.2 processor wouldn’t work at all. So if I give my high score, it might be way more than what’s needed, and I’d have no tools to come up with a realistic number. And the number that supposedly represents my machine would be of no relevance. If software runs on one machine that has a 3.3 it might not run at all on another machine with a 3.3 and might not even run on some machines with a 6.5. An example would be something that does heavy computing but that displays a table of numbers as a result. It would work perfectly on a machine with a very low score in graphics and a top score in everything else.

  18. Mike Says:
    December 9th, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    The Windows Experience Index is not gone, there is a soft that can read the values from Windows WEI.
    It’s called ChrisPC Win Experience Index:

  19. Travis Says:
    December 13th, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    While the score was a bit confusing to some, it allowed to to not have to be so instensive in my search for the perfect computer. If you could see the score at a store, you could see that while the processor was good, the hard drive wasn’t. You could also tell other information that store clerks would just say, it runs pretty good, instead of the specifics. IE: Graphic for games, HDD for speed. I now have to go back to being more savy again on all the specs of the computer. I would prefer it brought back, and corrected if it wasn’t as good as they should be. Window 8 is a disaster, and I run classic shell because of it. Windows 8.1 tried to fix things and while leaving the index score seems good, they truly are blundering up from what window 7 was. When does windows 9 roll out??

  20. Ed C Says:
    December 26th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    As an I.T. technician, I found the WEI very helpful for a quick look at basic performance capability. While it did not give in depth info, it did provide a good snap shot of what you had to work with. But WEI’s greatest benefit was in comparison shopping for a new PC. Whether you were looking for Desktops, laptops or tablets, anything with windows gave you the WEI score which was a good indicator on which system would give you the best bang for the buck. This was all we had as retailers will not let you benchmark their displays systems and print out the results for comparison. Not to mention this would be way too time consuming. The WEI was already there. You needed only to check it.

  21. Jonathan Malatesta Says:
    February 18th, 2014 at 12:51 am

    1- search for cme.exe
    2- open cmd.exe (command prompt)
    3- write: winsat prepop
    4-press enter
    5- search for powershell.exe
    6-open powershell.exe
    Get-WmiObject -class win32_winsat

    8- press enter
    9-you will see your scores listed in the results

  22. Justin Says:
    April 25th, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    This sucks. Yes, the rating wasn’t all that accurate, but it did come in handy when buying a new laptop. Being able to do a quick comparison on all the available laptops helped give a good idea which one to buy for what price.. Now the next time I have to buy a new laptop, I’m going to have to use my phone to search for differences in processor speeds, ram, ect… It will be a big pain.. Thanks a lot Microsoft– insert sarcasm here.

  23. M.D.Tucker Says:
    June 16th, 2014 at 3:12 am

    New computer build WEI 7.2 running windows8. Upgraded to 8.1, WEI was nowhere to be found. In retail stores WEI is almost always locked out. Many manufacturers command much more than what their machines are really worth. This is so petty of Microsoft removing WEI.

  24. Harrison Says:
    June 22nd, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    If you only care about the final score, navigate to your games folder and your overall WEI is listed on the right.


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