Improving Your App's Performance with PerfView

Improving Your App's Performance with PerfView

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Late last year, Vance Morrison, who is currently an architect on the .NET Framework Performance team, released PerfView, which is a new performance tool for .NET developers. PerfView helps you discover and investigate performance hotspots in .NET Framework apps, and enables you to deliver consistently high-performance apps to your customers.

Using PerfView, you can perform complex CPU performance analyses to solve hard-to-detect performance problems. PerfView's revolutionary grouping and folding features are what makes it possible to grasp and solve these difficult problems.

PerfView can be used for any app on Windows, including ASP.NET and Windows Store apps. While it works great for .NET Framework apps, it can be used for native and JavaScript apps, too. It supports all .NET Framework versions, including the .NET Framework 4.5.

Vance tells us about PerfView

Vance took some time to tell us more about PerfView in the following Channel 9 video. He explains why he built PerfView and how it works, and demonstrates its use.

How can I get PerfView?

You can download PerfView from the Microsoft Download Center. It is a very quick, easy and free installation. It's just an EXE in a .zip file. You can also check out our series of PerfView Tutorial videos on Channel 9.

What can PerfView do for you?

PerfView was designed to collect and analyze both CPU and memory scenarios. It provides the following features:

  • CPU investigation:
    • Enables you to diagnose the cause of excessive CPU use:
      • GC Stats view for understanding the garbage collection costs in your app.
      • JIT Stats view for understanding the JIT costs in your app.
    • Provides aggregate call stacks of your app over time.
    • Helps you quickly sort through all the stack data collected, to find the root cause of a performance issue.
  • Managed memory investigations:
    • Enables you to diagnose the cause of excessive memory use.
    • Provides snapshots of the .NET Framework garbage collection (GC) heap, including large heaps.
    • GC samples are displayed in the same stack viewer used for stack traces, enabling the same approach to be used to investigate memory use issues.
  • Blocked time investigations:
    • Enables you to diagnose latency issues in your app (for example, waiting on the network).
    • Provides visualizations that show why your program is waiting.

PerfView provides access to rich performance data through a set of powerful views. Don’t be surprised if you find the tool a little complex at first. You will likely find the Performance Profiler in Visual Studio 2012 easier to use. It's up to you when to use either tool. We think PerfView is a great tool to use when you need to get a bird’s eye view of what’s really going on in your app.

Let's take a look

PerfView provides several different experiences for conducting performance investigations. These largely relate to the investigation types listed above. We've provided a brief preview below; you can also download PerfView to try these features yourself.

Note that the screen illustrations below do not cover all PerfView features, but are intended to provide you with a flavor of what PerfView has to offer you.

Home screen

The PerfView home screen provides you with a starting point to access tool features, helpful documentation, and videos.

PerfView trace collection

You can access the trace collection dialog box by clicking Collect from the menu on the home screen. This dialog box enables you to collect a trace, and is where you start for most investigations. Click Start Collection to start sampling the user scenario that you want to investigate, and click Stop Collection when you are done.

PerfView analysis type selector

Once you have collected a sample, a selection of analysis types (CPU stacks, GC stacks, etc.) appears in the PerfView window's left pane. You double-click the information that you are interested in.

PerfView process selection window

PerfView scopes your view of the collected data to a process. You need to select the process that you are interested in investigating. Although PerfView was written primarily for .NET Framework apps, you can also investigate native and JavaScript apps. PerfView typically operates at a machine-wide scope, so you will see a long list of processes in this dialog box.

Stack viewer

The stack viewer is the primary UI that you will use in PerfView. It provides a list of aggregate stacks encountered during sampling. The stack viewer includes all the method frames that were seen during the course of the sample. By default, the frames are ordered by the number of times they were seen, which correlates to the amount of time spent in those methods.

GC heap dump viewer

The GC heap dump viewer provides information on the objects that are allocated to the managed heap at a specific point in time. You can take a heap snapshot by using the Memory menu in the PerfView home screen. You can quickly determine the largest allocations in your app, described by type. The GC heap viewer uses the same view and similar columns as the stack viewer above.

Using Perfview to investigate performance hotspots

PerfView was built to help you investigate performance hotspots. To demonstrate this feature, I will walk you through two performance investigations. One is completely contrived and is intended to show the most basic use of PerfView. The other is a real app that has actual performance problems. Don’t hesitate to download PerfView and try it on your own apps.

Investigation 1: Analyzing a simple, contrived app

I created a very small app that has a performance problem. This is a Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) app with a single button that kicks off a very tight loop. This loop calls a very slow operation with every 20 iterations of the loop. My reason for creating this app was to demonstrate how PerfView displays performance hotspots when we know what to look for.

This test app spends the entirety of its time in a loop. For every 20 iterations of the loop, the FastAdd method is called 19 times and the SlowAdd method is called once. SlowAdd is the method that leads to an artificial bottleneck in the app. Do you think that PerfView will notice? Here's the code for the two methods, both called from the loop in the button handler:

Int32 FastAdd(Int32 i, Int32 i2)
return i + i2;

Int32 SlowAdd(Int32 i, Int32 i2)
Int32 sum = 1;

for (Int32 j = 0; j < 10000000; j++)
sum *= j;

return i * i2;

I collected a performance trace of the app using PerfView. The following screenshot shows us what PerfView saw, during 11s of sampling. PerfView samples the instruction pointer of each CPU every millisecond. As a result, we see a very representative sample of the app’s execution. Slow code will definitely show up. Conversely, fast code is so fast that it doesn't even show up (it was probably inlined into the button click handler), so it isn’t interesting to look at from the perspective of improving app performance.

Not at all surprisingly, SlowAdd is the big offender in this app. Across 54.5% of samples, the app was in SlowAdd, so we can reasonably say that the app was in SlowAdd 54.5% of the time. That’s a lot of time. You may also notice that FastAdd doesn’t even show up. That’s fast code! FastAdd may have been inlined by the CLR JIT too, but that’s really just further evidence that it isn’t a performance bottleneck.

It might not be immediately obvious how to interpret the columns you see in the stack viewer. The four most important ones are labeled as Exc%, Exc, Inc%, and Inc. These represent the exclusive and inclusive time spent in a method, expressed as both percentages and in absolute numbers. Exc% and Exc represent the time spent exclusively in a given method. Inc% and Inc represent the exclusive time plus the time spent in the methods the given method calls (directly or indirectly). In this case, the inclusive time of Application.Run adds up to 91.7% of execution, because it indirectly calls SlowAdd.

PerfView exposes a lot of information in a compact format. You can click or hover over any of the hyperlinked parts of the app to get detailed help documentation.

After reviewing the PerfView analysis, I replaced my call to SlowAdd with FastAdd. Let’s see what the result of the change is. You’ll quickly see that SlowAdd doesn’t even show up anymore. More importantly, you’ll notice that the absolute numbers in the PerfView stack viewer have dropped quite a lot. That’s a great resolution.

Investigation 2: Making PerfView faster

This may sound a bit confusing at first, but we can use PerfView to investigate and resolve performance issues in PerfView itself. After all, it's just another app that can suffer from performance problems. One place where PerfView is slower than we'd like is when it's updating the stack viewer window. If the traces being viewed are large, this can take many seconds. We want the update to be as fast as possible, so we used PerfView to see what could be done. I’ll quickly walk you through the investigation.

First, we collected a trace that included the time when we opened the CPU stacks view on a large event trace log (.etl) file. We then looked at this file in the CPU stack view and zoomed in to the time where the update of the stack viewer occurred (from 3.3 seconds to 23.6 seconds into the trace). Here's what we saw:

Two things immediately jump out:

  • We see that during this time (20.918 seconds), we used 20.915 seconds of CPU time. First of all, this is a lot of time (the user starts growing impatient after a few seconds). Also, on average, we were fully using one processor for the entire time. Therefore, we know that this is a CPU problem (not an I/O or network problem), and that any CPU time we save will result in saved end-to-end time.
  • 81% of that time is spent in the Regex.Match method. If we could do that pattern matching more efficiently, we could save up to 17 seconds of that time! This is clearly what we need to focus on to improve this performance.

We have two choices to improve performance: call performance-sensitive routines such as Regex.Match less often, or do the matching more efficiently. As it turns out, most of the pattern matching that PerfView needs is very simple. Instead of using Regex.Match, we can use simple string operations (IndexOf and SubString) for more efficient pattern matching. This is the fix we implemented to resolve the performance issue.

Let’s take another look at PerfView, after the fix. The screen illustration below shows the entire trace end to end.

Already we can see very positive signs: Regex.Match is now nowhere to be seen, and the total CPU time used for the entire scenario is now only 7.9 seconds, much smaller than the 21 seconds PerfView used just to open the stack viewer. We also see that largest amounts of CPU time are now spent in igdump32 (this is GUI pixel-rendering code) and in the WPF GUI code (PresentationFramework).

We could say that we’re done, but as a performance engineer, I'd like to know exactly how much time this fix saved. We need to find the starting and stopping points of our scenario (where we clicked the Update button in the stack viewer), and we need to find this for both the before and after traces. Once we have this information, we can compare the two sets of data.

An easy way to find the starting and stopping points is to take advantage of the program structure. If we open the call tree view of the original (before) trace, we see:

PerfView shows that all this work was done as part of a call to the CallTree.set_StackSource method. This method is the main routine that runs when you click the Update button, so it would be a good guess to say that this routine starts when we push the button, and ends when PerfView updates the display. Thus, we can use CallTree.set_StackSource as a marker for the beginning and the end of our scenario. We see that our scenario starts at 3.298 seconds into the trace and ends at - seconds into the trace, for a delta of 20.337 seconds.

Now let's find the same routine in the fixed (after) trace and review the changes.

You can see that the cost of CallTree.set_StackSource drops to 4.642 seconds. That’s a very large improvement that represents a 15.695 second or nearly 80% drop in time. I hope this example demonstrates how you can use PerfView to conduct and validate your own performance investigations.


PerfView enables you to identify the performance hotspots in your app and enables you to quickly determine the code that needs to be updated to mitigate the hotspots. You can use PerfView to investigate .NET Framework (all versions), C++, or JavaScript apps. It also supports investigating performance issues in Windows Store apps.

Please download PerfView and give it a try.

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Leave a Comment
  • Please add 7 and 7 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • Why not use .NET 4.0 so that the text on application is better?

  • Very excited to finally see a free performance analysis tool for .NET that doesn't suck. But I get this when attempting to start on XP:


    Please wait while the application opens: PerfView.exe - Entry Point Not Found


    The procedure entry point _wcslwr_s could not be located in the dynamic link library msvcrt.dll.




    Found this (, but this is a work machine, so can't really mess with it.

  • PerfView does not supported on XP (that goes for W2K3 too).    PerfVIew is actually using the Operating system to collect the data and the necessary support was added in the Vista release.    Vista, Win7 or Win2K8 will all work.   (There is also the C runtime issue, but that is the the heart of the matter).    

  • PerfView is a V4.0 Application.   It uses standard WPF and uses the default fonts.    I am happy to take feedback on the GUI list fonts, colors, layout etc, but set expectations properly, my priorities are to 'get the data out there' so any 'tweeks' to the UI that doe not susstantially impact the workflow are of secondary concern.    I am willing to make such changes if they are easy and uncontraversial, but often that is not the case...)  

  • What do letters B-N-NI in column Gen in GC events tables mean? Thank you. PerfView looks like quite powerful tool!

  • I have problems with loading 11GB dump file. I've got exception in PerfView log:

    Expanding P:\symbols\mscordacwks_amd64_Amd64_4.0.30319.239.dll\4e1822f4964000\mscordacwks_amd64_Amd64_4.0.30319.239.dl_ to P:\symbols\mscordacwks_amd64_Amd64_4.0.30319.239.dll\4e1822f4964000\mscordacwks_amd64_Amd64_4.0.30319.239.dll

    Found CLR data access (DAC) DLL P:\symbols\mscordacwks_amd64_Amd64_4.0.30319.239.dll\4e1822f4964000\mscordacwks_amd64_Amd64_4.0.30319.239.dll

    Got Runtime access object.

    Trying to get a ICorDebugProcess object.

    Warning: Failed to get a V4.0 debugger Message: No V4.0 .NET Runtime found in dump file.

    Continuing with less accurate GC root information.

    Dumping GC heap.

     7,7s: Size of heap = 11,322 GB

    Estimated number of objects = 176я905я459

    Limiting object count to 268я435я444

    HeapDump Error: System.OutOfMemoryException: Exception of type 'System.OutOfMemoryException' was thrown.

      at System.Collections.Generic.Dictionary`2.Initialize(Int32 capacity)

      at System.Collections.Generic.Dictionary`2..ctor(Int32 capacity, IEqualityComparer`1 comparer)

      at Graphs.MemoryGraph..ctor(Int32 expectedSize)

      at GCHeapDumper.DumpDotNetHeapData(ClrHeap heap, ICorDebugProcess& debugProcess, Boolean isDump)

      at GCHeapDumper.DumpHeapFromProcessDump(String processDumpFile)

      at Program.Main(String[] args)

  • > What do letters B-N-NI in column Gen in GC events tables mean?

    These are the type of GC (hover over the column header for more).   B=Background, N=Normal (blocking), NI, Normal Induced (explicit call to GC.Collect()).

    > I have problems with loading 11GB dump file. I've got exception in PerfView log

    PerfView should not need 11GB of data to dump the GC heap, but it will need a good fraction of that.   You do need perform the Dump extraction on a machine with sufficient swap space at least (and it will take a very long time (lots of paging), unless the machine has enough physical memory.     You can specify the '/MaxNodeCountK=100000' to perfview, (see Perfview /?) which will limit the number of objects that it will examine in the GC heap to in the case above 100,000,000.   By picking a small enough number you should avoid out of memory issues.   However the more you do this the less your heap dump represents the actual heap.

  • So the response to the  _wcslwr_s error is that PerfView does not run in Windows 2003?

  • Is it possible to capture WPF ETW events with PerfView? I didn't see it in the standard providers. I tried to include it in the Additional Providers using syntax "*Microsoft-Windows-WPF" which seemed to match what I see in, however I still did not see any WPF events (particularly trying to correlate frame rendering to other things in system).

  • We have .NET application in Frame work .NET Frame work 2.0 , we are having many memory problems or issues some times all of the sudden the application is hang kind of thing , memory of CPU and processing Spead of Server is good enough , this perfview tool is for 4.0 Frame work installed , but we do not have permissions to install the 4.0 Frame work in that server .

    Please suggest is Perfview is helpful for .NET Frame work 2.0 Applications

  • This is in responce to RavishankerMaduri's comment:

    First when you say V2.0 .NET I am assuming you really mean V3.5 (that is an UP TO DATE serviced version of the runtime that lives in the \Windows\Microsoft.Net\Framework\v2.0.50727 directory).    I am also assuming you are on a post-Vista release of the operating system (e.g. Win 208 or later).   If those things are true, then yes, PerfView can be helpful.  

    PerfView is a V4.0 application and does not run on a V2.0 runtime.  We do have a tool that allows you to collect data and then you can copy it to a machine that does have V4.0 .NET installed and run PerfView on that file.   Please contact me at and I will send you that tool).  

  • Our system runs about 15 processes. As a developer, we only creat .DLL's that are loaded at startup. None of the processes allow dumping of the heap. I can dump the heap on other things like Outlook or Chrome. Do I need to compile and link with certain options set. Currently, everything is compiled with the 'Debug' option and libraries.


  • In reply to problem dumping heaps:  It is not clear exactly what you are trying to do and how it fails, and those details are needed to give a useful response.   You say that the process does not allow dumping.  What presumably this means you could not find the process in PerfVIew's list of processes to dump.  If that is true, this it typically because the process does not have a .NET (or JavaScript) GC heap.   You mention it is a C++ app so this may certainly be the case.   Note that PerfView can help you with native heaps (pure C++) but the technique is different because you only know the allocation stack, and not the connectivity between objects.  

    So the first question to answer is whether the process uses .NET or not.

  • No, the process does not use .NET. It is pure C++. The process is visible on PerfView list.

  • No, the process does not use .NET. It is pure C++. The process is visible on PerfView list.

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