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General: Understanding Processor - Processor State

Processor utilization can be further broken down into time spent executing in user mode (Intel Ring 3) or in privileged mode (Ring 0), two mutually exclusive states. Applications typically run in the more restricted user mode, while operating system functions run in privileged mode. Whenever, an application implicitly or explicitly calls an OS service (e.g. to allocate or free memory, or perform some operation on a file), a context switch occurs as the system transitions from user to privileged mode and back again. The portion of time that a tread is executing in user mode is captured as % User Time; privileged mode execution time is captured in the % Privileged Time counter.

Processor time usage in Windows is broken out into two additional subcategories. % Interrupt Time represents processor cycles consumed in device driver interrupt service routines (ISRs), which process interrupts from attached peripherals such as the keyboard, mouse, disks, network interface card, etc. This is worked performed at very high priority, typically while other interrupts are disabled. It is captured and reported separately not only because of its high priority, but also because it is not easily associated with any particular user process. Windows also tracks the amount of time device drivers spend in deferred procedure calls (DPCs), which also service peripheral devices but run with interrupts enabled. DPCs represent higher-priority work than other system calls and kernel thread activity. Note that % DPC Time is already included in the % Privileged Time measure.

The Scheduler’s thread timing function is notified whenever any context switch occurs, and dutifully records the processing time for the copmpleted function in the appropriate bucket. The context switch might involve going from one user thread to another, a user thread to a kernel function, or a kernel thread to an ISR, followed by a DPC
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