On the other hand, SiSoftware's Sandra does have a free version, and it includes all benchmarking features. Although the tool is occasionally obscure, Sandra's long and winding history has led to a pretty useful comprehensive benchmarking and system-information package. If you like your benchmarks with an extra helping of utility, this is the one to pick.
Reminiscent of Sandra but with a more accessible interface, AIDA64 doesn't do quite as much overall, but it does feature an excellent set of focused CPU/memory benchmarks. Take your pick of either package, the $40 AIDA 64 Extreme Edition (for personal use) or the $80 AIDA64 Business Edition (for commercial use)--you won't be disappointed. The free download is only a limited trial, though.
All Things Small and Great
After dealing with the bloat of some of the larger packages, you have to love a benchmark as quick, simple, and tiny as the free CrystalDiskMark. It's the smallest program here. You'll know how to use it the second you set eyes on the interface. No need to wade through menus or 25-minute processing queues, either--a few clicks, a few seconds, and you're done. That's truly refreshing among disk benchmarks. The tool doesn't do anything else, but it doesn't have to.
Fraps was created with the same philosophy. It sits atop any game and displays the frame rate in the upper-right corner of your screen. The free demo is perfectly functional, though the $37 professional version can also take screenshots, record gameplay video, and more. It may sound simple, but Fraps doesn't get half the kudos it deserves. While flashy synthetic benchmarks attract all the attention, Fraps shoulders the workaday burden of providing trusted, real-world results from the actual games that people play, and it has been doing so for years. Even if you use another benchmark, this one is essential if you're a gamer.
Hit the Hardware and Start Benching
If you decide to give some of these suites a try, remember a couple of basics: Don't run any background applications while you're using a benchmark, and try to keep the computing environment consistent between runs. For example, if you're using Fraps to determine your frame rate in a game, stick with the same saved game files for testing, and don't move the mouse after loading.