Looking Under the Hood of Your PC

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” (Anais Nin)

This is certainly true of computers. How they work remains a mystery for some and many users are just not that interested in how their PC works, just that it works, period. However, there will be times when you may be asked about certain specifications of your PC (when contacting tech support, for instance). There will be other times when you may want to upgrade your computer’s hardware and you are not sure if you can or not because you don’t know what your current hardware setup is. Short of opening up your computer’s case, what can you do?
Thankfully, there are some excellent (and free!) software programs out there that will query your system and display a report with all the information you need, and then some. I will list a few of my favourites to get you started.
  1. Belarc Advisor: this is a great program that will not only tell you the basics of your PC (Operating System, processor, motherboard, RAM memory, hard drive, etc.), but will also supply a list of installed Microsoft “hotfixes” (updates), virus protection, and software licences and versions. All of this is displayed in a browser window after Belarc Advisor takes a few moments to ‘audit’ your system. You can then print it out (my old desktop took three pages of info) and/or save it as a file for future reference.
  2. CPU-Z: this program will tell you some of the same things as Belarc Advisor, but it will go deper into the processor, RAM and motherboard settings. More for those that like to know every little thing about their hardware, but still good info to have on hand.
  3. Windows: yes, Windows has built-in programs to tell what is contained within your PC’s case, but they are not so easy to find. The most comprehensive one in both XP and Vista is called System Information and it can be found under Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools. Or, you can type misinfo32 in the Start>Run dialog box (or in the Start Search space in Vista’s Start Menu) and hit enter. It will take a few moments to audit your system before displaying a summary page, but in the left-hand pane will be other areas to explore.

A combination of some or all of the above will give you a clear, comprehensive (and sometimes exhaustive) look under the hood of your PC. Feel free to post any comments or links to other system auditing programs you like to use.