When you need to know your specs to figure out if you can play a video game, it's best to just automate the process. But sometimes you need to dive deep and really find out nitty-gritty details about what's going on inside your computer, most often to aid with troubleshooting efforts or determine whether or not its time to upgrade your hardware.
Maybe you want to check how much RAM your PC has. Maybe you want to know how fast your processor is, or the voltages being supplied to your PC components. Perhaps you've lost a software product key or are trying to figure out exactly which driver your printer is using. Some--but not all--of that info you can just grab from Windows itself, but it's spread across different locations and a pain to navigate to.
A better option is to try out a number of third-party apps that can analyze your system and supply all the information you need. Here's a look at three free, easy-to-use programs that deliver just that kind of information--and then some.
Of all three apps, Speccy is by far the nicest to look at. It's also very simple and straightforward to use. After you fire up the app, you'll see a summary of your machine stats that includes your operating system type, CPU, RAM, motherboard, graphics card, storage devices (including connected external drives), optical drives, audio hardware, attached peripherals, and network connection.
On the left side is a navigation panel where you can drill down into the finer details about your system.
One nice thing to take note of is that the summary includes the reported temperature of various PC components such as the CPU, motherboard, and hard drives.
You can grab Speccy on FileHippo.
This app scans your system and creates a detailed report that you can view in your web browser. Similar to Speccy, it will give you information on all your hardware configuration, but also provides very detailed information on your software, local network, and attached peripherals--including, crucially, product keys for purchased software such as Microsoft Office and even your Windows key.
If you've misplaced your product key from an email, knowing that Belarc can retrieve it for you is a great back-up.
Belarc can also tell you where each program is installed and how recently you've used it.
You can get Belarc advisor here.
HWMonitor from CPUID looks like something straight out of Windows Explorer circa Windows 98. That said, it's even simpler to look at than Speccy. But HWMonitor doesn't offer the same feature set as Speccy. Instead, this app supplies live information reported by sensors in your system such as voltages, the internal temperature of your PC's components, and battery capacities.
Some hardcore users question the usefulness of HWMonitor's reported voltages, but if you're looking for something to keep an eye on your system's internal temperatures, HWMonitor is a great choice.
Download HWMonitor from CPUID.
Don't be afraid to try these out! All three programs are easy to use and require no more knowledge to use than the ability to install and launch a program in Windows.
This story, "Three free tools that reveal your PC's deepest details (including product keys)" was originally published by PCWorld.