Monday, July 31, 2006

Know thy computer

Examine your Computer

Did you ever wonder what is there under the hood of your Computer? If you had ever worried, you might have opened the cabinet of your Computer and had a look inside it. Some parts, chips, capacitors and resisters having cryptic prints over them that all you may have seen and still wondering what all are these? It is really hard to find facts about your Computer’s hardware if your vendor has not given you the manuals that are supplied with motherboards and other peripherals of your Computer. Similarly, do you know that what, where and how software installed in your Computer and how much space they are occupying in your Computer’s Hard disks? If you are unsure about all these and really want to know more (perhaps everything in some cases) about the hardware and software installed in your Computer, than it is high time to use some tools to look in to your Computer without opening its hood or its manuals.

With some built in tools of your Computer’s Operating System or with the help of some additional applications, it is possible to know practically every details about the installed Hardware and Software in your Computer. You can find these tools for every prominent OS like Linux, UNIX and Mac OS including Windows. Presently, let us concentrate our Examination on most popular - Windows platform.

Windows System Information

If you have installed Windows with MS Office, simply click Start Menu, click Run and than type “msinfo32” without inverted commas in the input box that appear, and hit enter. Alternately, go to Start button, Program, Accessories, System tools and click System Information. The Windows System Information gives you elaborated, different information about software and hardware installed in your Computer. Latest version gives you more information in every aspect, whereas earlier version may not give you that detailed information. If this command does not work due to some reasons such as older version of Windows, try command “msinfo” instead. Here, in earlier versions of Windows, you can see some information as well, but limited to an extent. The system information utility that supplied with latest version of Windows cover practically all aspect of your installed hardware, but it may not tell you about the software that you may have installed. For that, you have to look elsewhere and take help of special applications.

Belark Advisor

This application generates a snapshot of your Computer’s installed software and hardware after running it, and shows it in friendly HTML page, through which you can browse to the generated data and know about the stuff inside your Computer. If you click the link that marked with a * sign, you can directly go to where the indicated software is installed. This application is good for examining the installed software. It reproduced blueprint of nearly all software installed in all recognizable hard drive and partitions in your Computer.

Driver Detective

This application comes to rescue you when you need to analyze and examine the installed Driver of your Computer. You can also update your device driver with the help of this application. Upon running, Driver Detective gathers the information about all the drivers installed in your Computer and then finally displays it. You can update your driver through this software by simply clicking its shortcut on its application menu. It will take you to where your installed driver is compared with their current data base and if your current driver happens to be of older version than it automatically updates your driver after getting your option to update it. It has capability to show other information as well, but they are insignificant and are not worth mentioning.

PC Information

PC Information is a powerful tool that can inform you every tiny details of your PC. This application can show you details of your Computer’s hardware and software in very friendly way. You simply have to click the corresponding tab which you want to know about, and it will show you the details in the window that appears. Every time you run PC Information, it gathers information and refreshes itself to show you Latest information about your computer.

Bonsai system view

Bonsai system view allows you to view detailed information about your Computer’s hardware, software and running processes. It has Explorer style window where you have to click different icons to view contents of said category. Clicking Start button shows you information about your system’s summary, locale etc. Software button shows you all the installed software in the Computer along with auto start applications, ActiveX/COM components and ODBC data sources. Clicking Drives and Files icon instantly shows you drive information and space analysis, where you can see how much space is occupied by which application and folder. This feature helps you in analyzing your hard drive space. Network icon informs you about your network adopters and protocols. Devices icon is there for you to tell about various devices and peripherals installed in your Computer. Similarly, memory icon tells you about status of memory currently installed in your Computer. CPU icon tells you about your Computer’s CPU’s identity and its detailed features. Printer and Faxes icon can tell you details and capabilities about your installed Printer and Fax. Display button can diagnose your display card’s performance. Fonts tab dynamically shows you all the installed fonts in your system exactly the way they appear when they are printed. Clicking configuration files icon lets view your configuration files like win.ini, system.ini, config.sys, autoexec.bat etc., which can later be edited for rectifying any error for system improvement purpose.

SiSoft Sandra

This [Sandra for System ANalyst Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant] application has so many built in functions that you need to explore its entire submenu, popup menu, modules and wizards. After installing this software, you are presented with a window similar to Windows98 control panel window that has numerous icons representing their respective hardware and software settings. Though you can explore individual section by clicking separate icons, you can generate your Computer’s entire system’s report by using ‘create a report wizard’. The generated report can be prepared in any form such as Plain text, hierarchical report [rpf] , html or xml format that can be sent to remote locations for further diagnostics. In addition to that, you can find performance enhancement tips in every section that you can apply to increase performance of your Computer. SiSoft Sandra not only reports you about your system’s settings, but it also let you analyze and compare [benchmark] your hardware with some predetermined standard benchmarks. It can benchmark nearly all your Computer’s hardware and report you in a friendly graphical form. It takes nearly 5 minutes [may take more in slower system] to generate a detailed report of huge 2.5 MB html file with every option selected. However, you can make individual report for individual parts such as CPU or CD-ROM drive.

While preparing benchmark, it warns you to do not move your mouse, or press any keys, since it will induce error in benchmarking. SiSoft Sandra works well on reporting your Hardware but it does not say more about your System’s software. Further, it supports only Windows9x and may not run correctly in other versions of windows.

There are other sources through you can get information about your Computer system. For example, Visual Basic development tool has option to add a button that can show system information from within your application you are creating. You may find several applications that can show you system information, more or less they call ‘msinfo32’ to show you system information. Similarly, if you have Norton Utilities or Nuts&Bolts installed, than you can see advanced system information from these applications as well.

So, do not be ignorant about inside out of your Computer, get tools as mentioned above, examine closely and know everything that you consider worthwhile.

Box item

Information you may know with the help of these applications may include some or more among these:

  • CPU Architecture, type, active mask, count, level, revision, vendor ID, speed and other relevant details with their benchmark.
  • Details of Memory and its allocation.
  • Details about other connected Hardware like graphic card, sound card, network and modems etc, with their benchmark.
  • Various installed applications and drivers.
  • ODBC Data sources that are installed in your Computer.
  • Installed ActiveX/COM components.
  • Information about your Computer’s hard drive, BIOS etc.
  • Details about Network Adopter, Protocols, Services and Clients etc.
  • Windows users and Windows Socket information.
  • OS version, build number, platform, version name and serial number [WindowsXP’s system information can test your copy whether it is legal or not].
  • Your Computer’s IP address.
  • Last boot date, time, system up time, running process etc.

Snapshot Descriptions:

    1. Sysinf01 Microsoft System Information can be called to run from various applications. You can get detailed information about your most hardware and Microsoft software.
    2. Sysinf02 Microsoft System Information showing running task of computer.
    3. Sysinf03 Applications like Balarc Advisor that can give you loads of information about your computer’s Hardware and Software are easy to install and use.
    4. Sysinf04 Balarc Advisor, analyzing the Computer’s Hardware and Software to finally report you about these in friendly HTML format
    5. Sysinf05 The generated HTML file by Balarc Advisor which shows details of installed software and hardware in the computer.
    6. Sysinf06 Balarc Advisor can track down every installed Windows Software in the computer’s all recognizable Hard drive and partitions.
    7. Sysinf07 Driver Detective can detect and diagnose your Computer’s installed Device Drives and can update your Drivers.
    8. Sysinf08 Driver Detective in action. The details of Driver for Logitech Mouse are shown here. Every detail like Product Name, Language, and Version etc. can be viewed.
    9. Sysinf09 PC Information: This application can show you details about your Computer’s hardware and software in friendly way. You simply have to click respective tab to view the contents.
    10. Sysinf10 PC Information showing running task of Computer.
    11. Sysinf11 PC Information can inform you about your installed software in very friendly way. You can view version no., size, Date and their location.
    12. Sysinf12 System View is another similar application like PC information. Only the interface is different.
    13. Sysinf13 System View showing computer’s Installed Software.
    14. Sysinf14 System View can analyze your hard drive’s space and its utilization. It can show which file / folder occupies how much space in a friendly, graphical view.
    15. Sysinf15 System View showing Sound, Video, and game controller’s details.
    16. Sysinf16 System View showing details about computer’s installed CPU and its other properties.
    17. Sysinf17 Computer’s instantaneous parameter like CPU and memory utilization is best shown in application like System View.
    18. Sysinf18 Running process of computer showing on System View.
    19. Sysinf19 SiSoft Sandra : The popular Windows9x benchmarking tool can show you nearly everything about your computer in friendly way. Simply click the icon related to the topic you want to know more.
    20. Sysinf20 You can create a detailed report by create a report wizard in SiSoft Sandra.
    21. Sysinf21 The System Report file in HTML format that is generated by SiSoft Sandra contains nearly every detail about your computer’s hardware you want to know.
    22. Sysinf22 SiSoft Sandra can bench mark your computer’s hardware including memory, graphic card, hard drive etc.

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