Discover the secrets of the PC’s hardware

 

How much memory is in your PC? What type is it? What processor is on the motherboard? Which type of graphics is used? Who made the motherboard and what is the model number? All these questions and more can be answered by special utilities that analyse the hardware inside the PC and reveal the hidden details.

There are three reasons why you might want to know what hardware components are inside the PC and the first is so that faulty parts can be replaced. If you had to replace the disk drive inside the PC because the old one had failed, which make and model would you buy?

The second reason why it is important to know what is in your PC is for upgrading. A new PC is fast and responsive, but it slows down over time and this might be because it has insufficient memory to run the latest version of Windows and applications. If you wanted to buy more memory, what sort should you buy? Are there any empty sockets in which to install extra RAM modules?

The third reason is for technical support. If you ever have a problem with your computer and you need to contact a technical support helpdesk, they will ask you what sort of PC you have. If you have the hardware specifications to hand, it will speed up their response and enable them to diagnose the problem more easily.

If you dig around in Windows, you might find some of the information you need, but you will not find all of it. However, there are free utilities that can do the job and they can tell you exactly which components are used inside a PC.

CPU-Z

CPU-Z is an excellent tool for determining the model and capabilities of the processor and memory. The amount of detail displayed is very comprehensive and it even tells you the name and code name, socket type, core voltage, core speed, and much more.

The memory tab provides brief details of the RAM in the PC, but the SPD tab is even better. You can select each slot (socket) on the motherboard and see exactly what type of RAM is installed, including the size, manufacturer, part number, serial number and even the week and year it was manufactured.

Down at the bottom of the window is a Tools menu and clicking the arrow displays a menu. This enables the information to be saved as a .txt or .html file. Save it and store it elsewhere, not on the PC, so you can refer to it if the PC ever breaks down.

 CPU-Z processor identification

PC Wizard

Identifying the hardware in the computer is only part of this program’s capabilities and PC Wizard does a lot more. In the hardware panel on the left is a series of icons representing different components. There is the motherboard, CPU, monitor and graphics, disk drives, audio, and even a temperature and fans section.

Selecting a component displays the details on the right. What isn’t immediately obvious is that selecting items in the details shows even more detailed information in the panel below. The amount and quality of information displayed is excellent. It can all be saved or printed.

There are other sections that dig deep into Windows and show the configuration, system files, resources and benchmarks.

I got a compatibility warning when running PC Wizard in Windows 8.1, but ignoring this did not seem to cause any problems and it ran fine.

 PC Wizard hardware identification

Speccy

Speccy is from Piraform, the company that produces the popular Ccleaner utility. This is also a great tool and it has two panels. On the left is a list of components, such as CPU, RAM, motherboard, graphics, storage and so on. Select one of these and the information is displayed on the right.

The information is very detailed and it shows everything you could ever want to know about the PC’s hardware. In addition to the technical specifications, Speccy also shows sensor information, such as temperatures. You can see how hot the CPU, motherboard, graphics and storage components are getting.

An extra feature that is useful is an option to show information on the icon at the right side of the taskbar when the program is minimised. You could show the CPU temperature for example.

 Speccy hardware listings

Get the portable versions

All these utilities are available in standard and portable (.zip) versions. Select the portable one and it will not need installing. This reduces Windows clutter and also enables the utilities to be carried on a USB flash memory drive and used on any computer.


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