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diagnosing and fixing computer hardware

Analyze and diagnose your PC’s hardware issues

With a world of intertwined parts housed in ever-smaller housing, it’s easy to be oblivious about what’s going on ‘ under the hood’ of a PC. Unfortunately, with daily wear and tear, it is anticipated a desktop will become sluggish, overheat or require a replacement part during its lifespan. While performance and other issues occur with any form of technology, determining the root of the problem can be quite a challenge.

Of course, if you are a computer expert disassembling $1,000 plus worth of equipment is a cakewalk. However, for the average computer user, this notion can make the strongest queasy. There is the option of hiring a technician to diagnose and fix the problem, which will be costly. Or, you can take a preemptive approach and perform some of the detective work yourself.

Taking initiative and preparing for the inevitable is key. Personally, I have made the upkeep of my new all-in-one-HP a priority. In my pursuit of maintaining my PC, I came across HWInfo, considered one of the best free hardware diagnostic tools.

Assured it would provide me an up-close view of my system, I tested the program. By no means is my skill that of an expert. I am one of those typical computer users with a hint of practical know-how. Here’s my take on HWInfo.

An introduction to HWInfo

Available in three versions: DOS and 32 or 64 bit for Windows, this software will provide you copious amounts of detailed information. HWInfo is so thorough in collecting system data that it will display specifics on virtually every component of your computer.

Although the highly accurate reports are best-suited for technical experts, computer manufacturers and the like, they can prove to be useful for those less experienced with computer jargon.

If you are seeking component part numbers, driver updates, or general information including your operating system (OS) version, what model motherboard or hard drive is installed, storage capacity and RAM, HWInfo is for you.

In addition, this program will indicate health information of the system such as the battery-wear level, drive temps, unsafe shutdowns, and how many hours the computer has been powered on. It is essential you pay attention to these figures as they can be indicative of impending issues.

To install the program, visit HWInfo Diagnostic Software, and choose the appropriate download for your desktop. (Note: If you do not want a full installation go with the Portable option as it will provide you with a zip file, that once unzipped will automatically launch the software.)

Dissecting the HWInfo interface

Upon starting HWInfo, you have a few options, default mode will run both a sensor report and system summary, or you can choose to run each separately. If you proceed in default mode, you will observe two main windows, the larger sensor report and a smaller system summary.

Starting with the summary window, you can find CPU and GPU data along with drives, memory, and operating system specs. One detail missing was the standard Windows minimize option, which forced me to move the window out of the way to view the sensor report data.

The sensor report is a two-pane window similar to others used throughout the Windows platform. Clicking on any component in the left column will bring up the details on the right-side. In the image below, you can see current data, including the number of hours my computer has been powered on, the ever-important drive temp (no overheating here!), and hard drive capacity.

Across the top of the window are buttons you may find useful, including the Save Report feature. If you are ever in need of replacement parts or troubleshooting assistance, you can save a system report in several formats which you can print out as a reference or share the analysis with your local computer guru.

There’s no doubt HWInfo has some serious advantages over its competitors. The interface is simple, uncluttered, and easy to navigate, it’s a free program (yay), a help forum is available for registered users, and the depth of information it gathers is unmatchable.

On the other hand, while I was able to move the summary window around without issue, I missed the ability to minimize the window. I further noted that after installing HWInfo, the program did not create a desktop shortcut.

In addition to the absence of these small details, the program crashed at one point during my run-through and would not relaunch until I restarted my computer. That was frustrating.

Although HWInfo has a few shortcomings, as is typical with most software, I suggest you test it out. If anything, the assessment will provide you a new appreciation for technology.

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