A Look INSIDE Your Computer (no tools required)

Category: Hardware , Reference

Do you know every component inside your PC? Most people don’t, and most of the time they don’t need to know. But there are occasions when a detailed inventory of a PC’s components comes in handy. Read on to learn some surprising reasons why you SHOULD know what's under the hood of your computer, even if you're not a techie. And also, some software tools that will let you “x-ray” your PC, so you can see what's inside without touching a screwdriver. Read on...

What's Going On Inside Your PC?

Why would you want to know what's inside that plastic and metal box you call a computer? I can think of several good reasons. Here are a few of them.

If you need to call tech support, you may be stuck when a rep asks for the make and model of your video card, or the type of RAM that’s installed on your PC. If you want to buy a memory upgrade, you’ll need to know what sort of RAM memory is already in your PC to get the compatible kind.

If you ask for help with an unknown problem in any online forum, the first responses you get will probably be along the lines of, “What’s under your hood?” If you are selling or buying a used computer, it’s important to have a list of what’s inside of it.

computer specs

Microsoft Windows includes a “System Information” utility that displays information about many devices and processes on a PC. But it’s limited; often, it won’t tell you what you need to know, and the report it generates is not very friendly. Fortunately, there are more helpful system information utilities out there. Here are some examples that are free and powerful, yet easy on novices. And if you read this article to the end, I'm pretty sure you'll want to download and try at least one of them.

Speccy from Pirisoft gives you detailed info on every piece of hardware in your PC, including but not limited to CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics Cards, Hard Disks, Optical Drives, and Audio support. Speccy also reads temperature sensors built into motherboards and hard drives, giving you a means to check for overheating problems that may be damaging your components or limiting performance.

Speccy can save and reload snapshots of your system info in XML, text, or INI files for printing and other uses. I've always used the free version of Speccy, but there is a Professional version ($20) that offers "Advanced PC insights." The website doesn't provide any details on those insights, though.

This article covers all the hardware components of your PC. If you want to know what software is installed, what's actually running, and who might be "sharing" your internet connection, see these related articles:
Keep Your Software Up To Date (or else…)
Are Autoruns Slowing Down Your PC?
Do You Have a Wifi Intruder?

Belarc Advisor does a lot more than just inventory hardware, although it does a fine job of that. It also inventories all of the software on your PC, and can tell you if security patches are up to date. It even shows software license codes, which is handy if tech support asks for them. Here's another good reason to have those license codes handy... If you've bought a new computer (or you're recovering from a hard drive crash) you can easily re-install all the software you've purchased, without having to buy another copy, or beg the software vendor to send you the license info.

The Advisor displays the status of your network, including users and devices connected to it. If you've ever wondered if anyone is secretly tapping into your wifi, this will give you peace of mind (or cold chills). Belarc Advisor is very simple to use, and is privacy sensitive. It does not transmit any info about your system over the Internet; the report generated is a local HTML file displayed in your Web browser.

HWiNFO is another freebie that offers comprehensive hardware analysis, monitoring, failure prediction and reporting for PCs running Windows 95 through Windows 10.

HW Monitor from CPUID focuses on voltages, temperatures and fan speed monitoring. There's a free CLASSIC version, and a PRO version ($24) that provides monitoring of sensors for remote PCs or Android devices.

And finally, there's SIW (System Information Monitor) which promises to tell you "Everything you ever wanted to know about your computer but were afraid to ask." That includes details on your operating system, software licenses, installed programs, running processes and drivers, autoruns and scheduled tasks, passwords, databases, and security certificates. SIW costs $20 but there is a free 14-day trial.

You may not need to know what’s going on inside of your PC very often. But when you do, it’s good to have one of these system information utilities handy. I advise that you run reports from both Speccy and Belarc Advisor and then save them on a backup drive or email them to yourself for future handy reference. A printed copy might be a good idea too.

Do you know of other utility programs that help you discover what's going on under the hood of your computer? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "A Look INSIDE Your Computer (no tools required)"

Posted by:

12 Apr 2021

very helpful and useful - Thanks

Posted by:

Ron Mullard
12 Apr 2021

I have used Speccy for a number of years and have found it very useful.There was a time when my laptop started to shut down on it's own.When I checked Speccy I found that it was due to overheating and when I checked the fan it was partially blocked with fluff,blew it out and has been fine since.

Posted by:

12 Apr 2021

I've been using Belarc Adviser for many, many years. It is a very informative program.

Posted by:

Len S
12 Apr 2021

System Information Viewer (SIV)

Posted by:

James Odneal
12 Apr 2021

I happen to use every program you listed here. I have found every one of them to be useful when repairing computers for friends and family.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2021

CPU-Z is another utility program to use. Speccy and Belarc Advisor are programs I use too. Haven't used HWINFO for a while. Belarc does check your operating system for security updates and supply most software keys. Which can be saved as a .pdf file. (To do so, click Print, Save as PDF) This is important if you don't have a backup and your computer breaks. A Good article Bob!

Posted by:

Anne Smith
14 Apr 2021

I have used Everest in the past also

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