What's Going On Inside Your PC?

Category: Hardware

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...

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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.

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.

computer specs

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.

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 it does not transmit any info about your system over the Internet. Its report is a local HTML file displayed in your Web browser.

HW Monitor from CPUID focuses on voltages, temperatures and fan speed monitoring. There's a free 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 "What's Going On Inside Your PC?"

Posted by:

31 Mar 2020

We don't say it often enough, Bob - to those of us who are 'technology challenged', with articles like this, you are truly a Godsend!!!

Posted by:

31 Mar 2020

I never stop and think about it as I built my own machine so I know what is there

Posted by:

Bill C.
31 Mar 2020

DITTO on LoJohjr's message

Posted by:

31 Mar 2020

I often use a free program called What's Running
http://www.whatsrunning.net/ to see what's happening when there is a lot of HD activity. They are usually some files that are being resolved(?) I'm not quite sure what that means.

Posted by:

31 Mar 2020

We use all you mentioned..
And, also, HwInfo32.
A free tool that gives a very quick Hw summary.

Posted by:

31 Mar 2020

WOW Bob,that`s a Ton of Knowledge....Thanks

Posted by:

31 Mar 2020

Useful, Mr Rankin, as ever. A couple of notes.
1. Speccy and Belarc are both good, Belarc particularly for some of the reasons you note: but it does not show all software or name all hardware, nor provide all product keys, for which you will need something like RecoverKeys.
2. SIW is the most thorough of the investigators, and I could not live without it, even with computers I have assembled myself.

Posted by:

31 Mar 2020

Wow - I just tried Belarc Advisor, and that's the best system info program I've seen to date. I've previously used Aida64, and I still like it, but if you haven't tried Belarc Advisor, it's a "must try" and it's free. Thanks, Bob!!

Posted by:

Don Fedak
01 Apr 2020

I downloaded Speccy and set my desktop computer to print their summary page.
I returned later and found my HP printer had spit out 450+ pages!
I downloaded Belarc Advisor and my desktop set up printed their 4 page summary with no problem.
Go figure.

Posted by:

Wild Bill
01 Apr 2020

As an unpaid testimonial: I have being using Belarc Advisor for many years. I generally build my own desktops and, following initial loading of software,
I run Advisor and save a copy in Documents. Just in case. It is occasionally handy for reference and also flags out-of-date security-type issues. Perhaps it would be worth running on a semi-annual basis?

Posted by:

01 Apr 2020

Everytime I image my C: drive, I save a copy of Belarc Advisor with the drive image. That way I have a full summary of what programs, versions etc are on the image.

Posted by:

02 Apr 2020

Thanks a million. Did not know about Belarc Advisor, will probably try it soon.

Posted by:

Cheri Madison
03 Apr 2020

Regarding Speccy, their chart comparing different versions shows that all their versions offer "Advanced PC insights," but the pay versions also offer automatic updates and premium support.

Posted by:

06 Apr 2020

I have used the programs from tweaking.com to get my system info but have never needed any of their repair programs.

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