How to use these free Windows tools to check computer specifications

I tried to check my computer specs recently and ran into a snag. It was all about this nonsense of the Meltdown and Spectre chipset. Some reports tended to reference the name of the "chipset" and others the name the "code." I didn't have a decoder ring so I wanted to see if these questions could be answered by different system utilities. I came out thinking that the knowledge and specifics of these profiler tools vary widely.

I'm concentrating on free tools for this article that help me decide what hardware and software I have without prying off the cover. This can be very helpful when troubleshooting or talking to reps from tech support as they often need basic computer knowledge. But the amount of information you need depends on the circumstances, which is why I have provided multiple solutions.

Windows Layered Application Data Approach

In reality, Microsoft offers a number of devices to learn about your PC. One immediate benefit is that no program has to be downloaded. Such tools range from the simplest to those needing a cap for the propeller. The panel About your PC is appropriate for many people.

To find the basic information for your PC

  • Launch File Explorer
  • Right-click the This PC tab
  • Click Properties from the Menu

Accessing PC Properties

The resulting screen shows in a simple format some high-level details on your PC. Some Control Panel options are also offered by the left sidebar. This panel usually responds to common questions:

  • Which version of Windows am I using?
  • What is the make and model of my PC?
  • Which processor does my PC use?
  • How much memory do I have on my PC?
  • What is my Windows Product ID?

View the basic information about your PC

While the above panel is good, it may not provide you with what you need or a software rep. A program called msinfo32.exe can be used to find the next layer. This method contains much more detail about the program.

Also, it is not all it offers. For example, for information such as driver version numbers, you can't drill down. You would have to use another tool like Windows Device Manager to do that. Nonetheless, let's start with the integrated tools and add where necessary.

How to find your details on your system

  • Press your Windows key + your R key. This opens a Run dialog box
  • Type msinfo32 in the open text window.
  • Click the OK button.

You should click Ctrl + Esc instead if you don't have a Windows key.

A resizable device information dialog with 3 parts will be opened. Depending on which version of Microsoft Windows you are using and what is installed, your panel may differ.

Windows Information System Tool

  1. This portion of navigation categorizes details about your device in a collapsible format. You have your Device Summary at the top of the hierarchy. Below is the main section for Hardware, Components and Application Environment and their sub-categories.
  2. This section shows the details you have selected for the group.
  3. A search box enabling you to locate an object. This is a fantastic and often overlooked feature. You may have it set to "Hide" if you don't see it option. You can adjust the setting at the top of the dialog from the Edit menu.

Handy Parts and Fast Answers

The System Review panel of the program is helpful and can answer the following questions and more:

  • What Microsoft Windows edition am I using?
  • What is my Windows version's build number?
  • What is the make and model of my PC?
  • Which processor does my PC use?
  • Which BIOS does my PC use?
  • What is my Username?
  • Where is my directory on Windows?

As you can see, the Systems Properties section overlaps. You may also remember that even though these are both Microsoft apps, the names don't always match.

And if you're futuristic, you might wonder if Windows Cortana or voice search will answer these tech spec questions. Kind of. I couldn't get her to tell me the details. Nonetheless, she gave some decent Bing search results that opened in Microsoft Edge.

More details are also given by MSINFO32. For instance, while both tools indicate that I'm using Windows Home 10, MSINFO32 provides numbers for version and build.

Unfortunately, this app is not listed in the Help menu option. Alternatively, it offers you the Windows version help page.

Finding Troubleshoots

Including summary information, this tool can provide you with more diagnostic details, such as systems that may cause problems. You can see that I have a part that is not loading in the screen snap below. To see it, you're going to have to drill down to Issue Systems.

Example of System Issue

The name of the error code and computer makes it much easier to scan for a solution.

You can control Windows Error Reporting from MSINFO32. When it comes to troubleshooting, these logs can provide clues. By clicking a column heading and exporting the data to a separate file, you can sort the entries. I also clicked search text from those files. And yes, the information can be exported.

Examples of Windows error reporting

One misunderstanding about the device is that some people think it lists all the software installed. Sorry, it doesn't. 


Belarc advisor combines both worlds

Belarc Advisor is a free Windows System Knowledge complimentary software program. You will need to download and install the software, unlike the native Windows program. The app is for personal use free of charge. In a browser tab, the program provides lots of information about your PC. The page has little styling, but you can use hyperlinks to skip around to pages.

This computer profiler has some key differences with the others. Most importantly, a list of installed software and version numbers appearing in your web browser is available. The listing displays the name and version number of the software. You can see more information like system size if you mouse over the small blue icon and if the application is running at the moment.

Belarc Advisor to list my software

In this description, Belarc was also the only method that produced the System Serial Number for my PC Manufacturer. Sometimes it's easy for your computer manufacturer to find that information, often not.

One distinction is the recognition of incomplete security updates by Belarc. In my case, several Adobe Flash updates have been identified. This is very helpful because your Windows settings may not collect items based on your settings at times.

Go to Windows Updates and Advanced tools to see other Microsoft updates. Check the box that reads, when I update Windows, give me updates to other Microsoft products.

In the screen snap below, you will also find that each object has a hyperlink that will take you to the page in question. One thing to keep in mind is that not every upgrade or software package will be picked up. This focuses on the key elements of the defense.

Failed security updates found by Belarc Advisor

Key questions that advisor Belarc should answer

  • Is the Virus Protection up to date?
  • Are my Protection Updates current?
  • What is the make and model of my PC?
  • What is the serial number of my PC system?
  • What accounts are delegated to users?
  • What is my Display(s)?
  • What devices and IPs are on my network?
  • What software and version have I installed?

There is no menu item to export or save your data to Belarc Advisor. You'd have to either print the document or save it as a PDF file.

If you are planning to move files to a new PC, I would recommend that you save the file to cloud storage such as Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. It's a good guide to the inventory.

The Belarc Advisor can be downloaded from

Piriform Speccy


Speccy is another free third-party tool that makes CCleaner from the same users. Once again, the other devices overlap. The design is what I liked about this computer profiler. Like the other tools, you can click on a left navigation panel to filter the view.

Speccy panel of review

When you click in an area like the CPU, you can drill down and see more detail. Of all the devices, this is the one that replied to my chipset question.

Speccy Motherboard Tab

You will also see some real-time information in some situations. Typically these are shown as green bar charts which tend to show temperatures. You can toggle between metric and Fahrenheit in the options section.

Like MSINFO32, you can save your files or screenshots with Speccy. If you are evaluating configurations or need to include your machine requirements with a software rep.

Speccy can be downloaded from

Most likely, to test your device specs, you won't need all these tools. Understanding what knowledge is easily available, though, is good.

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