CPU, RAM, motherboard, graphics card and hard disk(s) are the core components of a computer system and retailers generally offer a limited sheet of specifications for them. But the specs presented by various vendors are never complete. There is more to know about a CPU than frequency, number of cores and cache. More than often, the manufacturer and size alone of a RAM module are not sufficient for a professional to judge its compatibility and complementarity with the entire system. And the same principle functions for almost all the components of a computer system.
In order to make the right move when upgrading your computer, a wide set of knowledge is required so that the machine (the owner implicitly) enjoys the full potential of the uprate. But this is just a minor example as the plethora of details that can be raked up from the hardware components can contribute to picking the right choice for a faster running computer when overclocking, fitting in a new element, replacing an old one or simply keeping an eye on the degeneration of each system constituent.
Among the products ready to provide accurate information on the insides of your system, there is the recently updated HWiNFO32. It is free of charge and also comes in a portable flavor
, to carry it on a removable drive and use it on any Windows system you hook to.
After installation (which is way under a minute), a welcome screen pops up, allowing you to access the configuration settings of the application. HWiNFO32 is flexible enough to let you choose what it should scan. For an average user, the default configuration is sufficient to get more information than you bargained for. It comprises IDE drive scan (safe mode and low-level access), low-level PCI access, Intel SpeedStep SMI, SMBus support, super-IO/LPC support, do an audio assessment, a safe scan of potentially problematic PCI devices, check for GPU I2C support or TMP (Trusted Platform Module) check.
There is also a section dedicated to the customization of the software itself, from where you can enable a system summary display on starting the application, set it to remember your preferences or do an ACPI enumeration. For more details about each of the enumerated options, hover your mouse over them in order to receive it in a tooltip.
Reading all the data on your computer does not take long at all, but it all depends on the power of your computer, so it varies from system to system (hint: on a low-end PC, less than 10 seconds were enough for the scan to complete). By default, the System Summary pops up showing up the particularities of the main components of the system. You have info about CPU
(name, number of cores, stepping, cache, platform, clock frequency for each of the cores), GPU
(model, current clock, memory, type), motherboard
(chipset, BIOS date and version), RAM
(size, type, clock, number of modules), as well as the version and name of the installed operating system.
Although these details are quite enough for an average user and overabundant for a rookie, a professional will feel the need for more. And HWiNFO is ready to give away more. A minimalist interface that leaves no room for confusing functions and bells and whistles waits. There is no fancy aesthetics, just what the user needs: neatly organized information about the machine. With main categories on the left hand side of the screen and particularities of the selected component on the right, the user can't get himself/herself befuddled.
The tree-view in the left presents all the main elements of the computer in an eyeshot, permitting easy navigation to any sub-component available. CPU section presents such a detailed report that most of the users will feel completely overwhelmed. Apart from trivialities such as processor name, original frequency, brand name, vendor, platform or L1 and 2 cache values, there is also a list with standard features supported by the unit (presence of FPU on chip, I/O breakpoints, time stamp counter, physical address extension, page attribute table, internal ACPI support, self-snoop, multi-threading capability, automatic clock control, etc.), as well as an extended one, enhanced features (presence of thermal monitor for the cores, hardware, DCU and IP prefetcher, etc.), memory ranges, memory type registers.
This level of intel is also available for motherboard (ACPI devices and SMBIOS DMI), RAM (the section is comprised of module timing info and complete characteristics), video adapter, monitor, drives, audio adapter, network card and even ports (if there is anything hooked up to them, HWiNFO32 will show a minimum amount of data).
However, despite the fact that the application puts on the table such an overcoming contingent of data, it does have its weak spots. In the case of one test system, the app failed to provide the necessary details about a Western Digital hard disk and showed only the “General information” section, and even that was incomplete, as it was limited to giving the drive model, revision number and device type. Still on the downside, HWiNFO32 could not accurately display some drive geometry for any of the drives we put it against. For some, this may very well be gibberish, but as long as the section is displayed, many users would expect it to contain exact data.
Notwithstanding the hard drive flaws it displays, the software manages to redeem itself with all the additional info on the detected fix storage devices. Thus, it sports transfer mode details containing maximum multiword DMA transfer rate and maximum PIO with IORDY transfer rate. Very important are the S.M.A.R.T. attributes
(Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology), the first hand clue on the current state of the device and can help you prevent in time data loss caused by hardware failure. Monitor
is another section of the tree-view that does not offer full information. During our testing, the application could not detect all video modes supported by the display device. On the upside, all other information (input signal, display type, gamma factor, DPMS modes, DPMS input signal, maximum vertical/horizontal size and frequency) was correctly illustrated.
Displaying these huge quantities of information is not all HWiNFO32 can do for you, as the program's talents extend to benchmarking your system's CPU (integer benchmark, floating point benchmark and MMX benchmark), RAM and storage drives. You can choose the hardware components you want to be assessed and compare the results with other systems. The entire operation is as simple as can be and even if the initial interpretation of the results may pose trouble to less experienced users, the comparison chart shows the ranking bluntly.
Sensor reading is another quality of HWiNFO32, which displays current CPU temperature
, voltage and values for some S.M.A.R.T. attributes (HDD temperature generally). Because these details are quite important to monitor for the well-functioning of the system components and the entire system implicitly, the app can place system tray icons to show the sensor collected values. You can customize them by color in order to recognize them at a single glance.
Reports of hardware scan are not to be overlooked, and for this, HWiNFO32 makes available no less than six types of containers: text logfile, comma delimited document, XML
and short text report. No matter of the format you choose, the data will be neatly displayed and easy to find in the document.
Working with HWiNFO32 is piece of cake and the information is within easy grab. All that is required from the user is the necessary background to employ the data revealed by the application. Despite the little mischiefs here and there, HWiNFO32 makes for a great system information tool. The freeware license, low resource usage, fast readings and the fact that it is portable make it one of the best choices on the market.The Good
HWiNFO32 is extremely easy to use, provides fast info on hardware components and also comes in a portable version to help you assess the power of different computers. Benchmarking does not take long and ranks your system in a range of machines running from low-end to higher-end.
The application is highly configurable and the fact that it lets you enable the display of values of various sensors (both CPU and hard disk drives) comes as a strong argument. For a brief look under a system's hood, it makes available a Summary page, which contains the most important info on CPU, motherboard, RAM and GPU.
The creation of a report is customizable, allowing you to choose the sections you want in the document, as well as a convenient format to store it in.The Bad
Some information displayed by the application in Monitor section and under Drives is either incomplete for some hardware components or missing. Even if the data is not critical, not even highly important, it would be nice to have 100% accuracy on the readings.The Truth
HWiNFO32 makes for a great system information tool, scraping up important details on system components and sub-components. During our testing, all important and relevant details were accurate.
However, it has its downs (although not too many) that need to be taken into consideration by the user. Although it did an awesome job during our testing, it is not ahead of its class and has to deal with some serious competition.
The application is simple, reliable and deserves a place on your removable device. Light and comprehensive in listing system elements' details, it will not let you down when it comes to important devices and will provide accurate reading.