Category Archives: Diagnostic Software

Lift The Hood On Your PC – Take a Peek With These 5 Free System Information Utilities

imageIf you think developing information, including diagnostics, on your computer’s operating system and hardware is a tough task, you can relax. Here are 5 small, free applications, that make it easy to probe your computer system and create a detailed profile which can include hardware, installed software – motherboard, CPU and GPU specs, remaining drive space, and your operating system security hotfixes – and a lot more.

Belarc Advisor 8.2.7.14:

Belarc Advisor is a free program that automatically generates a detailed audit report of the hardware and software on your computer. It records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, and drive specifications.

image

The report also includes a comprehensive list of the software installed on your system, as well as software license numbers and product keys. In addition, it lists the status of the Microsoft hotfixes on your system. If any hotfixes need reinstalling, you will be advised of this.

The results are displayed in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly navigate to different parts of the document, find out more about a particular hotfix entry, or see where a listed software product is installed.

All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server.

System Requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, 2003, XP. Both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows support.

Download at: MajorGeeks

LookInMyPC 2.10.3.158

LookInMyPC is a free application which, like Belarc Advisor, records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, drive specifications and so on. But, it digs much, much, deeper.

image

The following graphic shows a very small (I do mean very small) portion of a scan result, run on my test platform. The data shown here is pretty standard stuff.

image

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003/8, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.

Download at: MajorGeeks

A portable version is also available.

SIW (System Info) 2011.10.29i

SIW is an advanced System Information utility that analyzes your computer and gathers detailed information about system properties and settings and displays it in a very comprehensive manner.

image

The data generated is divided into major categories:

Software Information: Operating System, Software Licenses (Product Keys / Serial Numbers / CD Key), Installed Software and Hotfixes, Processes, Services, Users, Open Files, System Uptime, Installed Codecs, Passwords Recovery, Server Configuration.

Hardware Information: Motherboard, CPU, Sensors, BIOS, chipset, PCI/AGP, USB and ISA/PnP Devices, Memory, Video Card, Monitor, Disk Drives, CD/DVD Devices, SCSI Devices, S.M.A.R.T., Ports, Printers.

Network Information: Network Cards, Network Shares, currently active Network Connections, Open Ports.

Network Tools: MAC Address Changer, Neighborhood Scan, Ping, Trace, Statistics, Broadband Speed Test

Miscellaneous Tools: Eureka! (Reveal lost passwords hidden behind asterisks), Monitor Test, Shutdown / Restart.

Real-time monitors: CPU, Memory, Page File usage and Network Traffic.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000

Download at: MajorGeeks

Speccy 1.17.340

Speccy (from our good friends over at Piriform – the CCleaner guys), is not quite as comprehensive as the applications described previously. Even so, you can count on this free application to provide you with detailed statistics on every piece of hardware in your computer. Including CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics Cards, Hard Disks, Optical Drives, Audio support. Additionally Speccy adds the temperatures of your different components, so you can easily see if there’s a problem.

Typical info screens.

image

image

image

System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista and XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: MajorGeeks

PC Wizard 2012.2.10

PC Wizard has been designed for hardware detection but, it really shines in analysis and system benchmarking. It will analyze and benchmark CPU performance, Cache performance, RAM performance, Hard Disk performance, CD/DVD-ROM performance, Removable/FLASH Media performance, Video performance, and MP3 compression performance.

Typical info screens.

image

image

image

System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: MajorGeeks

9 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Audit Applications, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools

Avoid Accidents On The Internet Highway By Patching Your OS AND Applications

This morning, I read Ed Bott’s latest (Bott is a favorite of mine) – If your PC picks up a virus, whose fault is it? Here’s a summary –

Want to avoid being attacked by viruses and other malware? Two recent studies reveal the secret: regular patching. A fully patched system with a firewall enabled offers almost complete protection against drive-by attacks and outside intruders.

While reading through Bott’s  article, I was certainly put in mind of Yogi Berra’s often quoted “This is like deja vu all over again.” Current Internet security, and the best practices associated with it, really is “deja vu all over again” – and over, and over, and over. The fundamentals haven’t changed. Common sense is as much in vogue now, as it ever was.

In his article (which is worth a read), Bott relies on two recently released studies to bolster his point, that staying safe online, begins with “regular patching …….. the single most important element in any security program”.

Since the underlying theme is something I hammer on here, on a regular basis, it goes without saying that I agree with Bott, and the data generated in the studies. With that in mind, I’m reposting an article which I wrote in July 2010 – If You Get A Malware Infection Who’s Fault Is It Really? – which underscores the importance of patching not only the operating system, but the often neglected patching of installed applications.

If You Get A Malware Infection Who’s Fault Is It Really?

imageThe security industry, especially security analysts, and for that matter, computer users at large, love to dump on Microsoft when they get a malware infection. If only Microsoft got their act together, the theory goes, and hardened Windows more appropriately, we wouldn’t have to deal with this nonsense.

But, what if it isn’t entirely Microsoft’s fault? What if it’s really a shared responsibility split between Microsoft, third party software developers, and the user?

From time to time, I’m accused of being “too frank”; usually on those occasions when diplomacy needs to be put aside, so that realities can be dealt with. For example, I’ve left myself open to criticism, in some quarters, by stating on more than one occasion –

It has been my experience, that when a malware infection occurs, it’s generally safe to say, the user is, more often than not, responsible for their own misfortune.

Computer users, by and large, are lackadaisical in securing their computers against threats to their Internet safety and security.

Strong statements I’ll admit, but if you consider the following, which I have repeated over and over, you’ll understand why I feel comfortable making this statement.

Not all users make use of Microsoft’s Windows Update so that they are current with operating system critical updates, and security fixes. More to the point, few users have given consideration to the vulnerabilities that exist in third party productivity applications and utilities.

Unless you monitor your system for insecure and unpatched software installations, you have left a huge gap in your defenses – it’s just plain common sense.

The just released Secunia Half Year Report – 2010, shows “an alarming development in 3rd party program vulnerabilities, representing an increasing threat to both users and business, which, however, continues to be greatly ignored”, supports my view that security is a shared responsible, and blaming Microsoft simply ignores the reality.

The report goes on to conclude, “users and businesses still perceive the operating system and Microsoft products to be the primary attack vector, largely ignoring 3rd party programs, and finding the actions to secure these too complex and time-consuming. Ultimately this leads to incomplete patch levels of the 3rd party programs, representing rewarding and effective targets for criminals.”

Key highlights of the Secunia Half Year Report 2010:

Since 2005, no significant up-, or downward trend in the total number of vulnerabilities in the more than 29,000 products covered by Secunia Vulnerability Intelligence was observed.

A group of ten vendors, including Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, IBM, Adobe, and Cisco, account on average for 38 percent of all vulnerabilities disclosed per year.

In the two years from 2007 to 2009, the number of vulnerabilities affecting a typical end-user PC almost doubled from 220 to 420, and based on the data of the first six months of 2010, the number is expected to almost double again in 2010, to 760.

During the first six months of 2010, 380 vulnerabilities or 89% of the figures for all of 2009 has already been reached.

A typical end-user PC with 50 programs installed had 3.5 times more vulnerabilities in the 24 3rd party programs installed than in the 26 Microsoft programs installed. It is expected that this ratio will increase to 4.4 in 2010.

The full report (PDF), is available here.

Each week, I receive the Qualys Vulnerability Report, and I never fail to be astonished by the huge number of application vulnerabilities listed in this report. I’ve always felt, that the software industry should thank their “lucky stars”, that this report is not particularly well known outside the professional IT security community. It’s that scary.

There is a solution to this quandary however – the Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI).

PSI constantly monitors your system for insecure software installations, notifies you when an insecure application is installed, and even provides you with detailed instructions for updating the application when available.

image

ZD Net, one of my favorite web sites has stated “Secunia Personal Software Inspector, quite possibly the most useful and important free application you can have running on your Windows machine”. In my view, this is not an overstatement.

Installing this small free application will definitely assist you in identifying possible security leaks; give it a try.

image

Quick facts:

The Secunia PSI is free for private use.

Downloaded over 800,000 times

Allows you to secure your PC – Patch your applications – Be proactive

Scans for Insecure and End-of-Life applications

Verifies that all Microsoft patches are applied

Tracks your patch-performance week by week

Direct and easy access to security patches.

Detects more than 300,000 unique application versions

Provides a detailed report of missing security related updates

Provides a tabbed report which indicates programs that are no longer supported – programs with all known patches – insecure programs, etc.

Provides a Toolbox offering a set of links which helps you assess a problem and how you can resolve it.

System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP 32/64bit, Vista 32/64bit, and Win 7 32/64bit.

Download at: Secunia

Bonus: Do it in the Cloud – The Secunia Online Software Inspector, (OSI), is a fast way to scan your PC for the most common programs and vulnerabilities; checking if your PC has a minimum security baseline against known patched vulnerabilities.

System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP 32/64bit, Vista 32/64bit, and Win 7 32/64bit.

Link: Secunia Online Software Inspector

As an added bonus for users, Secunia provides a forum where PSI users can discuss patching, product updates, exploits, the PSI, and anything else security-related.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

8 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Application Vulnerabilities, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Malware Protection, Secunia, Software, System Security, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

What’s INSIDE Your PC? 6 Free System Information Utilities For Non-Geeks

imageIf you think developing information on your computer’s operating system and hardware is a tough task, you can relax. Here are 6 small, free applications, that make it easy to probe your computer system and create a detailed profile which can include hardware, installed software – motherboard, CPU and GPU specs – remaining drive space, and your operating system security hotfixes.

Belarc Advisor:

Belarc Advisor is a free program that automatically generates a detailed audit report of the hardware and software on your computer. It records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, and drive specifications.

image

The report also includes a comprehensive list of the software installed on your system, as well as software license numbers and product keys. In addition, it lists the status of the Microsoft hotfixes on your system. If any hotfixes need reinstalling, you will be advised of this.

The results are displayed in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly navigate to different parts of the document, find out more about a particular hotfix entry, or see where a listed software product is installed.

System Requirements: Windows 7, Vista, 2003, XP, 2000, NT 4, Me, 98, and 95. Both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows support.

Download at: Download.com

LookInMyPC:

LookInMyPC is a free application which, like Belarc Advisor, records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, drive specifications and so on. But, it digs much, much, deeper.

image

A number of features keeps this application a cut above the average:

The results are displayed in your Web Browser in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly search for additional information.

As well, the report can be zipped, and then forwarded as an email attachment to your favorite “tech support” person.

The following graphic shows a very small (I do mean very small) portion of a scan result, run on my test platform. The data shown here is pretty standard stuff.

image

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003/8, Vista and Windows 7.

Download at: LookInMyPC

A portable version is also available.

SIW – System Information for Windows:

SIW is an advanced System Information for Windows tool that analyzes your computer and gathers detailed information about system properties and settings and displays it in a very comprehensive manner.

image

The data generated is divided into major categories:

Software Information: Operating System, Software Licenses (Product Keys / Serial Numbers / CD Key), Installed Software and Hotfixes, Processes, Services, Users, Open Files, System Uptime, Installed Codecs, Passwords Recovery, Server Configuration.

Hardware Information: Motherboard, CPU, Sensors, BIOS, chipset, PCI/AGP, USB and ISA/PnP Devices, Memory, Video Card, Monitor, Disk Drives, CD/DVD Devices, SCSI Devices, S.M.A.R.T., Ports, Printers.

Network Information: Network Cards, Network Shares, currently active Network Connections, Open Ports.

Network Tools: MAC Address Changer, Neighborhood Scan, Ping, Trace, Statistics, Broadband Speed Test

Miscellaneous Tools: Eureka! (Reveal lost passwords hidden behind asterisks), Monitor Test, Shutdown / Restart.

Real-time monitors: CPU, Memory, Page File usage and Network Traffic.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000

Download at: Download.com

Speccy v1.12:

Speccy is not quite as comprehensive as the applications described previously. Even so, you can count on this free application to provide you with detailed statistics on every piece of hardware in your computer. Including CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics Cards, Hard Disks, Optical Drives, Audio support. Additionally Speccy adds the temperatures of your different components, so you can easily see if there’s a problem.

Typical info screens.

image

image

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista and XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: Download.com

WinAudit:

I haven’t personally tested this one, but you can read a review of this free computer audit application What’s really under the hood of that computer? on fellow Blogger Rick Robinette’s site.

PC Wizard:

PC Wizard has been designed for hardware detection but, it really shines in analysis and system benchmarking. It will analyze and benchmark CPU performance, Cache performance, RAM performance, Hard Disk performance, CD/DVD-ROM performance, Removable/FLASH Media performance, Video performance, and MP3 compression performance.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP (32-bit and 64-bit)

Download at: Download.com

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

9 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Audio Applications, Computer Tools, Diagnostic Software, Freeware, Software, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

What’s In Your PC? Take A Look With Free LookInMyPC

image Do you have a detailed profile of your computer system which includes details on hardware and installed software? What do you know about your computer’s motherboard, CPU and GPU, remaining drive space, or your operating system’s security hotfixes?

To effectively maintain your computer, and proactively deal with problems that may occur, you can make the diagnostic process much easier if you have specific and accurate details of your computer.

If you need help from a computer support group, from a tech support line, or from a computer knowledgeable friend, you will need to provide specific and accurate details of your computer. Without these details, it can be very difficult for even the most knowledgeable computer tech to be time efficient.

So it is important for you to create a detailed profile of your computer system before problems occur, and retain a printed copy of the report. Normally, creating such a profile can be very time intensive. But there are time saving solutions.

One such solution is LookInMyPC – a free program that automatically generates a detailed audit report of the hardware and software on your computer. It records essential information such as, operating system and processor details, the amount of RAM installed, drive specifications, and much, much, more.

You may get one or more security warnings (as illustrated below), during the install, since this applications digs deep into the system.

image

image

The graphic below indicates just how deep this application digs.

image

image

The following graphic shows a very small (I do mean very small) portion of a scan result, run on my test platform. The data shown here is pretty standard stuff.

image

But, in this portion of the report, the data shown is more complex and could be helpful (along with a huge amount of additional available data), in system diagnostics.

image

A number of features keeps this application a cut above the average:

The results are displayed in your Web Browser in a formatted HTML report. The report is clearly formatted for ease of understanding and divided into appropriate categories. Hyperlinks within the report allow you to quickly search for additional information.

As well, the report can be zipped, and then forwarded as an email attachment to your favorite “tech support” person.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003/8, Vista and Windows 7.

Download at: LookInMyPC

A portable version is also available.

I have been using this program for some time, and find it invaluable for troubleshooting, and diagnostics.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

6 Comments

Filed under Computer Audit Applications, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Portable Applications, Software, USB, Utilities

Benchmark Your Computer’s Performance Capabilities With PerformanceTest

imageIt’s hard to be in IT and avoid being asked for advice on computers – everything from operating systems – (should I be running Windows 7?); malware – (is the Internet really unsafe?); problems – (what’s wrong with my computer? It’s always…..); and maybe my favorite question – do I need a new computer?

If you’re into the “keeping up with the Joneses” rat race, and I must admit it’s hard not to be, given the conspicuous consumer society we live in, the easy answer to this last one is – yes.

But, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way to really compare your system, and it’s performance capabilities, with the “Joneses”, or anyone else for that matter – and in the process, answer that nagging “do I need a new computer” question? Well, there is.

You can benchmark your machine using the evaluation version of PerformanceTest – a menu driven benchmarking tool made up of six test suites (twenty-eight standard benchmarking tests), with an additional seven advanced tests available.

Following completion of the benchmarking tests, you will have the opportunity to compare your system’s results against similarly equipped machines, and more.

The version tested here, was the fully functional 30 day trial version.

The user interface is made up of the familiar tabbed based system – simple and easy to follow.

image

The following screen capture illustrates partial completion of the 2D graphics test.

image

The following screen capture illustrates a partial view of the System Summary screen.

image

Following completion of the benchmarking tests, your machine will be assigned a performance rating which you can then use to compare your systems performance against similarly equipped machines. In fact, any machine.

image

A list of suggested baselines are illustrated in the following screen shot.

image

You are not restricted to only the suggested baselines. Additional, more specific baselines, are available by selected criteria.

image

The developer’s site offers a range of additional charts and graphs   CPUs, Video Cards, Hard Drives, etc.

image

Fast facts:

Find out if your PC is performing at its best.

Compare the performance of your machine to similar machines.

Measure the effect of configuration changes and upgrades.

Avoid paying big bucks for poor performance.

Make objective independent measurements on which to base your purchasing decision.

Since this application can be run directly from a USB drive you could use it to benchmark a new system you are considering purchasing – if the vendor was onboard with that. Sort of like kicking the tires on a new car.

System requirements: Windows XP, 2003 Server, Vista, 2008 Server and Windows 7. Available for both 32-bit and 64-bit platforms.

Download the 30 day evaluation version at: Passmark.com

Note: To continue using the application past the evaluation period it can be purchased from the developer’s site for US$24.00.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

10 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Audit Applications, Computer Tools, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Portable Applications, Software, Software Trial Versions, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Test Your Computer’s Hardware And Subsystem Reliability With BurnInTest

BurnInTest BurnInTest (latest release January 19, 2011 ), is a terrific software tool for both Windows and Linux, which allows all the major hardware sub-systems of your computer to be simultaneously tested for stability, and reliability.

This menu driven application tests the CPU, RAM, disk drives, optical drives, sound cards, 2D graphics, 3D graphics, video playback, network connections and printers. This can all be done simultaneously, in approximately 15 minutes, and can be custom scripted for automated testing.

The version tested here, was the fully functional 30 day trial version, (no restrictions).

Test Screens:

The preference screen, as the following screen capture indicates, allows for considerably test customization. Far too many to go into in this short review.

BurnInTest 2

A main test screen, as well as additional screens for each system test and sub test, allows you to view detailed scans in progress.

BurnInTest 4

Fast facts:

Assists in PC Troubleshooting and diagnostics.

Dramatically reduce your burn in times with multithreaded simultaneous testing of components.

Avoid costly downtime, system rebuilds and lost data.

Test the stability of a system after configuration changes or hardware upgrades (critical for over clocking).

Results can be saved to disk, printed, or exported as a graphical image.

System requirements:

Windows: Windows 2008 Server, Vista, Win 7, 2003 Server, XP, 2000. (32-bit and 64-bit platforms).

Download at: Passmark.com

Linux: Linux kernel 2.6.9 or higher. X Window System X11R6. KDE 3.2 or higher. Open GL 1.2 or higher (for 3D graphics test plus working Open GL drivers for your video card). libusb library required

Download at: Passmark.com

Note: Free 30 day fully functional evaluation. Standard Edition: US$34, Professional Edition: US$69.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

6 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Audit Applications, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Geek Software and Tools, Linux, Software, Software Trial Versions, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Panda SafeCD – Plus Six More Free Recovery Tools

imageSitting down and pushing the start button on your PC only to have it refuse to boot, will fit right in with anyone’s definition of frustration. It’s almost a personal thing – “why are you doing this to me?” But all is not lost.

Before you consign your dead PC to the garbage dump, or start considering just what kind of boat anchor you might craft, you should know that there are some terrific free tools that can help you recover (provided it’s a software issue).

These free applications are at the “Top of the Class”, in my view. Since I first wrote on this issue, back in June 2010, I’ve added Panda Security’s (the highly regarded developer of Panda Cloud free antivirus), Panda SafeCD, to the list below.

I’m not suggesting that you download them all but, if you have some spare CDs – why not? Or, do a little info gathering on the author’s site – then choose those that best meet your specific needs.

Hiren’s Boot CD

image

Hiren’s Boot CD is a boot disk containing various diagnostic programs such as partitioning agents, system performance benchmarks, disk cloning and imaging tools, data recovery tools, MBR tools, BIOS tools, and many others for fixing various computer problems.

Downloading this application is a bit of a hassle, since ownership of some of the utilities on the CD is open to interpretation.

Ultimate Boot CD for Windows

image

A terrific recovery CD for repairing, restoring, or diagnosing computer problems, but since it involves hands on “building skills” to compile the necessary tools, it’s not for everyone. Nevertheless, for those who have the skills, this utility is a “must have”.

Trinity Rescue Kit

image

Trinity Rescue Kit, or TRK, is a free live Linux distribution that aims specifically at recovery and repair operations on Windows machines, but is equally usable for Linux recovery issues.

Ubuntu Live CD

image

Can’t boot into Windows? Can’t figure out how you’re going to rescue all that data that you can’t reach? Ubuntu Live CD can come to the rescue. Need to connect to the Internet as part of your recovery process? No problem – Ubuntu Live CD makes it easy.

Specialty Recovery Tools:

Panda SafeCD

Click to see larger images

This useful utility comes in handy when you need to clean a friend’s PC (or your own), from a malware infected state. It is specially useful for detecting and disinfecting malware infections which give regular AV products running within Windows a hard time.

Features include: Automatic detection and removal of all types of malware. Boot from CD or USB stick. Supports using updated signature files. Supports 13 languages. Supports both FAT and NTFS drives.

The download consists of an ISO. You can either burn this into a CD/DVD or alternatively create a more convenient Boot USB stick by using something like the Universal Netboot Installer (UNetbootin).

Kaspersky Rescue Disk

image

This rescue CD can scan your boot sector, and your Hard Drives from the outside looking in. Malware doesn’t have a chance to hide if it’s not running. It’s become the first step I now use, when I’m dealing with an infected machine.

Avira AntiVir Rescue System

image

Avira AntiVir Rescue System is a Linux-based application that allows accessing computers that cannot be booted anymore. Thus it is possible to, repair a damaged system, rescue data, scan the system for virus infections.

Just a personal note: I scan all my machines with this application on a weekly basis.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

12 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Computer Tools, Diagnostic Software, downloads, Free File Recovery Applications, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Malware Removal, Software, System Recovery Tools, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools