Do you recall the Meltdown and Spectre chipset scare from several years back? Some articles referenced the “chipset” and others the “code” name. This incident taught me that it helps to have multiple tools that can provide hardware and software information. I’ll show you how to check PC specs using multiple methods.
I’m focusing on free PC spec checkers to determine my basic computer specs without opening the computer case for this article. Some people call these tools “system profilers.” They can be instrumental when troubleshooting Windows or talking to tech support reps who often need basic computer information.
The degree of information you need depends on your circumstances, so I’ve included multiple solutions. These will work whether you’re on a desktop computer or a laptop. And all of these tools are free.
Use Windows for System Profile Info
Microsoft provides several tools to find out your hardware specs and OS info. One immediate benefit is that you don’t have to download software. These tools vary from the basics to ones that require a propeller hat. However, for many people, your PC’s About panel is enough.
The instructions below reference the Windows key . If your keyboard doesn’t have one, use Ctrl + Esc.
How To Find Basic Information
- You can press your Windows key + Pause. The Pause button is generally above the PgUp.
The resulting panel shows high-level info on your PC in an accessible format. The left panel also gives you shortcuts to other settings. The right panel has more advanced settings, such as device specifications. Typically, this panel answers these common questions:
Windows 11 adds some modern styling and easier access to Related links.
One newer feature is a Copy button that allows you to save your system information. While the above panels are nice, they may not provide what you or a tech rep need.
You can find the next layer using a program called msinfo32.exe. This is a built-in system information tool and provides more detail. However, it may not be the best choice. For example, you can’t drill down for details like driver version numbers. You’d be better off using Windows Device Manager. Still, let’s start with the built-in tools and add where needed.
How to Find Detailed System Information
- Press your Windows key + R key. This opens a Run dialog box.
- In the Open text box, type msinfo32.
- Click OK.
If you don’t have a Windows key, press Ctrl + Esc and type MSINFO32 in the textbox.
A resizable System Information dialog will open that has three sections. Your panel may differ based on which Microsoft Windows version you use and what’s installed. Also, the info may differ on things like active drivers if you’re not running the program as an administrator. The same caveat applies when using Windows Safe mode, as not everything loads by design.
[a] This navigation section categorizes your system information in a collapsible format. At the top of the hierarchy, you have your System Summary. Underneath, you have main areas for Hardware, Components, and Software Environment and their sub-categories.
[b] This section displays the information for your chosen category.
[c] A search bar that allows you to find an item. This is a great feature and is often overlooked. If you don’t see this feature, you may have it set to “Hide.” You can change the setting from the Edit menu at the top of the dialog.
Handy Sections & Quick Answers
The System Summary panel is useful and can answer the following questions and more:
As you can see, there is an overlap with the Systems Properties panel. You might also notice that the labels don’t always agree, even though these are both Microsoft tools.
The program shines as you can drill down into Hardware Resources, Components, and Software Environment categories that offer more details. If you’re unsure where to find your item, I suggest using the Find what search box at the bottom.
Finding Problem Devices
In addition to summary info, this tool can show you more diagnostic information, such as devices that might be causing problems. For example, in the screen snap below, I have a Component that is not loading. You’ll have to drill down to Problem Devices to see it.
This Error Code and Device name make searching for a solution much easier.
MSINFO32 gives you access to Windows Error Reporting. These logs can provide clues when it comes to troubleshooting. In addition, you can sort the entries by clicking a column heading and exporting the details to a separate file. I’ve often clipped text from these files for searches. And yes, you can export the information.
One misconception about the tool is that some think it lists all installed software. Sorry, it doesn’t.
Belarc Advisor Blends Both Worlds
Belarc Advisor is a free software program that compliments Windows System Information that IT professionals use. Unlike the native Windows program, you must download and install the software. However, the software is free for personal use. The program provides loads of information about your PC in a browser tab. The page offers little styling, but you can jump to sections using the left contents pane.
There are some critical differences between this system profiler and other spec checkers. Most notably, you get a listing of installed software and version numbers in your web browser. The listing shows the software name and version number. If you mouse over the small blue icon, you can see more details, such as program size and if the application is currently running.
Belarc was also the only scanning tool in this summary that gave me my PC Manufacturer’s System Serial Number. Sometimes your computer manufacturer makes it easy to find that info, but often not.
Another difference is Belarc identifies missing security updates. In my case, it found some Adobe updates. This is very useful as sometimes your Windows settings may not pick up items based on your settings.
In the Missing Security Updates section below, you’ll also note that each item has a hyperlink that will take you to the relevant vendor software page. One thing to remember is that it will not pick up every update or software package. Instead, it focuses on essential security items such as Adobe, Java, Microsoft, etc.
Key Questions Belarc Advisor Answers
One drawback to Belarc Advisor is that there is no menu item to export or save your info. You would have to print or save the page as a PDF file with a program like SnagIt.
If you plan on moving software to a new PC, I’d suggest saving the file to some cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. It’s an excellent inventory reference and provides insight into how often you use various software.
Speccy is another free third-party tool from the same people that make CCleaner. Again, there is an overlap between the other spec checker tools. What I appreciated about this system profiler was the presentation. Like the other tools, it has a left navigation panel with categories, making it easier to refine the view.
You can drill down and see more info if you click into an area like CPU. Recently, I was interested in installing a Large Language Model (LLM) on my PC. However, the installation age said I need to have a chip with AVX2 instructions.
In some sections, you’ll also see some real-time info. These are usually shown as green bar charts and tend to show temperatures. The options section allows you to change between metric and Fahrenheit.
Key Questions Speccy Answers
Like MSINFO32, Speccy does allow you to save your profile or snapshots. This is handy if you’re testing configurations or need to provide a tech rep with your computer specifications. While the program didn’t have as much info as MSINFO32, I prefer the user interface.
Windows 11 Compatibility Checker
With the announcement of Microsoft Windows 11, many people are curious to know if their computers can be upgraded to the new operating system. Unfortunately, unless you’ve purchased a new PC in the last two years, you may not be able to run the new OS. However, the requirements seem to change, so the best bet is to use the official Microsoft checker.
Once you download and run the program, you’ll get a Yes/No answer. In my case, my PC doesn’t meet the update requirements.
Online Spec Checkers?
The above checkers provide a wealth of information. However, I didn’t find one I liked regarding a decent online checker. Either there weren’t enough details about the company, or they still required you to download software that is not online. However, some services did provide basic system information that might be useful.
As you might expect from the name, this site concentrates on your web browser specifications. If you’ve been around the web awhile, you also know your browser sends additional information, some of which you could find in a web server log. However, you won’t find hardware specifications.
You might also have some success if you’re trying to answer specific hardware questions. For example, if you wish to add PC memory or another hard drive. In these instances, some vendors have their spec checker. However, these, too, may require you to download a small program.
Below is a portion of the system scanner results from Crucial.com. I was curious to see how I could upgrade my PC memory. The tools above indicated I had 12MB in 2 slots, but I wasn’t sure the memory chips were the same. While it doesn’t have nearly as much information as the other scanners, it answers my question.
Granted, I don’t need all these PC specs checkers to learn about my PC or laptop. However, knowing how to check your computer specs is easy with these free resources.