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Determining Computer System Specifications

written by: Debasis Das•edited by: Heather Marie Kosur•updated: 5/27/2010

There are often situations when you need to confirm spec details of your computer. Or to check the details on a machine you are planning to buy! How do you check the specifications? There are several ways this can be done from the machine directly. You also have utilities to do that. Read more.

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    There can be any number of reasons you want to find out what your computer contains in terms of hardware and software. You may need to determine if a particular piece of software will run on the machine. You know what the system requirements for the software are from publishers' documentation. You are not as sure about what your machine contains. Same thing can happen when determining if a game is going to run properly. Or, it may be as simple as trying to answer a query from tech support about your machine configuration. You may want to check the configurations of the second hand machine that you are about to buy. There are several ways you can do this and a couple of ways the machine would respond to your query and tell you what it contains. You can use some software products available that will dig out the details and give you a report. When booting up, there are a lot of system messages that are given out by the system. These could give you the information, too, if you can get a glimpse at them.

    If your machine is a branded one and from a well known manufacturer, all you may need to do is find the product page and the detailed specifications given by the company.

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    My Computer

    The first way to determine the system specifications of your computer is to check in My Computer. You can simply right click on the My Computer icon and pick the properties from the drop down menu.

    The information is presented in a tabbed display. The default page shows summary information about the OS (operating system) and the processor. In this particular case, it is Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and a AMD Athlon 64 bit processor. The information in My Computer will also tell you at what frequency the processor is running and how much overall memory you have. The support information button tells you what may have been added or removed from the original configuration. Other tabs have hardware details, system restore, update policy used, etc.

    So, this could be one simple way of getting at main features of your system very quickly. You can also arrive at the same screen by going to "Start", choosing the control panel, and then the system. This option, however, does not tell you all the details about the system. Graphics capability details are not available with this set of screens. The next option for determining the system specifications of your computer is to run the Dxdia


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    Run DxDiag

    Running DxDiag to determine the system specifications of your computer requires DirectX to be available on your machine. If you have been using your PC for gaming, this would be present anyway. Otherwise, download the control from the Microsoft site. The following screen capture shows you the kind of detailed information you can get through this diagnostic program. The display is tabbed again, and the complete information is organized under these tabs for easy access.

    This has very detailed information about not only your display capabilities but also about music, input, sound, network, and so on. Under the More Help Tab, you have additional information and troubleshooting tools available.


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    Diagnostics/System Resource Reporters

    A third method for determining the system specifications of your computer is to use diagnostics and system resouce reporters. A representative product is SANDRA from Sisoftware in UK. This is just an example, and you can easily find other products on the Internet. Look up the What Is Sandra? page for the kind of details you can find with this software. It works with Windows XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 (both x86 and x64 as well as Itanium 64, the IA64 versions), and Windows Mobile versions. It also has a set of benchmarks to let you determine if everything is running correctly.

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    Information Displayed at Boot Time

    You can finally determine the system specifications of your computer through the information displayed at boot time. There is a lot of useful information displayed at the boot time as the system goes through the sequence of detecting a system resource and displaying a message about what it found. The only problem with these messages are is that they are too fast. If you are quick enough on the draw and are able to manipulate the "pause" button quickly enough, you can manage to find a wealth of information about your system.