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The freeware utility AIDA32 was for a long time the best system information / inventorying tool ever, regardless of price. It documented just about every aspect of your hardware and software configuration as well as checking networks and providing memory benchmarks. However the developer announced in March 2004 that the free product had been frozen and development work shifted to another organization where AIDA32 was re-launched as a commercial product called Everest. Then in 2010 Everest was aquired by FinalWire who shut down Everest and released AIDA64.
You can however still find the old AIDA32 and the non-discontinued free version of Everest called Everest Home. The old AIDA32 works better across networks while Everest Home covers more modern hardware than AIDA32.
If you only need to inventory a single PC then you should also check out Belarc Advisor. It's free for non commercial use and while not quite as thorough as AIDA32, it has the advantage of being actively developed.
HWiNFO is an excellent system profiler that provides in-depth hardware information for Windows and the new top pick in the category. The program is portable and frequently updated and can be used by beginners and power users alike. HWiNFO greets you with 2 windows on startup: A nifty System Summary window that immediately makes available the most important details regarding our system and a Detailed Information window for pretty much every single piece of hardware bundled in the system. All components are organized in a tree view that provides easy to read reports for every item. The interface is extremely customizable providing variety of options.
HWiNFO has real time system monitoring that allows you to see a live view of various system sensors and accurately monitors each system component for status and failure predictions as well as system logging facilities. The progam is always up-to date supporting various latest technologies and standards. The software can also be extended using various 3rd party add-on's like RainMeter plug-in, LCDHost plug-in etc. HWiNFO also provides benchmark tests in it's feature set.
The information retrieved is presented in a logical and easy to understand form, which can then be saved in multiple formats like Text, HTML, XML, MHTML etc. HWiNFO is also available as SDK suitable for furthur integration. The application analyzes your system and provide detailed information about every hardware installed and present on your PC.
SIW utility written by Gabriel Topala "displays detailed specs for motherboard, BIOS, CPU, devices, memory, video, disk drives, ports, printers, operating system, installed programs, processes, services, serial numbers (CD keys), users, open files, system uptime, network, network shares, as well as real-time monitors for CPU, memory, page file usage and network traffic. It also displays currently active network connections, passwords hidden behind asterisks, installed codecs, and more." That's impressive enough for a freebie but my favorite feature is SIW does not need installing; all you need to do is run the executable. This means one less installed program on your PC as well the fact that you can run the program directly from a USB flash drive.
Note: SIW has fallen out of favor because the free version is no longer updated, has to upgrade to Pro version to work on Win8 and above systems, the standard installer contains OpenCandy and the free version is no longer present on their homesite.
PC Wizard is a system information utility that is strong in workstation description and benchmarking. It's a well implemented program with a nice multi-panel display with different analysis functions easily selectable using sidebar buttons. Overall it provides a little less system information that SIW but the benchmarking feature makes up for it. Benchmarks can be run on individual parameters such as processor performance, memory and cache speed, video performance and hard drive speed or can be run be for all functions with the single press of a button. In the latter case an overall numeric system performance index is also calculated. Overall PC Wizard is an impressive system utility well suited to those who want to get a better understanding of their PC's configuration and performance. The fact that it is regularly updated adds further to its appeal.
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SIW (System Information for Windows)
AIDA32 - Personal System Information
System software, system tools, utility software