Before you start
Objectives: learn which tools you can use to get detailed information about your installed Windows operating system.
Prerequisites: no prerequisites.
Key terms: information, system, msinfo32, configuration, msconfig, troubleshooting
The first tool is MSINFO32. To run msinfo32 we can type ‘msinfo32’ in Search (Vista) or in Run (XP). We can also go to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Information. The location of the application on our Hard Drive is %windir%\system32\msinfo32.exe.
Image 206.1 – System Information
System Information is the same as MSINFO32. The information is organized by hardware, components and software environment. We can view information such as operating system version, computer manufacturer, processor type, available memory, installed devices and drivers used, running tasks, applications that run at system startup, etc. Note that we can only view configuration settings in Msinfo32 (not modify). For example, inHardware Resources section we can see I/O addresses that are used on our computer, IRQs assigned to devices, memory information such as memory addresses assigned to specific hardware devices, DMA information and Conflicts/Sharing information. The Conflicts/Sharing information shows us devices that might be using resources that are trying to be used by other devices.
Image 206.2 – Devices sharing the same resource
For example, notice that in our case we have two devices on the same IRQ 17 channel. This is OK because they actually share the same IRQ, so keep in mind that this section shows devices that are also sharing resources. They don’t have to be in conflict.
Under Components section we can see various hardware components that are installed on our computer. For every device, we can see detailed information like the type of device it is, IRQ that it is using and the driver that it is currently using as well. For example, if we go to Storage, then Drives, we can see that we have a C drive which is local fixed disk which has NTFS file system, 20GB size and 5.59GB of free space.
Image 206.3 – Components
Interesting section here is the problem devices. It will show us device which have problems. For example, if we don’t have drivers installed for some device, that device will show up here. Windows will recognize a device with its name and Plug-and-Play ID. In the Software Environment we can see a list of all drivers and their location. We can see information about our network connections, services and their states, programs that are set to auto start when the computer reboots, etc.
System information, or MSINFO32 shows us the most amount of information. Much of that information is available in other places, but the System Information tool shows us a lot of information within a single tool. Nice thing about System Information tool is that we can actually save our configuration and send it to someone who will help us troubleshoot problems.
The second utility is called MSCONFIG, or Microsoft Configuration Utility. MSCONFIG mainly shows us information about system start up. To run it, simply enter ‘msconfing’ in Search or Run. The location of the application on our Hard Drive is %windir%\system32\msconfig.exe. We can use the System Configuration Utility to configure startup preferences, configure system components, view and customize Windows setup components, customize Bootup configuration, turn services on or off, enable and disable startup utilities and programs, etc.
Image 206.4 – MSCONFIG
In General tab we can see that we currently have normal system boot selected. For troubleshooting, we could set it to boot in a special way, for example, not load the start up items.
The Boot tab shows us the location of the current operating system, in our case the C:\Windows directory.
Image 206.5 – Boot Configuration
If we wanted to reboot in a limited version of Windows, we could choose ‘Safe boot’ and then additional options for how we want the system to start. We would use these options if we wanted to restart the computer and load a minimum set of drivers and operating system files to help in troubleshooting.
The Services tab is similar to the services information which we saw in System Information. In this tab we can see a list of services along with their state, either running or stopped. Here we can disable any service.
The Startup tab shows us all of the applications that are loaded automatically when the system boots. It also shows the program location and where that program is being loaded from. Location that starts with HKLM or HKCU means that the program is being loaded from the registry. Other programs can be loaded from Startup folder on the Start Menu.
The Tools tab shows additional tools which we can launch to help in troubleshooting our system. This is great to know because from here we can launch, for example, System Information, MSINFO32, etc.
Image 206.6 – Tools Tab
The System Configuration tool is mainly used for controlling how the system starts. It has boot load options for the operating system, information about how services start and information about programs that start when the computer boots. Again much of this same information is found within the MSINFO32 tool.
DirectX is a programming interface for video and multimedia. DXDIAG or the Direct X Diagnostic tool is a tool that helps us identify our multimedia capabilities which can help in troubleshooting problems with display, audio and video. To run it simply enter ‘dxdiag’ in Search or Run.
Image 206.7 DXDIAG
Much of this basic information presented in the System tab can be found in MSINFO32. Here we can see information about the computer, the running operating system, the BIOS information, CPU, amount of memory, etc. The Display tab shows us information about our display adapter, including the amount of memory and the driver, as well as our current setting for resolution and color depth. We can also see the DirectX features that have been enabled on this device. This would be important if we were troubleshooting games that relied on these advanced programming techniques for displaying information on our screen.
The Sound tab shows us information about speakers and the configuration of our sound output devices.
On the Input tab we can find out information about our input devices like mouse, keyboard, Blue tooth devices, as well as USB devices. The DirectX Diagnostic Tool shows us information about the multimedia capabilities of our system. Again much of this information is available through MSINFO32, but this tool is targeted specifically towards information related to multimedia, video, audio, display devices and their capabilities.
Three great tools to use to gather information about our computer are MSINFO32, MSCONFIG and DXDIAG. All three tools can be run by typing their name in the Search (Vista and 7) or Run (XP) menu.