How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

workers on HDD   How To Test Your PC For Failing HardwareGood PC ownership is a lot like good car ownership. You do more than just use it, you learn something about how it works. You don’t need to be a PC technician or a mechanic, but you should be able to identify certain signs of trouble so you can get your rig in for maintenance. Unfortunately, testing your PC for failing hardware isn’t quite as hands-on and easy to do as checking your car for worn tires or dirty oil. Fortunately, you have access to the minds of MakeUseOf.com and a wide web of free tools to test for failing hardware. Or, more appropriately, to check on the health of your hardware.

If you’ve ever opened up your computer, you know there is a lot of hardware in there, a lot of potential points of failure. That’s how pessimists and engineers talk. However, there are certain points which are more prime for failure than others. Those pieces of hardware that either generate heat or have moving parts tend to be the ones that fail most often.

Now that you’re thinking along those lines, you’re probably thinking of fans, hard disk drives, and CPU’s or GPU’s. You’d be correct that those are probably the most common points of failure in a system. RAM also tends to fail too, since it is constantly being written and re-written to, or flashed as they say in the electronics world. Solid-state memory can only handle so many flashes before it begins to fail, and this also applies to solid-state hard drives.

Windows 7 & 8

Windows 7 and 8 have some great utilities already built into them. In fact, there is so much in Windows that most of us don’t even know about, that we go and buy software that already does what Windows does. Even so-called power users can get caught in this trap. It’s almost like having a Swiss Army knife with so many blades, that we just go out and buy a normal pocket knife.

Resource & Performance Monitor

Both of these operating systems have a built-in diagnostic tool you might not have ever known about. To access the Resource and Performance Monitor, simply hold down your Windows key and press the letterĀ R. A new window will open and you can type in the commandĀ perfmon /report, then click on OK.

perfmon report command   How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

A new window will open and will begin collecting data. This process takes a minute.

perfmon gather data   How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

Then you’ll get a report with more information than you or I will probably ever know what to do with. The main report that you want to look at though is theĀ Diagnostic ResultsĀ – Warnings and theĀ Resource Overview. The Diagnostic Results Warning only comes up if there are some warnings.

What’s nice about this is that there are links to more information about the situation and how to remedy it.

perfmon warning   How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

The Resource Overview is going to give you the red-yellow-green light overview of the major parts of your system. This gives you an instant overview of the health of these major components. Apparently my computer could use some more RAM, as I have a red light on my Memory. Or I could close a few applications I don’t need running right now.

perfmon resource overview   How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

There are several other reports available from the Performance Monitor, but most of those are advanced information. If you want to take the time to read up on them and understand them better, then good for you! You will become more intimate and proficient with your Windows system than you ever thought possible. Go for it!

Test Your RAM –Ā Windows Memory Diagnostic

Another Windows feature is the ability to test your RAM, or memory, and see how that’s all working. What you’re looking for is the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool. You can find that on your Start Menu > Administrative Tools > Windows Memory Diagnostic.

windows memory diagnostic start menu   How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

Once you click on that, you’ll be given the option to either restart the computer and test the memory now, or to test the memory on the next system restart. Unless you’re in a rush right now to find out, go ahead and choose the restart option.

windows memory diagnostic restart   How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

Now, when you restart your computer you are going to see a text-based screen telling you that the memory test is being performed. There are things about the test that you can change, but it will run a Standard Test by default. That will be good enough for our purposes. Once the test is done, if there are errors, Windows Memory Diagnostic will try to figure out what memory module is causing the problem and tell you. That’s a good time to replace that bit of RAM.

Error messages will also be recorded in the system log in that you can access via the Event Viewer – another cool piece of Windows software you might not have known about. We have an article that delves into that a lot more by Saikat – it’s an oldie but a goodie and still applies –Ā How To Solve Any Windows Problem with Event ID.

What Else Can I Do To Check My Hardware?

Seriously? That’s not enough for you? Oh alright, I guess we do have a reputation of providing you with information about awesome freeware to uphold. Here’s a trio to get you started.

PC Wizard – CPUID

Great software, just be a little bit careful on the installation or you’re going to end up with the Ask.com toolbar installed and have your homepage changed to Ask.com. Minor annoyances really, when you look at the value of the software package. It will tell you everything you’d ever want to know about your hardware, system configuration, resources, and help you set benchmarks for testing your hardware.

That way, you can have a historical view of how your hardware is performing and identify any decline over time.

pc wizard mem   How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

Speccy – Piriform

I’m a Piriform fanboy. Since I first started using CCleaner and Defraggler back before 2009, I’ve liked the way they design their software and user interfaces. Unobtrusive, instinctive, and they just plain work. Speccy, like PC Wizard, will tell you all about your hardware and then some. The Summary page gives you a great overview of where things are at, at a glance.

piriform speccy   How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

Sandra Lite – SiSoftware

SiSoftware is another long time player in the bench marking software world. I recall getting a trial version of this on a CD that came with a PC magazine back when I was in college. Yes that was last century. I was excited!! I have no idea what system I ran it on or what it told me, but I knew that it was industry standard software. There wasn’t a whole lot of freeware or even trials back in those days.

sandra favourites   How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware

Sandra is still an industry standard and you can get a Lite version of her for free. If you’re looking for more details on this version, it’s worth the time to read Matt’s article,Ā Benchmark & Explore Your PC With SiSoft Sandra 2011 Lite. All of the benchmarks are still in the newest version, whether it be your GPU, CPU, RAM, or HDD, Sandra will tell you where you are at.

The Take Away

What you should get from this article is that with just a little work and planning, you really should be able to avoid hardware failure surprises. Much like checking your tire pressure weekly, and changing the oil every 5000 km, computer maintenance by you should be habit and require the simplest of tools. You’ve already got them at your disposal, so why not make them part of your routine? You might save yourself a few bucks and you’ll definitely save yourself a LOT of heartaches.

Did you find this article useful? Learn a little something that you didn’t know? How about any other good tools to test PC hardware or monitor your hardware health? We’re always open and sharing – after all, we all in this together. Hit us up in the comments.

Image credit: Workers on HDD via Shutterstock

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

52 Comments -

yudics

this is good article, thanks i like it!

Guy McDowell

Thank you, Yudics.

Chris Marcoe

Great article, Guy. thank you.

I use Speccy on my computers at home and lso at school. I have a question, though. Asking an opinion, that is. What do you think of Belarc? I’ve used it before, but, I can’t really figure it out. Its got too much info. And trying to figure out how to fix something is pretty tough. Any help?

Mike B

I use Belarc mostly as a utility to retrieve serial codes, but not for diagnostics of a pc. It can be used to see what service pack, updates, and other things are installed on the computer at the time and if any of those may or may not cause problems, but it is not necessarily a program for hardware diagnostics.

Guy McDowell

I’ve never used Belarc. Thanks for bringing it up though. It’s one of those applications that I keeping saying I should check out and then forget about it.

Nevzat A

great article as usual. I saw my old friend “Sisoft Sandra” on the list, I’ve used it for years, but other freeware alternatives has replaced it for me somehow.

Guy McDowell

Thank you Nevzat. Yes, I got away from Sandra as well for a long time, then got back to it just recently. It’s still good software. I’m just not a fan of how they bundle it with crapware now. I guess they have to make a buck somehow.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

They have to make a buck somehow.
Bundling an app to analyze your hardware for errors with crapware doesn’t earn you decent respect. Judging by what people are saying, I’m sure it’s a good software, but those who never heard of it might stay away because of that.

Guy McDowell

On the upside, they don’t automatically install the crapware. They ask you if you want it, just like Java asks if you want OpenOffice or something like that.

Scott M

I had used it at one time but after I installed Tuneup I no longer had any real use for it on my PC. am able to get similar info from one of the many subset s of the program

Guy McDowell

Haven’t tried Tuneup either. Another one to look in to.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Funnily, my main use of Tuneup Utilities is…guess what, customizing my PC. It comes with a lot of tools I use every now and then, but I find myself using the Styler a lot since I don’t need to analyze my hardware everyday.

Kirby

Great article. I never knew any of those until now.

George Rix

Can someone please tell me how do to get to the Administrative Tools and the Memory Diagnostic in Windows 8?

Manish Parmar

u can search it by pressing windows logo key+c.go to search.type memory diagnostic —- settings —diagnose your computers memory problem. u ll gt the abve dialog box.

Guy McDowell

Thank you Manish. I’ve been avoiding Windows 8 so I couldn’t have answered that question.

Cliff Hosler

I used sisoft it seems years ago and had forgotten about it. Might be time to give it a try again. Great article. Thanks

Mr Robert Sanders

I keep getting an error.An error occured while attempting to generate the report

Guy McDowell

Using which software? Which test are running? Is that all the info that is in the error message? If you can answer those questions, I’ll do my best to help.

Manny R

HDTune for hard drive. Thereā€™s a portable version too.

Guy McDowell

There’s another one for me to check out! Thanks Manny.

Manish Parmar

excellent post …!!!
lot of things bcame clear.thanks a ton for sharing such useful info.hats off.

null

Great article. Thanks guys

Clyde Atwood

In Linux, too. But I broke down and bought W8 to find out what all the fuss was about.

I like it, but it could be better, just like everything else in life….

Onaje Asheber

I love the Sandra software. I tell my friends to use it to know about their computer.

Mohammad Hamzani Salleh

in the past i used several program that detect failure in hardware. but my question is, is that info can be trustworthy like if i use scanhdd, it always show several spec that are over the limit and some time red marking. if that info really trustworthy or just an info of evaluate only? same with ramcheck. it allow me to refresh ram back to actual state. but i just dont seem any different when used it…

Guy McDowell

It always requires a degree of interpretation. Part of the challenge is making sure you do your benchmarking when you get the computer so you have a benchmark to which you compare your later tests.

Learning more about the hardware components themselves, you will also know how to visually inspect the hardware and interpret different sounds that it might make. For example, a hard disk drive that starts clicking audibly is going to fail very soon.

Mohammad Hamzani Salleh

owh thank for the info. and bye the way, if i used scanhdd nad the result show many aspesct and the most i see red is cyclic reduncy error. what it mean and do the hdd is nearly corrupted?

Guy McDowell

CRC errors – or cyclical redundancy check errors – can be an indicator that there is something wrong with your HDD. It is almost always just an error caused by data being misread or written improperly to the HDD.

If you are familiar with running Check Disk from the command line so that it runs on the next computer start, do that. It should fix all those CRC errors. I’ll be doing an article on this very thing soon.

Ian

Most BIOS have a inbuilt hard drive checker, better than any software as the drive is checked off-line, A tip for anyone using 3rd party sites for d/l software, try to use the vendors software site as a lot of the other sites wrap the download with spyware.

Guy McDowell

I agree. A lot of them have add-on ware as well that you just don’t need – as noted in the article.

Meidimi

Great article, clearly i did not know most of this stuff. I tried the report thing and it worked. Been using Tuneup for a while now and i like it cos it does most of what you mention.

Darrin Gustafson

http://i.imgur.com/sQrUJTp.png
^^ What happens every time I try to run the Resource and Performance Monitor.
Any suggestions?

Swizzle 1

DG,

1. Run SFC utility to verify system files.
Info on this tool can be found here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/929833

2. Perform clean boot to remove third party applications or start up items.
Follow steps from this link: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/929135

3. Generate the System Health Report.
* If the error persists troubleshooting will be necessary. However, this should alleviate any problems, thus allowing the report to generate.

Guy,
they are all good tools. Belarc can pinpoint missed MS updates, retrieve product keys, and identify the last time each program was used so you can see what you don’t need. Another program I use is Secunia PSI which monitors the programs that Windows doesn’t and patches/updates them automatically.

Guy McDowell

Very cool. Thank you, I will definitely have to get Belarc.

Brian

Love this article. Most people have no idea about the pre installed diagnostic tools on their pc or mac. I blog about your articles at least twice a month and this one will be my next topic. Thank you.

Brian De Christopher

I think this article will help some people to realize that their pc’s have some self diagnostic tools that are readily available. My parents are not very computer savy and when I emailed this article they were astonished. I think this will help many people and prevent or at least postpone them having to spend big money to fix a registry problem or something along those lines. Thank you for this article…

Guy McDowell

My pleasure, Brother…
:D

Alex Mercer

Just Solid State Drive not Solid State Hard Drive (SSD not SSHD).

Guy McDowell

That’s all you got out of this article?

Stephan A

Very useful, and just in time. Starting to have problems, this should help solve the issue.

Guy McDowell

I hope it does help. If you come up with any questions, one of our writers will probably have the answer. It’s what we do!

Diederick Benjamin Ackerman Snr

Thank you for the article. Looks like a winner for PCmaintanance.
{ Now this is a 70 year old novice trying to catch up ? }

Guy McDowell

You’re welcome. We all start somewhere, sometime!

Ray

Great article! I have used some of those in various versions for years! Been in this field for 30 of them, so you can imagine some of the originals!

Guy McDowell

I recall using a multimeter to test hardware more often than using software. I guess that’s what makes me love things like the Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards. Some good old electronics work.

Ken Gaming

Very helpful thanks!

Paul Fisher

You forgot the reliability monitor – that can tell you if those crashes are really as bad as you may think they are – and how often issues are genuinely occurring. We tend to have a bad memory for them – and it gives you a more dispassionate view.

Control Panel\System and Security\Action Center\Reliability Monitor

Guy McDowell

Glad you added that! Thank you!

Hattori

This article is supposed to be “How To Test Your PC For Failing Hardware”, and the only useful part is using Windows Memory Diagnostic to test the memory’s reliability.

The rest of the article is useless because software benchmarks and performance monitoring do not indicate whether the hardware is failing or not.

Just like asking someone to do a speed performance test on a car to see if the car’s air conditioning system is leaking or not, is it logical?

Guy McDowell

If I know that my HDD can spin up to 7200rpm, and I test it and it only spins up to 5000rpm, then yes, my air conditioning is working. Sorry, I mean my HDD might be in trouble.