One of the reasons I was most motivated to write this article for MakeUseOf was because I found that my computer startup time was crawling, and I would always end up with two or three windows opening that I didn’t recognize. Annoyed with my inability to see everything going on with my computer, I decided to strike out in search for a killer application that would give me that power back.
I am pleased to report that the free utility called System Explorer will return power over your own computer back to you.
Use System Explorer To See Every System Detail
The reason that my own computer usually gets so muddied up with junk is not because I don’t know how to track down the running processes, identify the culprits and eradicate the files. The problem is that I just don’t have time to dig through the system to find dll’s, startup folders, services, registry keys and everything else.
Here at MakeUseOf, we’re always trying to offer advice on how to troubleshoot your computer problems. Bakari wrote a great writeup with 8 troubleshooting resources for Mac users, and Saikat covered how to troubleshoot Windows with MSConfig.
The beauty of System Explorer is that it collects, organizes, and rearranges all of the information you need about your system into one central location.
There are obviously a few items that you could see by just doing a quick Ctrl-Alt-Delete and opening your Task Manager. However, the Processes display is actually an enhanced version of the Task Manager processes list.
How is this view enhanced? Well, it not only lists every single process running on your machine, as well as all of the details about each process – but if you see one that’s questionable, you don’t have to try and guess what it is. If you click on the “Check” link, you’ll go to an online database of file type explanations and reviews from experts regarding whether or not the file is considered safe or unsafe.
Troubleshooting System Problems
Let’s face it, sometimes even the best antivirus apps will not pick up on some of the latest threats. Harmful programs eventually make it onto your PC. A good place the start is the System Performance display, which provides a graphical view of processor, network and RAM usage – and much more.
As you’re reviewing each process that’s running, you can also right click a file, click “File Check” and use either VirusTotal.com or Jotti.org to check if the file is a virus.
Is your network graph maxed out? If it appears that your Internet bandwidth has been hijacked, then click on the “Connections” option in the left menu and you’ll see every last process that’s accessing the Internet, the protocol being used, and the “to” and “from” domain addresses. This can help you identify applications that are sending traffic to questionable domains.
Clicking “Startups” displays every program configured to launch up on startup. This include shortcuts in your Startup folder, and items in your registry. See one that you don’t want? Just right click and disable or delete.
Other Cool Features
If you click “Additional Info,” you’ll find your processor speed, used and free memory, drivers, registered DLLs, and even every font that’s installed on your system!
When you’re satisfied that you have your computer cleaned up and things running smoothly again, you can perform a quick “snapshot” of your system. Later, when your computer starts acting strangely again, take another snapshot and compare the two. System Explorer will tell you files and registry keys that have been added since you took the first snapshot.
Even when you’re not using System Explorer, you can keep it running in the task bar. Just hover your mouse over the icon and get a quick look at the current behavior of your system, including CPU stats, memory usage and battery life.
System Explorer helped me to resolve my system startup issues, and I plan to use the snapshot utility often to identify any new issues that crop up.
Have you ever tried System Explorer? What do you think? Do you know any other similar free system troubleshooting tools like this? Share your insight in the comments section below.