How to Test Your PC for Failing Hardware
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Good 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 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 Every Computer Dies In The End: Learn What Parts Can Fail, & What To Do About It Every Computer Dies In The End: Learn What Parts Can Fail, & What To Do About It Most computers develop problems over time. Learning what they are and how you can deal with them is important if you don't want to be paying through the teeth for professional repairs. Don't worry though... Read More . 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.

You can fix software-related setbacks using Factory Reset or System Restore. Hardware failure is a bigger deal, so it pays to be proactive.

Testing 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 8 Hidden Tools In Windows 7 You Still Might Not Know About 8 Hidden Tools In Windows 7 You Still Might Not Know About Windows 7 is by no means a new operating system. This why I was doubly surprised to realize that there are still some hidden tools in Windows 7 I did not know about. Even if... Read More , 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 built-in diagnostic tools you might not have ever known about. To access the Resource and Performance Monitor, simply hold down your Windows key and press the letter R. A new window will open and you can type in the command perfmon /report, then click on OK.

test pc hardware

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

test pc hardware free

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 the Diagnostic Results—Warnings and the 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.

test pc hardware free

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.

test pc hardware free

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 – 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.

test pc hardware diagnostics

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.

test pc hardware diagnostics

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.

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Error messages will also be recorded in the system log in that you can access via the Event Viewer, another great piece of Windows software you might not have known about. We have an article that delves into that a lot more: 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.

1. PC Wizard—CPUID

Great software, just be a little bit careful on the installation or you’re going to end up with the toolbar installed and have your homepage changed to 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.

test pc hardware diagnostics

2. 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

3. Sandra Lite—SiSoftware

SiSoftware is another longtime player in the benchmarking 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.

test pc hardware

Sandra is still an industry standard and you can get a Lite version of her for free. 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.

Avoid PC Hardware Failure

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.

Do you know about any other good tools to test PC hardware Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? Which Upgrades Will Improve Your PC Performance the Most? If you need a faster computer but aren't sure which component would be most beneficial to upgrade, then here are the guidelines you should follow. Read More or monitor your hardware health?

Image credit: Workers on HDD via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Computer Maintenance, Scanner.

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  1. Mark
    December 20, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    My experience with Speccy was about 50-50. It told me that the computer I used to download it was fine (it is, and I already knew that). However it couldn't tell me anything about the computer I actually bought it for because it evidently only works if there's an internet connection, and I bought it test the hardware and help determine why I can't get on the internet.

    • NotA RealName
      January 10, 2018 at 9:37 pm

      There is a free version my dude. If you can't get on the internet, chances are it's a driver issue.

  2. Peter Granger
    October 12, 2016 at 5:14 am

    Nice description of 'how to' with regards to upgrading RAM memory. I thought I was unlucky only having one slot so that I'd have to remove and discard the 4Gb card and replace with an 8Gb one. Having read about all the potential issues with the bios, maybe it wasn't so bad having only oneslot!

  3. una
    September 21, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Your instructions don't match what is on my screen. I am using Windows 8.1 (laptop).
    I tried the
    but a box popped up that Windows could not find it

    Could not find any memory diagnostic tools either.

    • rob
      October 24, 2016 at 12:59 am

      there's a space, perfmon /report

  4. Greger
    August 30, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    I was away for about two weeks, when I returned my PC was extremely slow, couldnt handle games even at the lowest settings etc. I have now done everything I know of, even wiped the HD and reinstalled windows. I ran the perfmon /report and it said all of my components were poor or very poor, desktop rating 0. What can cause something like this and how do I fix it?

    • NotA RealName
      January 10, 2018 at 9:36 pm

      First, make sure there isn't a lot of dust buildup or anything in computer. Use some compressed air to clean any dust out. Make sure you don't tilt the can. It also could be that something, or everything is going bad. What sucks with this is that dead hardware doesn't really come back to life. If you have extra components, I'd suggest swapping pieces out on at a time. It seems unlikely that everything would fail at the same time. You could try taking it to a tech repair place but they might just tell you to replace the computer.

  5. Wurlitzer
    July 12, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Just for curiosity, what are the ordered steps to follow, when doing pc diagnostics, similar to the ways pc technicians do at computer repair kiosks and stores?

    • NotA RealName
      January 10, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      For checking hardware? You can run all these software tools but the easiest way to check for dead hardware is to replace it and see if it fixes the issue. Stores and kiosks probably have their own proprietary software but it can't be that much different from publicly available software.

  6. Hatters
    June 19, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    For probably over a year, now, whenever I try to burn a CD into my iTunes Music Library, only a few seconds of a few tracks actually go into the library. The names of all the other tracks show but do not play. My desktop is Windows Vista. Please can you help as I have not been able to put a CD into my Music Library for about 18 months plus?! Many thanks. Neil

  7. Steve
    May 16, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    I've been experiencing crashes about once a day on my PC. I hadn't heard of the Resource & Performance Monitor previously, but running it was helpful - based on the results it looks like adding memory might fix the problem for me. Thanks for the informative article.

    • Guy McDowell
      May 20, 2016 at 7:37 pm

      Glad I could help!

  8. charles
    May 8, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    i tried running that but it gives me an error that the admin refused the request, but i have admin privileges active on my windows 8 PC. any suggestions?

    • Guy McDowell
      May 20, 2016 at 7:37 pm

      Are you logged in as Administrator? If not, try logging in as Administrator and then trying that step.

  9. Richard Thomas
    January 2, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    excellent .. for most of us newbies - this is informative and helpful in getting started and checking some things,,,

    • Guy McDowell
      January 8, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      I'm glad I could help. They won't solve every issue, but at least you'll be better informed about what's going on with your computer.

  10. Hattori
    May 4, 2013 at 3:07 am

    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
      May 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      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.

      • Aleks Bain
        May 13, 2016 at 8:15 am

        You're a savage!

        • Guy McDowell
          May 20, 2016 at 7:42 pm

          Nicest thing I've been called today. :D

      • NotA RealName
        January 10, 2018 at 10:06 pm

        You're not a savage, you're an idiot. Even your "savagery" is idiotic. It's true a HDD probably isn't working correctly if it never spins past 500 RPM but you wouldn't even be able to boot your computer up at that point. For the most part, your article is useless. If your hardware is already failing, or has already failed, nearly nothing in this article helps except for the memory diagnostic tool and the performance monitor. You can't go back into the past and benchmark your hardware so you can see if it's still running up to snuff. Even then, that doesn't necessarily tell you if your hardware is failing. Most likely, that will tell you have too much dust in your computer and your eight year old components are getting a little old. Although it might be cool for people to learn what kind of CPU they have, downloading Speccy isn't gonna help them.

        You purposefully deceived your audience with your title and you know it. I'm more convinced of this fact by your constant analogies to car maintenance and keeping an eye on things. First of all, the only part of your article that could be considered maintenance is the performance monitor because that actually helps you to fix issues. The rest of it is either a memory diagnostics tool or documentation tools. Maintenance would imply things like running Defraggler, running a scan with Malwarebytes, uninstalling unused programs, deleting temporary files, clearing the recycle bin, regular backups and resets of your computer, etc..

        Disagreeing with me about the maintenance thing, even if you could prove yourself correct beyond a reasonable doubt, doesn't change that you purposefully deceived your readers with your title. We came here looking for a test for our failing, or failed hardware and at best we came back with a memory diagnostic tool and weak general diagnostic tool (Performance monitor).

      • NotA RealName
        January 10, 2018 at 10:10 pm

        I mean, you didn't even give any helpful troubleshooting methodologies or address the fact that most issues are usually solved on the software side.

  11. Paul Fisher
    May 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    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
      May 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      Glad you added that! Thank you!

  12. Ken Gaming
    May 2, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Very helpful thanks!

  13. Ray
    May 1, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    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
      May 2, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      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.

  14. Diederick Benjamin Ackerman Snr
    May 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    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
      May 1, 2013 at 5:53 pm

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

  15. Stephan A
    May 1, 2013 at 4:32 am

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

    • Guy McDowell
      May 1, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      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!

  16. Alex Mercer
    April 30, 2013 at 3:26 pm

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

    • Guy McDowell
      April 30, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      That's all you got out of this article?

      • NotA RealName
        January 10, 2018 at 10:16 pm

        Here's another reason I don't like you: A reader politely corrected your mistake (typo or do you not know as much about computers as you thought? I am trying to be mean here but the point is that knowing it's and SSD and not an SSHD is basic shit.) and you replied with a rude, snarky remark. You think a journalist, and the company he writes for, would care about mistakes in their work. I guess not because you didn't even take the time to correct it.

  17. Brian De Christopher
    April 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    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
      April 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm

      My pleasure, Brother...

  18. Brian
    April 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    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.

  19. Darrin Gustafson
    April 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm
    ^^ What happens every time I try to run the Resource and Performance Monitor.
    Any suggestions?

  20. Meidimi
    April 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    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.

  21. Ian
    April 27, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    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
      April 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm

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

  22. Mohammad Hamzani Salleh
    April 27, 2013 at 8:17 am

    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
      April 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      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
        May 4, 2013 at 5:36 am

        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
          May 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm

          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.

  23. Onaje Asheber
    April 27, 2013 at 1:08 am

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

  24. Clyde Atwood
    April 26, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    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....

  25. null
    April 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Great article. Thanks guys

  26. Manish Parmar
    April 26, 2013 at 6:52 pm

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

  27. Manny R
    April 26, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    HDTune for hard drive. There’s a portable version too.

    • Guy McDowell
      April 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm

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

  28. Mr Robert Sanders
    April 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm

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

    • Guy McDowell
      April 27, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      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.

  29. Cliff Hosler
    April 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm

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

  30. George Rix
    April 26, 2013 at 11:24 am

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

    • Manish Parmar
      April 26, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      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
        April 27, 2013 at 6:20 pm

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

  31. Kirby
    April 26, 2013 at 11:20 am

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

  32. Scott M
    April 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

    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
      April 27, 2013 at 6:19 pm

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

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        April 30, 2013 at 1:14 am

        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.

  33. Nevzat A
    April 26, 2013 at 5:55 am

    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
      April 27, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      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
        April 30, 2013 at 1:11 am

        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
          April 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm

          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.

  34. Chris Marcoe
    April 26, 2013 at 3:38 am

    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
      April 26, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      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
      April 27, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      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.

  35. yudics
    April 26, 2013 at 3:27 am

    this is good article, thanks i like it!

    • Guy McDowell
      April 27, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Thank you, Yudics.