When looking to purchase a desktop computer or laptop, one of the first things you will find is a description of the PC’s hardware characteristics. We might know that an Intel i9 processor is better than i7, that 16GB of RAM is better than 8GB, or that a 1TB hard drive is better than a 500GB one. We might also be aware of the existence of HDD and SDD internal drives, or that there is such a thing as a USB 3.0 port. However, once we have the computer in front of us, one of the best ways of accessing its hardware specs is by fetching your Windows system information.
This article is for Windows 10 users who wish to know how to identify their computer’s hardware components.
For those using macOS, you can find the procedure HERE. As for those using Linux, you can find a dedicated article on this matter HERE.
Why knowing your hardware information matters
The reasons for wanting to take a look at your Windows system information are many. Amongst these are:
- When troubleshooting
- When you have a faulty trackpad, an undetected graphics card, or a wireless card that has stopped connecting to your home. In these instances, finding your hardware info is crucial. Without knowing the name and variant of these components, you won’t be able to download and install the appropriate drivers or software updates which could more than likely fix these issues.
- When installing a new operating system on your computer
- When you want to install an additional OS such as Linux on your pc, you have to know some of your hardware characteristics before downloading the OS disc image.
- If you opt-out of dual-booting, then you will have to either boot a live version of Linux from USB or use a virtual machine. Here’s an ITgirl.tech how-to guide on creating a bootable live Linux USB, and on how to set up a Linux virtual machine.
- For a virtual machine installation, you will need to know your available memory and internal storage when setting up the machine for your new OS. Otherwise, you might run into lagging and crashing issues when booting up the VM.
- You will also need to know your Windows architecture and processor to download the appropriate Linux distro. Many have different releases for 64bit and 32bit machines, and some distributions require higher minimum processor specs to function optimally.
- If you are new to the concept of the Windows system’s architecture (e.g., what is an architecture, which processors use which type), I recommend taking a look at this article.
So without any further due, here is a handy guide on how to access your Windows system information. We will take a look at how to recognize your hardware components, and will identify which parts of the integrated “System information” tool are useful for our purposes.
How to locate your Windows system information
On Windows 10, access to all your hardware specs is straightforward. Generally speaking, taking a look at the Windows “System information” tool is more than enough.
To open it, do the following:
1) Open the Run dialog. You can do this either by right-clicking on the “Start” button and clicking on the “run” option or by pressing the keyboard shortcut “Windows key + R.”
2) From the Run dialog, type “msinfo32” and click on “OK.”
3) The “System information” window will pop up.
Note that for the sake of this tutorial I am using a virtual machine running Windows 10. As such, some of the hardware information is either unavailable or reflects the configurations of the virtual machine I used for this OS (i.e., the allocated memory and storage).
Your Windows System Information “System Summary”
For general purposes, the “System Summary” should get you covered.
It contains highly useful information, such as:
- Your System Type (architecture); note that anything with x64 means a 64-bit architecture
- Your Processor (CPU) brand and model
- Your Secure Boot State.
- If you see that your secure boot is active, you will need to deactivate it through your UEFI settings. Otherwise, you won’t be able to dual-boot your machine with Linux OS. Refer to this article for a how-to guide on how to change your UEFI settings (for brands ranging from Acer to Microsoft Surface).
- Your Total Physical Memory (note that in this example the amount reflects the allocated memory on my virtual machine, ie, 2 GB)
Your Windows System Information “Components”
Another category, “Components,” located in the left sidebar menu, will provide you with details regarding all your machine’s peripherals such as:
- Your Sound Device
- Your Display specs (including your display adapter, ie, your graphics card)
- Your Keyboard
- Your Pointing Device (mouse, trackpad aka touchpad)
- Your Network Adapter
- Your Storage Drives (including their location, total space and available free space)
- Your USB ports and identifiers
Your Windows System Information “Software Environment”
Finally, the “Software Environment” category contains an interesting subcategory, “System Drivers.” Ideally, you will never have to take a look at this information. However, if you ever run into issues running a particular peripheral such as your VGA or wifi adapter, you might have to take a peek. The “Software Environment” category will allow you to get all the info you need to do some troubleshooting.
By knowing the model and brand of your incompatible peripheral, you know whether or not its drivers are installed and can search its most up-to-date drivers online. For instance, if you experience compatibility issues with an Intel component, you can do a search for all your “Intel” drivers.
You can find a step-by-step troubleshooting solution for faulty peripherals on Windows 10 HERE.
Accessing your VGA info with the Settings menu
Outside of the System Information tool, the settings menu also offers a way to access your VGA specs.
Click on the “Start” button, then on “Settings.”
Click on “System,” then on “Advanced Display settings.”
From there, click on “Display Adapter Properties.”
Note that in the pictures above the information doesn’t reflect my real graphics card brand and model. That is because I am using a virtual machine. If you are also using virtualization and wish to get your accurate VGA info, you will have to use your primary operating system to do so. If you have a setup similar to mine and are running Windows 10 from macOS, click HERE for a guide.
Unsatisfied with your machine’s hardware?
If you ever feel like upgrading your RAM or internal hard drives, you can do so with the help of PC Part Picker. All you need is to create an account on the website (it is free) and know the exact brand and model of your computer’s main components. Once you have gathered them all (including the processor, motherboard, RAM, graphics card, and more), add them to your “inventory.” You will then be able to figure out what are the parts compatible with your machine by searching for your desired component within the website. It will tell you whether the part is a great fit or not.
Be aware that changing components such as the motherboard, GPU or liquid cooling system also requires knowing your tower brand and model. Indeed, its physical characteristics have an influence on the hardware you can fit into it. If you ever feel like switching your store-bought desktop tower for another one, then I say that you might as well go all-in and have fun creating your first custom-built PC.
In the meantime, here are some great hardware components that I have personally tested on my custom rig.
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