by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 2, 2014)
In order for Windows to operate properly, it must maintain a huge amount of information behind the scenes. It needs to know, for instance, what devices are installed in your system, what the capabilities of those devices are, how to access those capabilities, and how to communicate with the device. With dozens of devices in most computers (hard drive controllers, video controllers, USB ports, a mouse, a keyboard, etc., etc.) the number of details to track quickly becomes mind-boggling.
If you want to get the full details on what Windows knows about various devices in your system, the easiest way to do it is to use the System Information tool. You can display this tool (if you are using Windows 7) by clicking Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System Information. If you are using Windows 8, the steps are a bit more complex: display the Control Panel, click System and Security | Administrative Tools, and then double-click System Information.
Regardless of the version of Windows you are using, you'll shortly see the System Information dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
Figure 1. The System Information dialog box.
The actual information displayed in the System Information dialog box will differ from system to system, which makes sense since every system is unique. The information is grouped into three major areas, however: Hardware Resources, Components, and Software Environment. These three areas are shown at the left side of the System Information dialog box.
To explore the information maintained by Windows about your system, just use the controls at the left side of the dialog box. Click a plus sign, and the area is expanded. Click a minus sign and that area is collapsed. You can also use the Find What box, at the bottom of the dialog box, to locate some tidbit of information, if desire.
Do some exploring in the System Information dialog box, and your eyes may quickly start to glaze over—the amount of detail can be overwhelming. That detail, however, can come in quite handy if you are trying to troubleshoot a problem that crops up. The information can help you zero in on a problem or, by conveying the right tidbit to a technician, he or she can help you identify the solution to a problem.
This tip (13122) applies to Windows 7 and 8.
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