What are various system tools in Windows

Windows standard tools help with the system diagnosis

Peter Stelzel-Morawietz

Why should you load this or that additional tool when Windows can already do it? PC-WELT explains the most important on-board tools of Windows 10 and explains their function and use.

EnlargeHere's how to put your PC through its paces.

Do you know which version of Windows is running on your computer? “Well, listen!”, Some of you will, dear readers. now exclaim. The question is taken very seriously - against the background that Microsoft provided the Creators Update for Windows 10 at the beginning of April and began shipping, but even more than three months later, not all computers with Windows 10 are up to date had brought. This is not about the carelessness of updating. Because even those who regularly searched for updates and installed all the patches offered did not necessarily get the current version of the operating system, internally named 1703 (the number combination stands for the year and month of completion).

To the outside world, Microsoft has been pretending to be updates like those on the monthly patch day with its major updates (autumn, anniversary, creators update) since the operating system was released. In fact, there are different versions with different build numbers, which one could also call Windows 10.1, 10.2 and 10.3 - as Microsoft did with Windows 8 and 8.1 itself. And because the version update process continues, the initial question is not at all unjustified.

You can get (almost) everything out with Windows on-board tools

However, it is important to know the installed version, after all, Microsoft has introduced completely new functions with the Creators Update. However, if these are "missing" or "not working" for you, the cause is quickly identified, provided you know the appropriate Windows command - that is, the appropriate on-board means - to read out the version number. There is nothing about this in the control panel, where the name is always limited to “Windows 10 Home” or “Windows 10 Pro”. You will reach your goal if you enter the command “winver” (for “Windows version”) in the search and execute line at the bottom left. This useful command is just one example of how you can analyze your Windows PC, diagnose errors and optimize the system with the appropriate on-board resources and thus without additional tools. Our guide describes these useful on-board resources. Before it gets concrete, here is the crucial tip for everyone who does not want to wait any longer for the Creators Update or for the next Fall Creators Update later in autumn: The Windows 10 Update Assistant installs the current version immediately and without any further updates Waiting.

See also: Convenient third party tools for system diagnostics

What hardware exactly is in your PC or notebook?

As a counterpart to the Windows version, the question of hardware components arises. The exact identification is necessary, among other things, for driver updates or the search for problem solutions, because without it the Google search makes almost no sense. The first point of contact is the Windows 10 app system information, which you can call up by typing the command "msinfo32" in the search bar (even if you have 64-bit Windows installed!).

The system information already gives the exact computer name in the system overview, which helps with the installation of drivers and BIOS / UEFI updates as well as with the search for manuals, FAQs and other software from the hardware manufacturer. Below you will see the three main headings “Hardware Resources”, “Components” and “Software Environment”; by clicking the “+” sign, you can display further areas, devices and individual components. By the way: After marking them with the mouse, the sometimes complex entries can be placed in the clipboard using the key combination "Ctrl + V" and pasted from there for searching on the Internet.

EnlargeOn the left the normal view of the device manager, on the right the one with "hidden devices". Orphaned devices can be identified by comparison and deleted along with their drivers.

The entry "BIOS mode" in the system overview is also useful here. If “UEFI” is noted there, your computer is working in the modern successor to the BIOS. However, not all PCs sold are configured in this way, even if that would be possible in principle. If, on the other hand, “previous version” is noted in the BIOS mode, you cannot simply change the installation type. If you reinstall the operating system, you can do this by specifying the operating mode in the BIOS / UEFI.

The device manager can also be useful, as it has hardly changed in the various Windows versions over the years. Among other things, it is used to install device drivers, as a center for identifying and solving hardware problems, for an overview of the installed components and much more. An online advisor explains its functions in detail using numerous examples.

A special tip should not be missing here: To delete unnecessary drivers from devices that are no longer in use, open the device manager (key combination “Win ​​+ X”) and then click on “View -> Hidden devices” in the menu bar at the top Show". By comparing the listed entries before and after you identify the hardware corpses, which you click with the right mouse button on the most expanded level and whose orphaned drivers you delete via the entry "Uninstall device -> Uninstall" in the context menu.

dxdiag: Windows command checks system

Also worth mentioning is the "dxdiag" command, which you type in the "Run" line (appears after pressing Windows key + R). Windows may then ask you whether you want to digitally check the driver signatures of the devices. This is irrelevant to our endeavor. You should just be aware that Windows will then compare the drivers with servers and obtain appropriate signatures. In the next step, the so-called "DirectX diagnostic program" starts. It clearly lists all relevant system specifications under "System". In addition to the processor and memory, this also includes the Windows and BIOS versions. In the "Display" tab you will find information about the graphics solution, the monitor and the resolution used. If you are using another display, you will find the areas divided into "Display 1" and "Display 2". But even here you will not get all the information. Among other things, information about the hard drives is missing.

Sysinternals Suite with even more functions

With the free Sysinternals Suite, Microsoft offers many useful tools for system maintenance that do a lot more than the on-board tools integrated in the operating system. To do this, these programs also use undocumented or little-known Windows commands and functions. Although some of the Sysinternals tools are only suitable for special tasks in the administration of larger networks, other parts are also aimed at advanced Windows users who want to solve problems and optimize the computer.

Because the explanation of the program collection would far exceed the space available here, you will find a detailed guide to the Sysinternals Suite here. After an overview of the individual programs, the article describes the most important tools and commands step by step. We also recommend the Windows System Control Center (WSCC), which you can use to download and use all Sysinternals tools for Windows 7, 8.1 and 10.

Detailed information from the Windows Task Manager and resources

The task manager, which can be reached via the "monkey handle" ("Ctrl + Alt + Del") or called directly with the key combination "Ctrl + Shift + Esc", is used to terminate hanging programs, right? Right, the Task Manager does that too; but in the meantime it has been further developed by Microsoft and can now do a lot more - even if only at second glance. Because only after a click in the task manager at the bottom left on "More details" does the minimal view of the programs that are currently open mutate to the full range of functions with seven tabs.

EnlargeThe Windows 10 Task Manager shows and can do much more than just close programs that have hung up and can no longer be closed as usual.

The first tab - "Processes" - also shows the started programs under "Apps" as one of three categories, but at the same time shows the load or utilization of CPU, RAM, hard disk access and network resources. The view with the three categories "Apps" is preset "," Background Processes "and" Windows Processes ". If you cancel the sorting via "View" and then click on one of the four column headers, Windows will list all entries: in descending order of size. In this way, you know immediately which program or which process is particularly stressing the system. Sometimes it makes sense to change the preset values ​​from absolute ("values") to percentage ("percent") - the same applies vice versa. To do this, right-click anywhere in the information in the Task Manager, select “Resource values” in the context menu, then one of the three categories, followed by “Percentages” or “Values”.