Regardless of the version of Windows that you’re using, your first stop when looking at diagnostic tools should be the System Information, also known as MSINFO. To access this program, go to Accessories – System Tools, or simply open msinfo32.exe from the Run command. At first glance, you might think that System Information only provides details about your computer’s hardware, software, and system settings. While this is indeed true, the program also acts as a launching pad for a variety of other diagnostic and system utilities via its Tools menu. In fact, when accessing this menu you may be surprised to find some programs that you didn’t even know existed on your system.
Certainly the primary purpose of this tool is to consolidate various configuration and system setting information about your PC. However, it does include a few neat features. For example, if you were click an individual element in the Components sections like Network in Windows 9x, you have the option of not only viewing basic and advanced information, but also the component history, which will provide information about any changes that may have been made. If a certain component is no longer functioning correctly, this is invaluable information as to when or why an error may have occurred. If you’re running Windows XP, take advantage of the integrated Find feature, which allows you to search for a specific piece of information quickly and easily.