PC Hardware Diagnostics Tools

By Dan Keen

Personal computers have become an important part of both home and business life. They can make us more productive, connect us to an almost unlimited collection of knowledge and resources and can entertain and educate us. Like any electrical or mechanical device, however, components can break down. At the very least, a computer failure can be inconvenient, and worse case it can affect business operations. There are various hardware and software tools to help diagnose and troubleshoot computer failures.

Hardware Components

Although a PC comes in an single case, it's comprised of many individual electronic circuits and mechanical devices, all seamlessly functioning together. Hardware components that diagnostic tools must test for faults include the microprocessor, RAM memory, video memory, hard drives, CD/DVD drives, floppy drives, the monitor, video card, network cards, modem, sound cards, keyboard, mouse, USB ports, serial ports and parallel ports.

Software Diagnostic Tools

Companies such as PC Diagnostics (http://www.pc-diagnostics.com) market software programs that can be run in the Windows mode, DOS mode, and even under the Linux operating system. The computer is typically "booted" up (initially started) with either the diagnostic software product's floppy disk, CD ROM or special USB drive. The program then runs diagnostic tests on the PC. Such programs are designed to be easy to use and offer clear instructions and friendly menus to run hardware tests, and explain the generated reports.

Hardware Diagnostic Tools

Diagnostic software may not always work if the computer has certain catastrophic failures, for example, a PC having a "dead" motherboard. Products such as P.H.D. PCi2 (http://www.uxd.com/rhdpci2.shtml) are circuit boards which can be inserted into a computer for extensive troubleshooting. They will perform component level motherboard testing. Isolating defective components is much quicker than the time-consuming method of "swapping out" parts. Such diagnostic circuit boards can render test results in just five minutes. These boards contain their own ROMs and do not require external booting devices or the computer's operating system. By not depending on the computer's operating system, any conflicts from drivers is eliminated, as well as many other potential problems. Malfunctioning PCs that cannot be diagnosed by software utility programs can benefit from diagnostic circuit boards.

Intermittent Problems

Problems that occur on an intermittent basis can be hard to pinpoint. PC diagnostic hardware and software utilities often come with a feature that performs tests to help identify intermittent problems. These tools can be invaluable in identifying such frustrating faults. For example, a quick test of memory may not catch an error, so utilities that perform a stress test to more extensively test RAM can be most revealing.

Free Diagnostic Software

Though not as extensive as the above mentioned diagnostic programs and hardware cards, there are free diagnostic software utilities available that perform basic PC performance testing. These include Optimize (http://www.pcpitstop.com) and PC Doc Pro (http://www.pcdocpro.com/pcdiag.html?gclid=COep3ryVrZwCFdVL5QodgX5ljg).