Build Your Skills: Sandra collects system information and benchmarks Windows machines

Use Sandra to get detailed system information and conduct performance benchmarks on your Windows computers.

Sandra (System Analyzer Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) from SiSoftware is designed to provide detailed system information and conduct performance benchmarks on Windows computers. Sandra has minimal system requirements and runs on Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP/2003. Sandra is available in several versions, including: Sandra Standard, Sandra Advanced, Sandra Professional, Sandra Engineer, and Sandra Enterprise. Sandra Standard and Advanced are both free, but offer less functionality than other versions. Pricing for the Professional, Engineer, and Enterprise versions range from $36.99 to $250, depending on which version and how many licenses you buy. For a complete list of the features each version offers and pricing information, check out the Sandra Web site. I'll review a copy of Sandra Standard, which you can download from the Sandra download page.

The download consists of a 6.86-MB self-extracting executable. Double-clicking on this executable launches a fairly standard software installation wizard. You'll be prompted to choose an installation language, accept the EULA, enter your name and the name of your organization, specify an installation path, chose a full or custom installation, and select the Start menu folder for the application shortcuts. Because a full installation gives you all the Standard version's features and only requires 7.6 MB of free hard drive space, I recommend you choose the full installation.

Using Sandra
When you run Sandra for the first time, you will be happy to learn that the Standard version has no nag screens, no expiration date, and much of the commercial version's functionality. The main difference between the free version and the commercial versions is the number of modules that you receive. Sandra incorporates each specific diagnostic test into a module, and the Standard version includes 58 modules.

The Sandra Web site mentions an Advanced version that is also free, but requires registration. The Advanced version reportedly had 10 more modules than the Standard version. I was unable to locate the Advanced version on the Sandra Web site. The commercial versions of Sandra (Sandra Professional, Sandra Engineer, and Sandra Enterprise) contain 80 modules.

Sandra is divided into five module classes: wizard modules, information modules, benchmarking modules, testing modules, and listing modules. You can easily access each module from Sandra's main screen, shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Sandra's main screen has icons for each of the five modules.

The wizard module consists primarily of modules that run other modules. For example, the burn-in module runs various test and benchmark modules continuously as a way of spotting any inherent system problems. The performance tune-up module runs the benchmarking modules and makes suggestions for how you might be able to improve your system’s performance.

The information modules section is designed to give you detailed information about specific aspects of your system. For example, in Figure B, you can see the output from the mainboard information module.

Figure B
The mainboard information module provides detailed information about your computer’s system board.

The benchmarking modules are designed to determine how well various components are performing. You can see a sample of the CPU arithmetic benchmark module’s output in Figure C.

Figure C
The CPU arithmetic benchmark module calculates how quickly your CPU can perform various mathematical operations.

The testing modules are designed to test the hardware’s IRQ, DMA, and I/O settings. The testing modules are disabled in the Standard version.

The listing modules are basically lists. For example, modules exist that will display the contents of the CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT, and many other text-based system files. You can also use list modules to view the system’s event logs and installed applications. Some of the list modules are not available in the Standard version.

In my opinion
All in all, I really didn’t care for Sandra. The information modules were accurate, but many similar utilities can provide you with this information. What I really didn’t care for were the benchmarking modules. I found the results of the various benchmark tests difficult to read and the Network/LAN Bandwidth benchmarking module caused my Windows XP Professional test computer to lock up to the point that I couldn’t even use [Ctrl][Alt][Delete].

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