Enterprise Software

Gather detailed system information with Belarc Advisor

Belarc Advisor is a free program that builds a detailed profile of all your installed software and hardware. Greg Shultz reviews how it works and what it can tell you about your computer.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic download and as a TechRepublic gallery.

If you've ever been tasked with gathering information about a computer for an inventory, before a hardware upgrade, or just to find out if all the most recent hotfixes have been installed, you're going to love Belarc Advisor.

Belarc Advisor is a free program that builds a detailed profile of all your installed software and hardware, Microsoft hotfixes, and antivirus status. It also provides you with detailed Center for Internet Security (CIS) benchmarks. The results are then displayed in a nicely formatted HTML report. From your Web browser, you can easily sift through the report information and access Web sites for additional information. However, all of your computer profile information is stored on your system and is not sent to any Web server.

Keep in mind that the license associated with Belarc Advisor allows for free personal use only. Use on multiple PCs in a corporate, educational, military, or government installation is prohibited. Belarc provides additional applications and licensing options for large scale use.

Installation

You can download Belarc Advisor from TechRepublic's Software Library.

To find it, just type Belarc in the text box and click Search. When you click the Download link, you'll see the File Download dialog box and should just click Save.

Once you download Belarc Advisor, locate the Advisor.exe file in Windows Explorer and double-click it to launch the installation. When you do so, you might see the Open File Security Warning message. Just click the Run command to get started. The Belarc Advisor installation is a smooth and painless operation and takes only a couple of minutes to complete. A progress bar (Figure A) keeps you apprised of the installation status.

Figure A

A progress bar

You must agree to the Belarc Advisor license, which only allows for free personal use on a single computer. Once the installation is complete, the Belarc Advisor will create the initial profile of your computer.

After a few moments, you'll see the Computer Profile Summary page (Figure B). However, I've discovered that this initial report, while impressive looking, does not provide a complete picture. Just close this page after a quick perusal and then use the icon on your desktop to launch the Belarc Advisor again.

Figure B

The first Computer Profile Summary

Computer analysis

Upon running the Belarc Advisor again, you'll see that the analysis stage is updating your computer’s profile. In addition to updating your computer's profile, Belarc Advisor checks your computer's security settings.

You’ll now see that the Computer Profile Summary page (Figure C) contains the System Security Status section. However, you’ll notice that the security definitions are out of date.

Figure C

The second Computer Profile Summary

To resolve this, just click the link and you’ll be taken to the security definitions update page on the Belarc site. You can then follow the prompts to download and install the new security definitions.

Once the new security definitions are installed, the Belarc Advisor will restart and provide you with a current and accurate report. The report is extremely detailed and very long. Scrolling through in the browser is easy though, and the menu on the left provides you with links to key sections of the report. (Figure D)

Figure D

The full report

Looking at the first part of the page, you’ll find detailed information about your operating system, the motherboard, processor, RAM, and all the drives in the computer. In the second part, you’ll find a list of local user accounts, along with more hardware details and a brief summary of your virus protection. Note the information in the Controllers, Bus Adapters, and Other Devices sections.

If you are missing any crucial hotfixes, they will appear in the Missing Microsoft Security Hotifixes section. In the Installed Hotfixes section, you can see that the hotfixes are broken out by category and each entry contains the Knowledge Base ID number and the date on which it was installed.

At the bottom of the Hotfixes section, you’ll find a legend that tells you what the lock, check mark, and X icons represent (Figure D). If you click the details link next to any entry, you’ll be taken to Knowledge Base article that describes that particular hotfix.

Figure D

Hotfixes legend

I’ve discovered that it is better to right-click on the details link and select Open In New Window or Open In New tab. Doing so prevents Internet Explorer from blocking active content upon using the Back button to return to Belarc Advisor.

In the Software Licenses section, you’ll find license and key numbers. In the Software Versions section, you’ll find version numbers for all the software you have installed on your computer.

If you hover your mouse pointer over the asterisk (*) next to any entry in the Software Versions section (Figure E), you'll see a pop-up that contains properties information, such as executable filenames, size, and date last accessed. If you click the asterisk, the folder containing the application will open in the browser window.

Figure E

Hover the mouse

If you return to the System Security Status section, you'll notice that the CIS (Center for Internet Security) Benchmark Score contains a number score and a link to more details.

On the CIS Benchmark Score Details report page (Figure F), you’ll not only find your score, but you’ll also find a detailed listing of all kinds of system security settings you’ll need to change in order to lock down your system, make it safer, and improve your score. Clicking any of the links will take you the Belarc site, where you can find more information about the settings. As you can see, this test system scored only 2.5 out of 10 in the CIS benchmark system.

Figure F

CIS Benchmark Score Details

Overall, Belarc Advisor is very easy to use, very informative, and is a very a nice tool to have in your PC arsenal.

Belarc Advisor runs on Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP/2003 Server/Vista and works with most recent versions of the major Web browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera.

You can download Belarc Advisor from TechRepublic's Software Library and learn more about the application on the Belarc site.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

14 comments
shreeakolkar
shreeakolkar

From where does Belarc read the machine values

SentryWatch
SentryWatch

But don't be a mug and post your own license details (and other sensitive stuff such as IP addresses, user names etc) on the web. see http://www.pcprofile.com/web_based_audits.htm posting these details such as license numbers on the web is likely to be in violation of EULAs I am sure the vendor Belarc will act to rectify this BUT given the porisity of the web it is now posted out there for all to see for some time to come. the tool is great its just that some stupid users have no idea about security, or are willingly giving away their license keys to flout software license rules. The reports also include license keys for a wide range of other software installed when you examine each report plus other details of both commercial and private nature that are now being aired.

SentryWatch
SentryWatch

But don't be a mug and post your own license details (and other sensitive stuff such as IP addresses, user names etc) on the web. see http://www.pcprofile.com/web_based_audits.htm posting these details such as license numbers on the web is likely to be in violation of EULAs I am sure the vendor Belarc will act to rectify this BUT given the porisity of the web it is now posted out there for all to see for some time to come. the tool is great its just that some stupid users have no idea about security, or are willingly giving away their license keys to flout software license rules. The reports also include license keys for a wide range of other software installed when you examine each report plus other details of both commercial and private nature that are now being aired.

nvrtis
nvrtis

The license says that you can only use this on one computer, you cannot electronicly distribute a copy, and it is for personal use only. So it doesn't sound too useful in a business environment.

W_Culbertson
W_Culbertson

This is a nice tool, but I like SIW because it does not require an installation. I can run it from a flash drive on any computer. When I am finished with a specific computer, I don't have to uninstall the program. For IT work, this is useful.

Craig_B
Craig_B

Belarc is nice however it requires that you install it. SIW.EXE (System Information for Windows) is a simple .exe that you can run from anywhere (USB, SHARE, etc) without any installation and can save as a html file. http://www.gtopala.com/

banx
banx

Been using this product since 02 an have yet to find anything that can beat it.

powellwi
powellwi

The Belarc Advisor reports are not posted to the Web. The product only creates a series of html pages on the local system being scanned.

jayblack69
jayblack69

I would not ever consider using a web server outside of our LAN. Belarc's BelManage runs "internally" on our INTERNAL Intranet and that puts me in charge of it's security. If your LAN and Intranet are secure, your audits are secure... and easy.

James A Bailey
James A Bailey

That's the first thing I thought about also. Maybe Techrepublic has an agreement to distribute it and allows use on a corporate network. Maye the author of the article has something to say about it.

tfenner
tfenner

SIW all the way. NO license and a ton of options.

mmantei
mmantei

While I like SIW myself, if you look at the license you can't use it for free in a business environment. They sell technician and Business licenses. The use of the freeware product is strictly prohibited for non-personal use. In that respect, it's no better than Belarc.

SentryWatch
SentryWatch

.... who posted their results for all to see! Google for "Belarc Advisor Current Profile? and there are over 20,000 sites listed in some form or another! End user snafu I'd say!