Software

Five free apps that collect PC information

Properly auditing your PCs requires the right tools to handle the task; here are five apps we can recommend.

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If you're looking to audit your PCs, you need to have the right tools to handle this task. If you're in a very small company, with one or two PCs, gathering this information isn't a challenge to your schedule. If, however, you're looking at 10 or more machines to be audited, you'll want to have a hand in the process of collecting this data.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic Screenshot Gallery.

Fortunately, there are plenty of software titles out there to help you out with this task. I have gathered up five such tools so you don't have to go searching for them. Out of these tools, there will certainly be one or two that will stand up to your needs. Let's dive in and see what each has to offer.

Five apps

1. Belarc Advisor

Belarc Advisor is often considered the go-to tool for auditing/profiling a system – and with good reason. Belarc makes short shrift of gathering all the information about hardware and software on a system, as well as missing Microsoft hotfixes, state of anti-virus apps, and security bench marks. Once the application is run, it will display the results in a local web page. Belarc will run on most versions of the Windows platform (from Windows 95 to Windows 8 – both 32 and 64 bit). The report generated by Belarc will display in your default browser – it does not require Internet Explorer.

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2. MSIfo32.exe

MSInfo32.exe is the Windows built-in information gathering tool. This easy to use tool gathers the following information: The version of Windows, OEM System Information, type of CPU, amount of memory and system resources, BIOS version, locale, time zone, user name (only present if the computer is configured to log into a domain), boot device, and the path to the Page file. The application can be run by clicking Start and then entering msinfo32.exe. The tool is very quick to gather information and displays more than you'll ever need in an easy to read window.

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3. Produkey

Produkey is the tool you need when you have to dig up the product IDs and CD-keys for Microsoft software. This tool quickly (and reliably) grabs the information for Windows, Microsoft Office, Exchange Server, and SQL Server. Nothing is more reliable when you've lost your keys for installed Windows software. One caveat to Produkey is that you might find your anti-virus solution prevents it from running. If this is the case, temporarily disable your anti-virus and run the app.

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4. LookInMyPC

LookInMyPC is another tool that generates quite a bit of information about system hardware and software. One very nice feature of LookInMyPC is that many of the reports offer links to Google searches, so you can quickly find out more details on what some of the more obscure results mean. LookInMyPC makes no changes to your PC and can be run from a portable device. As well, you can generate a handy zipped file and send it as an email (from within the tool itself). LookInMyPC also includes command line support and auto report archiving.

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5. Speccy

Speccy is an information gathering tool created by Piriform and is called an electronic “What's inside” sticker for your PC. Speccy will give you all the standard issue about your computer, plus: CPU, Motherboard, RAM, Graphics Cards, Hard Disks, Optical Drives, device temperatures, SMART data retrieval, and Audio support. Speccy is run from a self-contained executable, so it can be used as a handy, portable tool. The one downfall of Speccy is that it's not going to gather as much detailed information as the other tools. But for the average need, Speccy does a fine job.

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Bottom line

Gathering PC information can make your life as an administrator far easier. If your company isn't large enough to use an enterprise tool that gives you a constant heads up on PC information for an entire network, you will need to use the right tools to extract that data quickly. Any one of the tools listed would be an outstanding addition to your already growing admin tool kit. With these applications you'll have every piece of PC information you need at the tip of your fingers.


About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

16 comments
martiandon
martiandon

Jack Wallen: re: 5 apps that collect PC info: I got a virus while downloading SPECCY from FileHippo.com. I made a .jpg of screen when my Anti-Vir caught it. Let me know if you'd like the picture.

rwnorton
rwnorton

ProduKey doesn't support Office 2013, on my Surface Pro.

cybershooters
cybershooters

Why would you use any of those third party tools, you can get the licence keys off the licensing website, and you can use MSInfo, Device Manager and Baseline Security Analyzer?  This is assuming you haven't already got some serious piece of inventory management software like SCCM or Solarwinds on the network.  If you're on a domain, WSUS also gives you a lot of information and it's built into Windows Server.

RechTepublic
RechTepublic

CHECK YOUR FACTS, JACK!

Belarc's website: "We do not permit use of the Belarc Advisor for commercial purposes"

Speccy's website: "You may NOT use the Product in corporate or commercial environments."

I advise all readers to ALWAYS read software licensing agreements before installing 'free" software in a commercial environment.  Fines for illegal use of software far exceed the cost of the software.  What is okay at home is not necessarily okay for work.  Don't create a liability for your company or your clients.  They may make you pay the fines!

Here are some other popular products that are not free for commercial use: WinZip, WinRAR, CCleaner and AVG Free

If you think your company is using illegal software, report it here: https://reporting.bsa.org/r/report/add.aspx?src=us&ln=en-us

Jack, this confusion over licensing would make a great topic for a future article.  I am willing to bet there is a long list of programs that people assume are free for commercial use.

patrickarchibald
patrickarchibald

The basic freeware version of LANSweeper will give you huge amounts of information your PCs on a single domain, without having to install a thing. All accessible from a web interface.

pivert
pivert

Maptool is a free tool from Microsoft we use to collect info for our EA-contract. Found it very useful because you have several standard reports but you can also create your own. And you can store each "collection run" in a new database so you can easily check what has changed vs previous run on hardware and software level.

ah
ah

My system says that Produkey download is Virus Infected with virus "Riskware/PassView"

simonschilder
simonschilder

We use Spiceworks to collect pc data. It's a free product and works like a charms without having to start a program on the pc and thus disturbing the user. Of course this is only an option if you have to check on more than a few pc's

grafx
grafx

Have a look at Meraki from Cisco.  It doesn't appear to do software serial No.s but it does do an awful lot, including remote management and remote control.  Plus it can manage Android and iOS devices.  It's free too.

navinpatna1
navinpatna1

Can Produkey be used on a mac ? If not, is there a similar software for mac?

Snufykat
Snufykat

@RechTepublic One might hope that 2 years later the issue has been fixed.

"Posted 11 April 2011 - 08:16 PM"

Snufykat
Snufykat

@martiandon That will teach you, go to the source.  Piriform.  The link in the article goes to Piriform.

Stay away from second party software sources.

rwnorton
rwnorton

Note:  This may be because my licensing is through the MS Partner Network, and may be the same as Volume Licensing, which also does not show up.

marm
marm

@ahDid you read the description for the product?

"Produkey is that you might find your anti-virus solution prevents it from running. If this is the case, temporarily disable your anti-virus and run the app."

Snufykat
Snufykat

@simonschilder We use spiceworks at work, not detailed enough and frequently wrong information.