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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 jackwallen.com.