Useful utilities for the diagnosis and testing of iron
As practice shows, the ability to own a computer suit users only for the time being - sooner or later you have to resort to an upgrade. Everything is simple is simple - new versions of the OS and applications used, as a rule, require more and more resources. The easiest way to upgrade your PC is to purchase a new system unit with a modern filling, which, if you have money, is not labor. However, this is not always reasonable - often, in order to increase productivity, it is enough to resort to replacing individual components.
To choose an upgrade strategy, you need to find out what hardware is installed and understand what the computer lacks for faster work - processor power, video system capabilities, memory sizes, hard disk read / write speeds, etc. But this is only one side of the coin
After acquiring a new system unit or upgrading an old one, you will need to quickly find outwhether the stuffing of the system unit is consistent with the purchase (without opening the unit itself, since there may be a seal on it), assess how much the performance has improved, and see if the computer really works stably.
Any professional collector (and all overclocking enthusiasts) will be able to easily solve these problems, since he has in his arsenal a lot of diverse and highly specialized information and diagnostic tools. An ordinary user doesn’t need such solutions, however, installing a simple, integrated utility for getting information about hardware and testing a computer is still necessary. Such programs we consider in this article.
Retrieving hardware dataTheoretically, any information and diagnostic utility is able to recognize the stuffing of the system unit. However, not every program is able to identify new models of processors, video cards and other hardware (it all depends on the completeness of the base and the regularity of updating it), and the amount of information on the components that were found may be different - from minimal to exhaustive.
Among the solutions considered, the most detailed information is provided by the AIDA64 program, which knows almost everything about any hardware, including the latest innovations. For example, this utility will be able to recognize the recently released Intel 510 and 320 solid-state drives on the market, the AMD Radeon HD 6790 and NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics cards, the top five new NVIDIA Quadro M mobile video cards, etc.
Using AIDA64, you can easily find out everything about the processor, motherboard, video card, network adapter, drives (including the latest SSD) and input devices, multimedia, as well as ports, external connected devices and power management. The program is able to determine the type of flash memory, the model of the controller (reading SMART-information of the controllers manufactured by Indilinx, Intel, JMicron, Samsung and SandForce) and the data transfer rate.
Moreover, the utility recognizes USB 3.0 controllers and devices compatible with this new standard. The amount of data provided by AIDA64 is impressive - access to it is provided from the tree-like menu of sections that combine the main modules of the program. So, through the "Computer" section, it is easy to get cumulative information about hardware components, system and BIOS, as well as data on overclocking the processor, power supply features,the state of the system sensors of the hardware monitoring, etc. (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1. Summary Computer Information (AIDA64)
Other “iron” sections provide more detailed information - for example, in the “Motherboard” section there is detailed information about the central processor, system board, memory, BIOS, etc. in particular, data on the video adapter and monitor - Fig. 2), and in the "Multimedia" section to learn about the multimedia capabilities of the system (multimedia devices and installed audio and video codecs).
Fig. 2. Information about the video card (AIDA64)
The Data Storage section provides information about hard drives and optical drives, as well as the logical and physical structure of hard drives, the values and statuses of SMART parameters. You can get information about network adapters in the “Network” section, and on buses, ports, keyboard, mice, etc., in the “Devices” section. In addition, the AIDA64 CPUID panel (Fig. 3) opens from the Tools menu, in which data about the processor, motherboard, memory and chipset are displayed in a compact form.
Fig. 3. AIDA64 CPUID panel
The program SiSoftware Sandra is also very informative and allows you to get comprehensive information on almost all hardware components of the computer system. In particular, the utility displays a summary of the computer as a whole (Fig. 4) —that is, basic information about the processor, motherboard, chipset, memory modules, video system, etc. (the Devices tab, the System Information icon ).
Fig. 4. Computer Summary (SiSoftware Sandra)Along with the summary information, in the "Devices" tab, the utility presents more detailed information about the motherboard and processor, display and video adapter (Fig. 5), memory, buses and devices installed in them, disks, ports, mouse, keyboard, sound map, etc.
As for the indications of various kinds of monitoring sensors, in order to obtain them, it will be necessary to launch not the information module, but the diagnostic module “Environmental Monitor” (the “Tools” tab). This module provides a display of textual and graphical information about processor temperature, fan speed, voltage, etc.
Fig. 5. Data on the video system (SiSoftware Sandra)The PC Wizard utility provides access to information about the main hardware modules installed in the computer: motherboard, processor, video card, memory, I / O ports,drives, printers, multimedia devices, printers, etc. All these data are available on the "Iron" tab. By activating the “General information about the system” icon on it, you can determine in one click what exactly is in the system unit (Fig. 6) - which motherboard, which processor, etc.
Other icons tab "Iron" will help to get more detailed information about the components (Fig. 7); the amount of data provided is sufficient for the average user. In addition, through the menu “Tools → Information” on overclocking you can find out if any of the system components (processor, bus or memory) were overclocked, and if so, to what extent, and also take readings from some sensors.
Fig. 6. Cumulative Computer Information (PC Wizard)
Fig. 7. Graphic subsystem data (PC Wizard)The HWiNFO32 utility will also allow you to learn a lot of interesting things about the iron stuffing of a computer. Immediately after launch, it proceeds to diagnostic studies and after a few seconds issues a System Summary window with a compact display of data about the processor, motherboard, memory, chipset, disks, etc. (Fig. 8). This window can be called up on the screen and during the work with the utility - by clicking the Summary button.
In addition, HWiNFO32 displays detailed information about the processor, motherboard (Fig.9), memory, video adapter, etc. in the corresponding tabs - Central Processors, Motherboard, Memory, Video Adapter, etc. The data on the processor, memory modules, motherboard, tires and disks are quite detailed, information on other devices is more modest.
If necessary, it is easy to obtain indications of sensing sensors installed on the motherboard (temperature, voltage, etc.) by clicking the Sensors button.
Fig. 8. Summary Computer Information (HWiNFO32)
Fig. 9. Data on the video card (HWiNFO32)The Fresh Diagnose program allows you to find out information about any iron components, though not always detailed. For example, on the Hardware System tab, you can learn about the motherboard, processor, cache, buses, BIOS, CMOS memory, etc. The Device section contains information about the video card (Figure 10), peripheral devices (keyboard, printer, monitor, optical drives, etc.) and ports. In the Multimedia section, data on various multimedia devices, DirectX, audio and video codecs are combined.
Fig. 10. Data on the video card (Fresh Diagnose)
Performance evaluationBefore upgrading, you need to evaluate the performance of the computer and its individual components in order to understand which hardware should be replaced immediately and which components can wait until better times (after all, in a crisis, not everything is decided for a complete upgrade).It is quite simple to do this by conducting a couple of specific benchmarking tests in the environment of a suitable diagnostic utility.
After buying a new computer or upgrading an old one, it also doesn’t hurt to test it to make sure that the computer has become more productive. Of course, you can feel the result of the upgrade in the course of normal work in applications, but for the sake of completeness, it is better to ascertain the increase in productivity with the help of tools specifically designed for this purpose.
When conducting tests for a more objective assessment, it is better to close all applications, do not use the mouse and keyboard, run the same test (in the same version of the utility) several times and focus on the average result. In addition, it should be borne in mind that the same synthetic tests in different utilities are not implemented in an identical way, so the programs show different results.
Yes, and take the results obtained is not worth it literally, because they do not reflect real performance, but only indicate the level of performance when performing strictly specific tasks.Nevertheless, conducting such a test makes it possible to understand how outdated the iron components installed in your computer are compared to the reference samples, as well as to evaluate the level of performance before and after the upgrade, which is what interests us in this article.
The most interesting from the point of view of testing are the AIDA64 and SiSoftware Sandra programs, some of which benchmarks are used even by professionals in various methods of testing iron. The possibilities of the other utilities considered in the article are limited in this regard, although some test functionality is also provided in them.
The program AIDA64 presents a wide range of benchmarking tests. For example, in the “Test” section, 13 synthetic tests are combined, the first four of which evaluate memory performance — read / write / copy speed (Fig. 11), and also measure delays (testing the average time the processor reads data from RAM).
The rest of the tests in this section evaluate processor performance in integer operations and floating point operations, when creating ZIP archives, when performing encryption using AES cryptographic algorithm, etc.(tests CPU Queen, CPU PhotoWorxx, CPU ZLib, CPU AES, CPU Hash, FPU VP8, FPU Julia, FPU Mandel, FPU SinJulia). All tests compare performance with other systems, including the newest ones.
Fig. 11. Evaluation of processor performance (CPU Queen test; AIDA64)
Three more benchmarking tests are available through the Tools menu: Disk Test, Test Cache and Memory, and Monitor Diagnostics. During the disk test, the performance of hard disks, solid-state drives, optical drives, etc. is measured. The cache and memory test provides a measure of the bandwidth and latency of the processor and memory cache (Fig. 12). In the Monitor Diagnostics test, the quality of the display of LCD and CRT monitors is checked.
Fig. 12. Cache and Memory Test (Cashe & Memory Benchmark; AIDA64)In terms of testing for a wide range of users, the SiSoftware Sandra program is even more interesting, with which you can not only evaluate PC performance in comparison with other standard computer configurations, but also test your computer for the need to upgrade it. The modules designed to test the most important computer subsystems are combined in the "Reference tests" tab.
A whole group of synthetic tests is designed to test the processor - arithmetic and multimedia tests, tests of multi-core efficiency, power supply efficiency,cryptographic performance and GPGPU cryptography. Several tests are responsible for testing physical drives - including test file systems, as well as modules for testing physical disks, flash drives, CD-ROM / DVD, and optical Blu-ray drives.
There are tests for memory testing: a memory bandwidth test, a memory latency test, and a cache and memory test. In addition, there are tests to assess the visualization speed and performance of video memory, audio / video encoding / decoding test, network bandwidth test, Internet connection speed test, etc.
When testing a number of components (processor, RAM, etc.), the results are given in comparison with the latest reference models with similar characteristics. At the same time, there is an opportunity to independently choose standards for comparison, including the most modern ones (Fig. 13), which is very convenient and allows you to quickly understand how outdated the iron components installed in the computer are and on which models it is better to replace.
Fig. 13. Evaluation of processor performance
(arithmetic test; SiSoftware Sandra)
Reference models of components for comparison are selected by the program or by the user. Moduleanalysis and recommendationsprovides a detailed analysis of the PC for a possible upgrade. At the end of this analysis, the program gives a list of recommendations on which of the hardware components are best replaced in order to improve performance (Fig. 15), and draws attention to possible problems (for example, the complexity of adding memory due to busy all slots, too high CPU temperature and offers to check the cooling, etc.).
Fig. 14. Evaluation of the overall performance of the computer (SiSoftware Sandra)
Fig. 15. Computer analysis for upgrade (SiSoftware Sandra)
The PC Wizard utility also includes specific functionality for testing hardware (the "Test" tab). With its help, you can visually assess the overall computer performance (Global Performance icon) in comparison with other configurations and, based on the test results, understand which of the subsystems are significantly under-performing to the selected reference sample (from a predefined list) - that is, they need to be updated, and which turn out to be quite on the level (Fig. 16).
Fig. 16. Evaluation of the overall performance of the computer (PC Wizard)There is also a number of synthetic tests in the arsenal of PC Wizard, which allow to evaluate the performance of the processor, L1 / L2 / L3 caches and memory as a whole (throughput, timing estimation), as well as video subsystem, hard disk, optical drive, etc. In particular, The processor provides basic tests for Dhrystone ALU, Whetstone FPU and Whetstone SSE2, allowing to evaluate its performance in integer and floating point operations.
Test results are displayed in text and graphical form, in a number of tests it is possible to compare the obtained results with the results of testing the selected reference subsystem (Fig. 17).
Fig. 17. Processor Testing (PC Wizard)
The HWiNFO32 utility is able to evaluate the performance of the processor (CPU, FPU, MMX), memory and hard disk during express testing (Benchmark button). Test results are presented in two versions - in numerical form and in the form of a comparative chart. The diagram features many standard components, including modern ones, so it is easy to understand how much the installed processor (or other component) in performance is inferior to modern models (Fig. 18).
Fig. 18. Evaluation of processor performance (HWiNFO32)Fresh Diagnose has a toolkit for determining the performance of individual system components. These are seven synthetic test modules in the Benchmarks section. With their help, you can evaluate the performance of the processor (tests Whetstone, Dhrystone and multimedia), memory, video, hard drives, optical drives and network adapter.
The test results are presented in comparison with the basic systems and presented in the form of visual histograms. However, in our opinion, there is not very much benefit from them, since outdated reference systems are chosen for comparison.(Fig. 19).
Fig. 19. Processor Testing (Fresh Diagnose)
Checking the computer for stabilityUnfortunately, not the fact that the updated computer will be stable in operation. Why? There are many reasons - for example, the power supply unit may not cope with the increased load due to the replacement of the processor or video adapter with newer models.
If a similar picture takes place, then the situation should be dealt with as soon as possible - that is, before the appearance of clear signs of instability in the form of a blue screen of "death", etc. This means that you need to know the temperature of the processor, motherboard and other important hardware and understand if any component is overheating under load, and also to evaluate how the computer behaves in general under stress conditions. You can do this by conducting stress testing.
Most stability tests create an intense computational load on various blocks of the CPU, system memory, graphics processor, and system logic — that is, they force the computer to work under stressful conditions. Unfortunately, none of these tests alone does not guarantee 100% stability of the system, however, if the test revealed a failure in the system or was not completed, then this is an obvious signal that you need to pay attention to iron.
The system stability test provided for in AIDA64 (available through the “Tools” menu) is designed to perform stress testing of the processor (testing cores separately), memory, local disks, etc. (Fig. 20). The test results are displayed on two graphs: the temperature of the selected components is fixed at the top, the CPU usage level (CPU Usage) and the CPU Throttling mode are recorded at the bottom.
ModeCPU Throttlingit is activated only in case of processor overheating, and it should be understood that the activation of this mode during testing is an alarm signal, calling to pay attention to the operation of the cooling system. During testing, the heating of the system is monitored by continuously monitoring the temperature.
Fig. 20. Stress testing of the processor (AIDA64)In addition to the temperature, the graphs of which are displayed on the first tab during stress testing, the program provides other useful information on the other tabs - fan speeds, voltages, etc. It should be borne in mind that the system stability test in AIDA64 can last forever, therefore it is stopped manually, making sure that everything is working fine (after 30 minutes), or if suspicious results are detected (for example, if one of the components is overheated).
Using the stability test of SiSoftware Sandra (tab "Tools"), you can also carry out stress testing (Fig. 21). It will allow to orient with respect to the stability of the system and identify its weak points by analyzing the operation of the processor, memory, physical disks and optical drives, power supply efficiency, etc.
Testing lasts for a specified period of time, or without it - in this case, the number of times the selected test modules are run. During testing, the utility monitors the state of the system and terminates the process when errors occur or in the event of overheating (critical temperatures are set by default or manually).
Fig. 21. Stability Test (SiSoftware Sandra)
Fig. 22. Stability Test (PC Wizard)
The capabilities of the PC Wizard utility in terms of stability testing (System Test Stability from the Tools menu) are limited to testing the processor and motherboard. During testing, the processor is maximally loaded and under such conditions it works for a long time, during which measurements of the temperature of the processor and motherboard are made with a certain periodicity, and the results are displayed on the graph (Fig. 22).