Diagnose Your PC With CPU-Z

If knowledge is power, then CPU-Z from CPUID will make you feel like a superhero. This handy little tool was featured in the MakeTechEasier 101 best free computer software downloads list. CPU-Z is a Windows only tool that gathers information on some of the main hardware components of your computer.

The information that it collects is quite detailed and is focused around you CPU, mainboard, memory and general system info about Windows and DirectX.

Throughout the rest of the post, I’m going to walk you through getting CPU-Z and harnessing it’s awesome power on your own PC.

To get started, head on over to the CPU-Z home page and download the latest version of the software (at the time this article was written, the current version was 1.50). The package comes as a zip file, so you’ll need to unzip it.  In situations like this, I tend to just create a folder on my desktop and extract the files from the zip archive into that folder.

This program doesn’t have a fancy installer because it doesn’t install itself into your system.  You simply extract the zip contents to a folder and run it from there.  When you don’t want CPU-Z any more, you just delete the folder.

Once you have the folder set up and you are ready to go, start CPU-Z by double-clicking on the cpuz.exe file.

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You should see the following image on your screen while the program is loading.

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Once loaded, the information is readily accessible in and easy to navigate format.  The window is laid out as a series of tabs that sort information into logical categories.  The tabs are labelled CPU, Cache, Mainboard, Memory, SPD, and About.  This can be seen in the image below.

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Selecting each tab will open up a world of information, including some things that you never even wanted to know.  Try not to be overwhelmed by the data and focus in on what you want to see.

For example, on the CPU tab the average user will be interested in the Name of the CPU, Specification,  Instructions, Core Speed, Bus Speed, and Level 2 Cache size. Power users will likely be interested in the rest of the information for various purposes.

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The Cache tab elaborates on the cache information from the CPU tab. I’ve never had a lot of use for this data, but it’s here and you never know when it might come in handy.

On the Mainboard tab, you will find a lot of information that is useful when upgrading or replacing components.  This covers things like the motherboard manufacturer, chipset, BIOS, and graphics interface.  From the screenshot below, we can see that I am using an nForce4 based motherboard that supports x16 PCI-Express.

What that means is that my video card is PCI-E based and not AGP. This is important to know if I was upgrading the video card.  Unfortunately for this example, CPU-Z was unable to detect my motherboard manufacturer.  This a rare occurrence and I have only ever seen the problem with this particular board.

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The Memory tab is also very useful because most people that upgrade their computers add more memory. In the image above, you can see that I have 2 GB of memory in this system (2048 MB). The memory is DDR (as opposed to DDR2 or DDR3), and that it is running in dual channel mode. Most of the other info on this tab is for advanced users. I find it particularly helpful when overclocking.

To complete a memory upgrade, you would probably need a little bit more information. The SPD tab has the rest of it. This tab shows information about the memory stick in each specific slot on the motherboard. You can see the size of the chip, they type of RAM, and the frequency that it’s operating at. There’s also a timing table to show details based on the configuration.

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Last, but not least, is the About tab. This tab gives details about the software and also some details about your system.  For example you can see the Windows version, Service Pack installed and DirectX version. From this tab you can also dump the data into an HTML file.

This application should be in everyone’s PC toolbox.  The data it provides is invaluable and the ease of use makes CPU-Z simple for anyone to operate.

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