Unless something stops working, you probably don’t think to check PC health regularly. However, through a series of simple tests and tools, you can keep an eye on your PC’s health and performance before any major issues arise. This gives you a heads-up that something might be wrong, such as early signs of a hard drive failure or devices not starting up correctly. The earlier you notice issues, the less chance you will have of permanent damage or data loss. Below you’ll find a list of procedures that you can apply on your Windows 10/11 PC to monitor your system health.
1. Use Performance Monitor
“Performance Monitor” is a built-in tool in Windows that let’s you track various elements of your PC, such as networking, RAM, and disk usage. While there are a variety of things you can do with “Performance Monitor,” the two most important elements of checking PC health include the “System Diagnostics” and “System Performance” reports.
These reports give you a detailed analysis of how various components of your system are running. The data isn’t always easy to understand, but you can notice trends and changes when you run the reports on a regular schedule. For most users, once a month is fine.
- Open “Performance Monitor” by opening the Start menu and typing “performance monitor.” Alternately, press Win + R and type
perfmon. Click “OK.”
- Expand “Data Collector Sets,” then “System.”
- Start a report by right-clicking “System Diagnostics” and selecting “Start.” You’ll have to repeat the process for “System Performance” after the first report is run.
- Each report should take around a minute to complete. Once done, expand “Reports,” then “System” to see the latest reports.
- Click any report to see the details.
An additional feature of “Performance Monitor” is the new “Resource Monitor” (available in later versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11). You can use it to see real-time performance for your CPU, memory, disk, and network usage. It’s kind of like Task Manager but with more details.
- While you can access “Resource Monitor” within “Performance Monitor,” you can also open Start, type “resource monitor” and select the result.
- The tool will start monitoring from the moment you start it, which can help you see if specific apps and processes are causing problems and with which components.
2. Get an Overview with PC Health Check App
The PC Health Check app was designed to let Windows 10 users see whether their PC is compatible with the Windows 11 upgrade. The free tool doesn’t give you any in-depth information3 but can provide a few key insights, such as the age of your PC, if the correct amount of memory and disk space are being recognized, and if your start time is slower than you expected, so it’s worth taking it for a spin.
- Download and install the PC Health Check app from Microsoft. If you’re already using Windows 11, you may already have the app. Windows 10 users with the latest updates might also have it. If you’re not sure, open Start and search for “pc health check.”
- Once inside the app, click “Check now” to run a scan of your system.
- Click “Tips on PC health” or expand any section for more details and ways to keep your PC healthier.
3. Run a Sleep Study
When you put your PC to sleep, or in standby mode, what’s really going on behind the scenes? Running a sleep study allows you to see what’s running and using battery or power during sleep mode. This option is only available on PCs that support sleep mode.
Unlike the previous tools, this isn’t a tool with a GUI. Instead, you’ll need to use the command prompt to generate a report.
- Press Win + R and type
- If your user account doesn’t have admin privileges or you get an error message about admin rights, go to Start, search for “command prompt,” and select “Run as administrator” under the Command Prompt result.
- You can store the report wherever you want, but for this example, I’m sending the report to the desktop. This means you’ll need to change the directory in command prompt before running the sleep study command.
- Type the following to switch from Windows to the Users directory. (If “C” isn’t the drive with your Windows installation, change “C” to the correct drive letter.):
- Enter the following to generate the sleep study report. (Replace username with your username.):
powercfg /SleepStudy /output username\Desktop\sleepstudy.html
- Double-click the report on your desktop to view the results. By default, there are three days of results. If you have never unplugged your laptop, you won’t see any battery drain, but you can scroll down to see any energy fluctuations.
- Orange, red, and violet lines are all worth noting, as these mean moderate activity, high activity, and abnormal shutdown, respectively.
- If you want to see more than three days, you can generate a sleep study report for up to a 28-day period. Simply use the following command. (Replace “username” with your username, and replace “daynumber” with the number of days.):
powercfg /SleepStudy /output username\Desktop\sleepstudy.html /Duration daynumber
4. Generate a Network Report
Suspect problems with your network connection? A “Wireless Network Report” is a quick and easy way to check PC health related to your Wi-Fi connection. Just like the sleep study report, you’ll get three days of results. The goal of this test is to see when and why your connection drops in and out. From specific apps or sites to issues with hardware or your ISP, this is one way to troubleshooting wireless connectivity issues.
- Open a Command Prompt window just as we explained above.
- Enter the following at the prompt:
netsh wlan show wlanreport
- Once the report is generated, exit the Command Prompt window and press Win + R.
- Enter the following, press “OK” and the report should open in your browser window:
- As you scroll through the report, you’ll see a wide variety of information. From the results, you can tell exactly when you’ve connected, disconnected, entered low power states, times of limited connectivity, and much more. You’ll see details on network adapters, a full “ipconfig” report, and all wireless sessions for the last three days. One thing I discovered was my laptop didn’t shut down correctly one of those days, so don’t be surprised if you find out issues other than connectivity.
5. Browse Event Viewer
There are many things “Event Viewer” can tell you. It’s a good idea to check weekly or at least every few weeks to keep an eye on your PC’s health. Often, errors occur, and you never even realize it. For instance, the DistributedCOM error often only shows up in “Event Viewer” without any other kind of error message.
- Press Win + X to open the other Start menu. Select “Event Viewer.”
- Expand “Windows Logos.” This is where the most applicable events to check PC health reside. “System” events show all events related to the Windows operating system, including issues that arise with hardware. “Application” events are a great way to monitor errors occurring with various system apps. Selecting any event will give you more details.
It’s important to note that not every error or warning is reason for concern. Something as simple as network conflict for a few seconds can result in an error. Or, a Window service not responding at the exact right moment may throw an error, even though it responds correctly just a second later.
However, numerous errors or seeing the same error or warning repeatedly means it’s worth researching to see what the error code or event ID means. This could be an early sign of something going wrong with your PC’s operating system or hardware. It could also indicate a virus.
6. Check Device Manager
While Device Manager isn’t going to give you too much in-depth data about your PC’s health, it will let you know if a device isn’t being recognized properly by your computer. A less-commonly-known benefit is seeing specific events (like you’d find in “Event Viewer”) for individual hardware items.
- Press Win + X and select “Device Manager.”
- Start by looking for any error icons. If all’s well, you won’t see anything, which is good. However, if you’re worried about any hardware, expand the appropriate item.
- Right-click an item and select “Properties” for more details.
- In the Properties windows that pops up, the “General” tab lets you know if the device is working properly. You can manage drivers on the “Driver” tab. Check whether your firmware is up to date under “Firmware” and various properties of the device with “Details.” Finally, “Events” shows you the latest events related to the device.
7. Check Hard Drive Health
Sadly, hard drives often seem to fail out the blue with zero warning. However, if you know what to look for, you can discover the early signs so that you’re not caught off guard. This gives you time to ensure all files are backed up properly and that you’re ready to move to a new drive when the time comes.
There are a variety of ways to check hard drive health. Keep an eye on your hard drive by using one or more of these six methods to check your hard drive regularly. Windows has built-in tools to do this, or you can use one of the third-party tools mentioned in the linked guide above.
If you ever get a “Windows detected a hard disk problem” error, use these steps to troubleshoot it.
8. Use Windows Security
If you’re just looking for a simple overview of your PC’s health, use Windows Security. Even if you’re using a different antivirus app, Windows Security still gives you insights into how well your PC’s running. Of course, you might already know about the “Device Performance & Health” utility if you use Windows Security as your main line of defense. The only time you can’t use this option is if you’ve completely disabled Windows Security.
- Open Windows Security by going to start and typing “Windows Security” and selecting the result. Alternately, go to “Start -> Settings -> Privacy and Security -> Windows Security -> Open Windows Security.”
- Take a look at the “Security at a Glance” main screen. This gives you a quick overview. Ideally, you’ll see “No action needed” under most items. This means everything is working fine.
- If you see any error messages, select the category to view more details. Otherwise, select “Device performance & health.”
- Expand any sections to view more details if you do see an error icon. You can always check the latest status of your storage, battery life, apps, and Windows time right here.
9. Use Third Party Tools
In addition to these tools and utilities built in to Windows, you can also use third-party tools to check PC health. It’s a good idea to check your current antivirus to see whether there’s a health check tool built in to your antivirus suite. This is usually only with premium versions.
Some third-party tools you may want to consider include:
- IObit Advanced SystemCare – This free tool provides real-time performance monitoring, cleanup tools, troubleshooters, security features, and much more. A premium version is available, but most users will be fine with the free version.
- CCleaner – The free home version gives you a PC Health Check tool, one-click updating for apps, security features, PC optimization, and more.
- HWiNFO – Monitor your system in real time for free. Get detailed reporting, system analysis and in-depth hardware analysis. If you want more technical information on your PC’s health, this is the tool to use.
- Speccy – This tool gives you detailed specifications about what hardware is installed on your PC. You’ll also get temperature details to quickly let you know if something is running harder and hotter than it should be. The free version gives you most of the info you need and is provided by CCleaner. You can also use these tools to monitor CPU temperatures.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I check my PC's health?
Ideally, you should check your PC’s health once a month unless you notice performance issues. You don’t have to run every tool on this list. The quickest options to give you an overview include:
- Event Viewer
- Device Manager
- Windows Security
It’s also a good idea to use at least one tool from the “Hard Drive” section as well. Altogether, it should take less than five minutes once a month to monitor PC health.
Can hardware still fail suddenly?
Yes. No matter how diligent you are at monitoring PC health, sometimes hardware suddenly fails. Between one check and the next, a component may break, wear out, overheat, or any number of other issues. For instance, banging your laptop on your desk by accident could result in your hard drive dying the next day. This is why you should always keep your important files backed up. There is no guarantee that your PC will last for a set amount of time.
Why should I check PC health if everything is working fine?
Think of monitoring your PC the same as doing routine checks on your car. Even if your car isn’t making any strange noises or all the warning lights are off on your dash, you still need to check your oil levels, fluid levels, and tire pressure regularly, as changes could result in damage to your car. Noticing early signs that something’s wrong with your PC can prevent costly damage later on. For instance, if you notice your CPU running hotter than it should be, you can take action now to avoid destroying your CPU and other components. You might not notice any performance issues until the damage is already done.
Is it safe to use third-party tools?
Yes. However, only use reputable tools. Never download any PC performance or health tools from random pop-ups. While a pop-up offer is normal when you’re visiting the tool’s website, you shouldn’t download a tool from random pop-ups on your desktop or sites unrelated to the tool. It’s also a good idea to run an antivirus scan if you’re seeing desktop pop-ups.
Image credit: Unsplash All screenshots by Crystal Crowder
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