For an exhaustive inventory of system configuration details, Windows offers three tools that provide varying levels of technical information:
Systeminfo.exe is a command-line utility that displays information about your Windows version, BIOS, processor, memory, network configuration, and a few more esoteric items. It provides an easy way to gather information on all your network computers in a single database.
To run Systeminfo, open a Command Prompt window, type systeminfo, and press Enter. In addition to the list format shown in the figure, Systeminfo offers two formats that are useful if you want to work with the information in another program: Table (fixed-width columns) and CSV (comma-separated values). To use one of these formats, append the /FO switch to the command, along with the Table or Csv parameter. You’ll also need to redirect the output to a file. For example, to store comma-delimited information in a file named Info.csv, enter the following command:
systeminfo /fo csv > info.csv
The /S switch allows you to get system information about another computer on your network. (If your user name and password don’t match that of an account on the target computer, you’ll also need to use the /U and /P switches to provide the user name and password of an authorized account.) When you’ve gathered information about all the computers on your network, you can import the file you created into a spreadsheet or database program for tracking and analysis. The following command appends information about a computer named Badlands to the original file you created:
systeminfo /s badlands /fo csv >> info.csv
Windows Management Instrumentation Command-Line Utility
This tool is better known by the name of its executable,
Wmic.exe, which is located in the
Windows\System32\Wbem folder. Wmic provides an overwhelming amount of information about hardware, system configuration details, and user accounts. It can be used in either of two ways. Enter wmic from a command prompt and the utility runs in console mode, allowing you to enter commands and view output interactively. If you add global switches or aliases, which constrain the type of output you’re looking for, you can see the output in a Command Prompt window or redirect it to a file. For example, the command
wmic qfe list brief /format:htable > %temp%\hotfix.html produces a neatly formatted HTML file; open that file in Internet Explorer to see a list of all installed updates on the current system. To see the full syntax for Wmic, open a Command Prompt window and type
System Information—often referred to by its executable name, Msinfo32.exe—is a techie’s paradise. It provides all manner of information about your system’s hardware and software in a no-frills window that includes search capabilities. It lets you search for specific information, save information, view information about other computers, and even view a list of changes to your system.
You navigate through System Information much as you would through Windows Explorer or an MMC console: click a category in the left pane to view its contents in the right pane. To search for specific information, use the Find What box at the bottom of the System Information window. (If the Find bar is not visible, choose Edit, Hide Find.) The Find feature is basic but effective. Here are a couple of things you should know:
Whenever you type in the Find What box to start a new search, Find begins its search at the top of the search range (the entire namespace unless you select Search Selected Category Only)—not at the current highlight.
Selecting Search Category Names Only causes the Find feature to look only in the left pane. When this check box is cleared, all text in both panes is searched.