VIEW  COMMON  COMPUTER  SPECIFICATIONS

Knowing your computer specifications is becoming more important these days simply because you are asked for/about them more often. If you ring up a Technical (Computer Engineer) Department for broadband help for example you might be asked "What version of Windows are you running?" and when you buy a commercial piece of software, from the internet or from a shop, its Minimum Requirements (Specifications) should be displayed so that you know if your computer meets those minimum requirements. In this section I will show you different ways of viewing common computer specifications so that you can easily find the common specification you want without being overwhelmed by too much information.

WINDOWS  VERSION  &  EDITION

To start off with people will want to know What version of Windows are you running?, such as Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7. If you then answer Windows 7 the next question will be What edition of Windows 7 are you running? Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate. The reason for asking specific questions is because some editions of Windows 7 are supplied with more software, and/or are more powerful, than other editions.


Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Ultimate both have software to backup your personal files and system files for example but Windows 7 Ultimate can also backup your home or business network, whereas Windows 7 Home Premium cannot. Also. Language Switching functionality is not available in Windows 7 Home Premium. Therefore, if a technical department knows what edition of Windows 7 you have, when calling them about damaged files for example, they can guide you better with system restore/file restoration advice.

To find out what edition of Windows 7 you are running, from the desktop, right click on the COMPUTER desktop icon and then left click on the PROPERTIES menu-item (Fig 1.0 below). If the COMPUTER icon is not on the desktop you can put it there by using the START Menu COMPUTER link and also access PROPERTIES through that COMPUTER link as well (Fig 1.1). Either way will bring up the SYSTEM Control Panel (Fig 1.2) - So you could use the Control Panel as well to get to SYSTEM.

 
Fig 1.0  Click on PROPERTIES to continue
 
Fig 1.1  Click on the SHOW ON DESKTOP menu-item to put the COMPUTER icon on the desktop

 
Fig 1.2  My laptop is running Windows 7, Home Premium with no Service Pack

SERVICE  PACK

The SYSTEM Control Panel not only shows you which edition of Windows 7 you are running but it also shows you which Service Pack, if any, you have installed. A Service Pack is a collection of previous Windows Updates, Security Updates and Bug Fixes (corrected mistakes) that help protect Windows 7 and your computer as a whole.

You might be asked What Service Pack do you have installed? for two main reasons. 1) Because a technical department might want to know how secure you keep Windows 7 and 2) Because they might be able to diagnose your problem more accurately. For example. With no service pack installed they might say "You need to download Service Pack 1" or "OK, do this and that and it will work", but with service pack 1 installed they might say "This is a known Microsoft problem.....you will have to wait until Microsoft fix it or wait for service pack 2" or they might say "That's a known service pack 1 problem.....go here and download this FixIt update" and so on.

MEMORY

The amount of Memory (RAM) inside your computer is also shown by the SYSTEM Control Panel. In this example it is showing me that my laptop has 3 GigaBytes of Memory installed. The reason why you might be asked How much Memory do you have installed? is when you are telling a technical department that your computer is slow and always crashes/freezing for example. These symptoms can be because your computer does not have enough memory inside it. If you buy a commercial piece of software, from the internet or from a shop, it should state its Minimum Memory Requirements.

THE  PROCESSOR  SPEED

The Processor (CPU) Type and more importantly the Processor Speed, listed in the SYSTEM Control Panel as Genuine Intel(R) CPU T1400 @1.73Ghz 1.73Ghz respectively in this example, are an indicator of how fast your computer can execute (run) instructions. Basically, how fast software can operate. Although the processor type and speed are not normally asked for by a technical department they should be listed with commercial software as part of its Minimum Requirements.

HARD  DRIVE  SIZE

To view the size of the computer's Hard Drive double click on the COMPUTER icon, to bring up the Computer window, and then select (left click on) the hard drive (or hard drive partition) that is storing Windows 7 on it. This is normally the Local Disk (C:) icon (called SYSTEM in this example) but could also be the Local Disk (D:) icon (called DATA in this example) - This depends on whether or not your hard drive has been split up (partitioned) into two pieces or not. If it has you can class each hard drive partition as a separate hard drive, just to make things simpler.

In this example I have Windows Vista on the Local Disk (C:) hard drive partition and Windows 7 on the Local Disk (D:) hard drive partition. Clicking on either hard drive partition icon will display that particular hard drive partition's size in GigaBytes. So in this example my Local Disk (D:) hard drive partition has a total size of 70.9 GigaBytes with 41.9 GigaBytes of that free/unused. And my Local Disk (C:) hard drive partition has a total size of 69.3 GigaBytes with 31.7 GigaBytes of that free/unused. So combining the two totals gives me the size of my hard drive, as one piece, which is 140.2 GigaBytes. Therefore, I can relay this back to a Technician that my hard drive is split into two partitions. One with Windows Vista on it and one with Windows 7 on it. And then I would go on to mention the total sizes. In truth though all computers use some of the hard drive space for themselves (i.e. for indexing purposes), so in reality my hard drive is classed as a 160 GigaBytes hard drive when sold in the shop (even though the system (the computer) has used up almost 20 GigaBytes for itself).



Fig 1.3  Double click on the COMPUTER icon to continue




Fig 1.4  The Computer window - Click on the Windows 7 hard drive/partition icon to display that hard drive's (or partition's) Total Size.

As well as Total Size the amount of Free Space is also shown, as just mentioned above. However. The amount of Used Space is not shown. Rather than calculate this yourself, by minusing Free Space from Total Space, it is better to open the hard drive's (or hard drive's partition) Properties window. This is done by right clicking over the Local Disk (C:) icon, or Local Disk (D:) icon, and then left clicking on the PROPERTIES menu-item.



Fig 1.5  Right click over the Local Disk (C:) icon, or Local Disk (D:) icon, and then left click on the PROPERTIES menu-item to continue.




Fig 1.6  The true sizes of a hard drive (or hard drive partition)

With some hard drives being split up into two partitions, in order to store the computer's/manufacturer's Recovery Drive or another operating system such as Windows 7, a technical department might ask Do you have a Recovery Drive on your hard drive? or a CD Recovery Disk?. If you have a CD Recovery Disk you will probably not have a Local Disk (D:) partition - Your hard drive should be in one piece only, as Local Disk (C:) with Windows 7 installed on it.

STORAGE  DRIVES

When you call a technical department or buy some commercial software it is always best to know your computer specifications beforehand. That way you will not waste valuable time and money saying Hold on! I will just find out for you, especially if it is a helpline you are calling at 50p a minute for example. So be prepared. Plug in your USB devices (i.e. WebCam, Digital Camera, Flash Drive and so on) and then make a general list of them, noting any letter/name that has been assigned to a device by looking in the Computer window.



Fig 1.7  So many devices with letters but not all easily recognizable

In Fig 1.7 above most of the devices are clearly recognizable by their letter and/or name whereas the Removable Disk (G:) devices is not so recognizable. For example. Local Disk (C:), Local Disk (D:), Floppy Disk Drive (A:), DVD RW Drive (D:) and Canon PowerShot A510 are easily recognizable as Hard Drive Partitions, a Floppy Disk Drive, a DVD Drive and a Digital Camera respectively but the Removable Disk (G:) drive could be anything. It could be a Flash Drive or Memory Card Slot on a Card Reader for example. You wouldn't know until you double clicked on it.

In this example Removable Disk (G:), which is a default name given to flash drives and memory card slots in general, is indeed a Memory Card Slot and more precisely a memory card slot with a 1 GigaByte memory card inside it. Ideally, when you have a Removable Disk scenario, you should if possible rename the device to something more meaningful (i.e. Holiday Photos for the memory card). That way each device becomes more recognisable to you of course. It is not good having to find out which drive is which when you are talking to a technical department; it is better to know beforehand which drive is which by double clicking on each one in turn and making notes.

EXTRA  INFORMATION

In some rare cases a technical department might ask you for more technical information, about your computer's BIOS Date or Hardware Conflicts for example, in which case you would use a program called System Information (Fig 1.9 below) that is located on the ACCESSORIES menu.

Click on the START Menu button and then on ALL PROGRAMS. From there, click on the ACCESSORIES folder and then on the SYSTEM TOOLS folder before clicking on the System Information program.



Fig 1.8  Click on the System Information program (START > ALL PROGRAMS > ACCESSORIES > SYSTEM TOOLS) to execute it




Fig 1.9  Type a hardware/software word into the FIND WHAT Edit Box to find, more, information about that hardware/software

You can use the FIND WHAT edit box (at the bottom of the window) to find, more, information about a piece of hardware or software. Or you could simply expand one of the main headings (i.e. Hardware Resources), by clicking on the + sign next to it, to find more information.

Remember. Even if a technical department gives you free advice they might still need some computer specifications from you.