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.
To start off with people will want to know What version of Windows are you running?, such as Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 10. If you then answer Windows 10 the next question will be What edition of Windows 10 are you running? Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education. The reason for asking specific questions is because some editions of Windows 10 are supplied with more software, more features and/or are more powerful, than other editions.
Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Enterprise both have software to backup your personal files and system files for example but Windows 10 Enterprise can also backup your home or business network whereas Windows 10 Home can not. Also, Remote Desktop functionality is not available in Windows 10 Home. Therefore, if a technical department knows what edition of Windows 10 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 10 you are running, from the desktop, right click on the THIS PC desktop icon and then left click on the PROPERTIES menu-item (Fig 1.0 below) to open the SYSTEM control panel window (Fig 1.1). It shows details about computer.
Fig 1.0 - Click on the PROPERTIES menu-item to continue
Fig 1.1 - This laptop is running Windows 10 Home
If the THIS PC desktop icon is not visible on the desktop screen you can put it there (make it visible) by using the search facility of the SETTINGS control panel. Begin by clicking on the START Menu button and then click on the SETTINGS menu-item. Doing so will open the SETTINGS control panel window (Fig 1.3) whereby you then need to start typing the words SHOW DESKTOP ICONS.
Fig 1.2 - Click on the START Menu button and then on the SETTINGS menu-item to continue
As you begin typing the edit box will automatically become active with the letter S and so on already inside it, so there is no need to click inside the edit box first. Once the words SHOW DESKTOP ICONS have been entered into the edit box click on the button/link called SHOW OR HIDE COMMON ICONS ON THE DESKTOP (below) to open the DESKTOP ICON SETTINGS control panel window (Fig 1.4).
Fig 1.3 - Type SHOW DESKTOP ICONS inside the SEARCH edit box and then click on the button/link called SHOW OR HIDE COMMON ICONS ON THE DESKTOP
Fig 1.4 - Make sure the COMPUTER check (tick) box is ticked (set/switched on) and then click on the OK button to continue
When the DESKTOP ICON SETTINGS control panel window appears (above) make sure the COMPUTER check (tick) box is ticked (set/switched on), and ideally make sure all of the check (tick) boxes are ticked, before clicking on the OK button to continue. Doing so will make the COMPUTER (THIS PC) desktop icon visible on the desktop screen.
The SYSTEM Control Panel not only shows you which edition of Windows 10 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 10 and the 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 10 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.
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 4 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 (CPU) Type and more importantly the Processor Speed, listed in the SYSTEM Control Panel as Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU N2830 @2.16Ghz 2.16Ghz respectively in this example, are an indicator of how fast your computer can execute (run) instructions. Basically, how fast hardware/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.
To view the size of the computer's Hard Drive begin by double clicking on the THIS PC desktop icon, to bring up the THIS PC window (Fig 1.6), and then right click on the hard drive icon (or hard drive partition icon) that is storing Windows 10 on it. This is normally the Local Disk (C:) icon (called OS 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 Windows 10 is installed on the Local Disk (C:) hard drive partition called OS - or OS (C:) for short.
Fig 1.5 - Double click on the THIS PC desktop icon to open the THIS PC window
Right clicking on the hard drive icon (or hard drive partition icon) that is storing Windows 10 on it will bring up a context menu (options menu) whereby you then need to select (left click on) its PROPERTIES menu-item in order to bring up the Properties window. The Properties window reveals the overall GigaBytes capacity, free space vs used space and so on of the selected hard drive or hard drive partition (Figures 1.7 and 1.8 below).
Fig 1.6 - THIS PC window - Right click on the Windows 10 hard drive icon and then select the PROPERTIES menu-item
In this example the Local Disk (C:) hard drive partition - OS (C:) - that is storing Windows 10 on it has a total storage capacity of 186 GigaBytes, with 44.8 GB of that storage space already used up by Windows 10 files, my personal files and third-party software files. The remaining 141 GB of free space is available for use by Windows 10, third-party software and my personal files.
Fig 1.7 - The OS (C:) hard drive partition has a storage capacity of 186 GB (44.8 GB of used space / 141 GB of free space)
IF I follow the same procedure as above for the Data (D:) hard drive partition I can see that it has a total storage capacity of 263 GigaBytes, with almost all of its 263 GB of storage space available for use (free to use). The 253 MB of used space is allocated for the hard drive partition's (Windows 10's) own use (i.e. for indexing purposes).
Fig 1.8 - The Data (D:) hard drive partition has a total storage capacity of 263 GB
Knowing your hard drive's (or hard drive partitions') storage capacity can also be helpful to a technician. Installing too much software on a computer, which ultimately has to be stored on the hard drive (or hard drive partition), can make the computer's performance slow simply because an anti-virus program for example has more and more files to check and Windows 10 has more files to index and search for. On top of this, you might have two versions of Windows installed; such as Windows 7 on OS (C:) and Wndows 10 on Data (D:). All this information can help a technician diagnose problems better.
As an example: With hard drive partitions you can sometimes put them together to create one big hard drive partition, and therefore one hard drive. So in the above example I could combine Data (D:) with OS (C:) to give me one hard drive (one hard drive partition) with a total capacity of 449 GB, but this depends on whether or not the other partition is being used for Windows 10 recovery (i.e. reinstallation) purposes. In this example there is no hard drive with a total combination of partitions that equal 449 GB, therefore my hard drive must have a capacity of at least 500 GB. So where is the other 50 GB or so? Answer. Being used as hidden partitions for Windows 10 recovery purposes. I know this by using the DISK MANAGEMENT program (for Advanced Users only).
Fig 1.8 - The DISK MANAGEMENT program tells me about hidden hard drive partitions, which are being used for Windows 10 recovery purposes.
You can ignore the above technical details to some degree, but at the same time you must realise that a technical department might ask Do you have a Recovery Drive (hard drive partition) on your computer (hard drive) or do you have a Recovery Disk/DVD?. If your computer was originally sold with a Recovery Disk/DVD you will probably not have a Recovery Drive (recovery hard drive partition). In today's age (2015) computers are usually sold with a Recovery Drive, stored on one or more hidden hard drive partitions; like in Fig 1.8 above.
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, Memory 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 THIS PC window.
Fig 1.9 - So many devices with letters but not all easily recognizable
In Fig 1.9 above most of the devices are clearly recognizable by their letter and/or name whereas the Data (D:) and Recovery (F:) devices are not so recognisable. For example: OS (C:) must have the Windows 10 operating system stored on it because of the Windows logo next to it and DVD RW Drive (E:) must be the DVD Player/Recorder because it has an image of a DVD Disc above it. Likewise, SDHC (G:) must be a SD Memory Card, as found in a digital camera, because of the letters SD above it and the image of a memory chip as its icon. Data (D:) and Recovery (F:) though could be anything.
The generic icons associated with Data (D:) and Recovery (F:) are normally used to denote either an Internal Hard Drive (or hard drive partition) or a USB Drive (i.e. Flash Memory Stick). Either way, it is difficult to know what they are storing without opening (double clicking on) them first to view their contents. For example: What is the data contents stored on Data (D:)? Does the word Recovery means the contents stored on Recovery (F:) is for fixing/recovering something or was it just the name given to that device? The easiest answer is to find out by double clicking on its icon to see what happens.
In the above example I purposely renamed my Flash Memory Drive - Recovery (F:) - to show you how a flash memory drive can be renamed to something with an important name such as Recovery whereby months/years later you forget it was just a storage device and now think it is something to do with recovering/fixing something. When you have a Removable USB Drive scenario like this 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.
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 1.11 below). To use System Information begin by right clicking on the START Menu button and then select (left click on) the RUN menu-item.
Fig 1.10 - Right click on the START Menu button and then select (left click on) the RUN menu-item
When the RUN window appears type msinfo32 into its OPEN edit box and then click on the OK button to continue. Doing so will open the System Information window (Fig 1.12) whereby you can then view more basic and technical information about your computer.
Fig 1.11 - Type msinfo32 into the OPEN edit box and then click on the OK button
With the System Information window open (below) you can use its 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.
Fig 1.12 - Type a hardware/software word into the FIND WHAT edit box to find, more, information about that hardware/software
Remember: Even if a technical department gives you free advice they might still need some computer specifications from you.