HD Tune review

The Windows default system information tool isn’t the most informative of creations, but there’s a host of third-party tools to help you investigate your system.

Hot CPU Tester Pro represents a small investment when you consider the consequences of CPU, chipset and motherboard errors, especially on modified or home-built systems. It acts as an excellent burn-in test utility for just this scenario. The ability to compare CPU speed under full and idle load is handy to help gauge performance, and the built-in anti-crash and exception handlers let you run all tests with confidence.

Having confidence in your hard disk is the primary aim of the free HD Tune. We’re sceptical about the claims of similar tools to predict when your disk is going to die. HD Tune makes no such claims: it simply measures performance, scans for surface errors, monitors the temperature and accesses SMART (if supported) to keep you informed. Returning detailed information about each partition on the disk, it isn’t for the novice, and we’d like to see more detailed analysis of the testing results together with a more useful Help file. But if you know what you’re looking for, HD Tune will let you find it.

The most useful system diagnostic tools tend to be those that apply themselves system-wide, and HWiNFO32 is the best of the budget offerings. Low cost doesn’t mean corners have been cut, however, as HWiNFO32 has a flexible module-based interface that displays comprehensive information in an easy-to-digest manner. It’s been around for so long there’s even a standalone DOS version available – still supported and updated. HWiNFO incorporates both CPU and HD monitoring with a whole lot more. From synthetic benchmarks through to comprehensive system health checking, you can export the resulting reports in text, CSV and XML formats. The developers will even provide a custom-made library suitable for integrating HWiNFO32 into your own application. But it isn’t as comprehensive as either of our final two products.

Lavalys Consulting acquired the previously free AIDA32. It then scrapped the program, turning it into the commercial Everest Ultimate Edition. It’s a sad loss, but with accurate low-level motherboard information, CPU instruction set support, SMART HD monitoring and information on everything from network adapters to USB devices, Everest is an impressive application. Software information is just as comprehensive, and the OS security detail – including Data Execution Prevention status and anti-virus database detail – is impressive. System stability testing through an intuitive visual interface and the compact CPUID panel incorporating CPU/motherboard/RAM and chipset information are equally useful. You can also access sensor information for CPU and GPU temperatures, along with fan status and CPU/GPU/RAM voltages.

But the System Analyser Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant, Sandra for short, manages to go the extra mile. As one of the first applications to adopt an integrated suite approach to benchmarking and diagnostics, its commercial success has enabled it to constantly evolve. The current version’s interface is much improved, and platform support is also superb, including x86, x64, Windows and Windows CE ARM platforms. We like the new HTML Help file, which is comprehensive and accessible, and the fact that when you run the analysis tool it will offer advice to solve potential performance problems. Moreover, there’s support for multiple sources of information gathering, such as remote computers, PDAs, smartphones, ADO/ODBC databases or saved system reports. Reporting is excellent, and you can save/print/fax/email/post/upload or insert into ADO/ODBC databases reports in text, HTML, XML, SMS/DMI or RPT format. Sandra manages to go just that little bit further than the competition and, as such, garners our recommendation.

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