Upgrading And Repairing PCs 21st Edition: PC Diagnostics

Commercial Diagnostics Software And Free/User Supported Diagnostics

Commercial Diagnostics Software

A large number of commercial third-party diagnostics programs are available for PC systems. These commercial programs are used by technicians to perform testing of new systems (often called burn-in testing) or testing of existing systems either in the shop or in the field.

Here are some of the programs available:

Unfortunately, these programs can be expensive, and they are often designed more for the professional technician rather than home or small business users. For most users, open-source or otherwise free diagnostics provide excellent results.

Free/User Supported Diagnostics

Numerous free or user supported diagnostic programs are available, covering everything from processors to memory, disk drives, and virtually all other components in a PC. Over the years, several people have collected and organized this software, creating comprehensive collections of tools that could be used to troubleshoot systems. The best of these collections are the Ultimate Boot CD and the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows.

These bootable CD collections of useful utilities include diagnostics, testing, troubleshooting, and benchmarking software that is ideal for testing both new and old systems. A key feature of these discs is that they are bootable, meaning you can test a system completely independently of the existing operating system and drivers. This allows you to more accurately and efficiently troubleshoot actual hardware problems.

When building a new system, it is desirable to test the system to see if it is working properly. The term burn-in testing is often used to describe running stress tests or diagnostics on a new piece of equipment to screen for failures. The idea is to flush out early failures, so burn-in tests are usually designed to be as stressful as possible. This usually means running tests that are as hard as possible on the equipment, including running them under maximum temperatures and loads. Two of the programs I recommend for burn-in testing are GIMPS and OCCT.

When you are running GIMPs (also known as Prime95), under the Options menu select Torture Test. This causes the program to fully load all the processors and processor cores in the system for maximum stress testing. While doing this, I also like to run the free SpeedFan or HWMonitor program to monitor the temperatures of the processor and other components in the system. Stress testing like this is a good way to ensure that everything is working properly in both new and old systems.

Upgrading and Repairing PCs: 21st Edtion