Windows XP / Beginners

Using System Information

System Information is a Windows XP tool that can give you a lot information about your system's configuration and the software installed. First introduced in Windows 98, System Information is a powerful tool that includes some additional tools that can fix problems on your system. You can open System Information by clicking Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools, or you can more simply type MSINFO32 in the Run line. Either way, System Information, which is actually a part of the Help and Support Center, opens.

If you take a look at the left pane, you see a list of information categories. If you click the plus sign (+) next to each category, you can select specific topics for which you want to gather information. You cannot use System Information to actually configure or "do" anything, unless you use its troubleshooting tools. Instead, System Information is designed to give you information that can help you troubleshoot a problem. On a more practical note, System Information is very useful for telephoning support personnel who you may need to call in the event of a problem you can't solve. Of course, it is always best if you can solve your own PC problems, so the next several sections tell you all about the information you can gain in each major category.

System Summary

When you first open System Information, the default view is the System Summary. This view just gives you an overview of your computer. You see everything from the operating system to the total amount of RAM installed on your computer. This page is excellent to access if you want a quick report about the basics found on your computer. You can easily print this page as well.

Hardware Resources

The Hardware Resources category of System Information gives you a complete look at the hardware on your computer. This section is an excellent way to see exactly what is installed, what's working and what's not, and whether there are any conflicts.

Should there be any conflicts, you'll see warning messages in yellow and conflict or error messages in red. This helps you quickly identify problems if they exist. By expanding Hardware Resources in the left pane, you see the following categories that you can select and view:

  • Conflicts/Sharing This option tells whether there are any hardware conflicts between devices. In some cases, hardware devices share certain computer resources, and this section tells you about those as well.
  • DMA (Direct Memory Access) This option tells you what devices have direct access to memory resources.
  • Forced Hardware If you have problems installing a device and it has been "forced" onto your system using manual settings, the device will be listed here.
  • I/O (Input/Output System) This category reports information about input/output operations. Technical support personnel may find this information useful.
  • IRQs (Interrupt Request Lines) Each device uses an IRQ to access your computer's processor. This category tells you which device is using which IRQ.
  • Memory This category provides a list of memory resource assignment per device.


The Components category provides a list of components installed and used on your system. Some of the component options listed here have additional pop-out menus as well. As a reminder, System Information will display problems in yellow and red lettering so you can easily identify them.

You gain information about the following:

  • Multimedia This category gives you information about your audio and video configuration.
  • CD-ROM Information is listed here about your CD-ROM drive.
  • Sound Device This category lists information about your sound card.
  • Display Information about your display appears here.
  • Infrared If you are using any infrared devices, they are listed here.
  • Input Get information about your keyboard, mouse, or other pointing device here.
  • Modem Modem information is listed here
  • Network This category provides information about network adapters, protocols, and WinSock.
  • Ports Get information about ports on your computer, such as serial and parallel ports.
  • Storage This category lists information about the drives on your computer.
  • Printing Find out about print and print drivers here.
  • Problem Devices If any devices are not working correctly, they are listed here. This category is very useful for quickly finding troublesome devices.
  • USB (Universal Serial Bus) USB configuration and devices are listed here.
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