PC Diagnostics

BY: mpilchfamily

In this article we will be discussing the various tools associated with PC Monitoring and Diagnostics. It’s important to know how to check up on your system in order to find any possible problem areas before they become major issues. We will be covering these items:

  • Temperature and voltage monitoring
  • HDD Monitoring (S.M.A.R.T Technology)
  • Basic Diagnostics

Temperature and Voltage Monitoring:


Most motherboard today comes with a software package that includes some sort of monitoring software. This software generally will give you a basic readout of various system temps and may even show voltage reading from the PSU. One think you need to understand about these monitoring applications is they all get there information from the same place the Bios does. There is a single chip on the motherboard that’s soul purpose is to monitor and report voltage and temperature readings. Now this chip isn’t 100% accurate. It has a margin of error do to resistance in the motherboard’s traces. This margin of error varies form motherboard to motherboard. Most motherboard is able to display the temps and voltages in the Bios. Though some boards will only tell you that the voltages are OK or not and not some you the actual voltage.

There are several third party monitoring applications available. Speedfan is one of the more popular choices. Many of these 3rd party apps have some nice extra features. For example Speedfan will give you one of your temperature or voltage readings on your system bar in windows. It also provides fan speed control if your motherboard supports it. Another feature I like is that it gives you the ability to see your HDD temps. More of that will be cover in a latter section. Each application also has its own margin of error. So you may see slightly different reading between your motherboard’s software and the 3rd parts software. But these applications are great for pointing out major problems like overheating and large power flux, making them good diagnostic tools.

High temperatures and power flux are signs of possible issues. High temperatures can damage system parts while power flux could be an indication that the PSU is failing. Do not be alarmed when you see a voltage of +11.6v on the +12v reading. This is fine there is a +/- 5v margin here. More of this will be covered in the final section.

HDD Monitoring (S.M.A.R.T Technology):



S.M.A.R.T. stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology. S.M.A.R.T. technology was developed by a number of major hard disk drive manufacturers in a concerted effort to increase the reliability of drives. It is a technology that enables the PC to predict the future failure of hard disk drives. S.M.A.R.T. technology has become an industry standard for hard drive manufacturers.

Through the S.M.A.R.T. system, modern hard disk drives incorporate a suite of advanced diagnostics that monitor the internal operations of a drive and provide an early warning for many types of potential problems. When a potential problem is detected, the drive can be repaired or replaced before any data is lost or damaged.

The S.M.A.R.T. system monitors the drive for anything that might seem out of the ordinary, documents it, and analyzes the data. If it sees something that indicates a problem, it is capable of notifying the user (or system administrator). S.M.A.R.T. monitors disk performance, faulty sectors, recalibration, CRC errors, drive spin-up time, drive heads, distance between the heads and the disk platters, drive temperature, and characteristics of the media, motor and servomechanisms. The errors the system can detect can be predicted by a number of methods. Currently the SMART system can detect about 70% of all hard drive errors.

Applications such as Speedfan are able to access the S.M.A.R.T system and give you the diagnostics information such as drive health and drive temperature.

Basic Diagnostics:


Now that we have covered how to monitor the system for problems lets look at some of the basic tricks to diagnose system problems. I invite all who are reading to please contribute any tricks they have learned for troubleshooting there system.

Diagnosing RAM:
There is one key program I use to check that my RAM is running problem free. I use Memtest86+. This Program is placed on a bootable disk and runs borage of test at the RAM. This test can take a bit of time to complete but if any errors show up that indicates there is a problem with your RAM. Chances are you will also see this problem in the form of restarts and BSOD.

PSU Diagnostics:
For diagnosing a PSU problem refer to the Power Supply section.
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