4 hidden system tools in Windows that you probably didn’t know

Windows has a myriad of esoteric utilities and tools that used to be the pride and glory of basement dwelling, retainer wearing, eye-glass bearing geeks.  But the old is gone and today, average users are savvy and are learning the value of knowing the in’s and out’s of their systems.

A few weeks ago, I unveiled five Windows 7 tricks most people aren’t aware of and now I want to augment that list with a few more that I think are imperative.

Windows has a prodigious list of commands but only a few are ever used and even fewer have any value.  I’ve swashed through the command sludge for you and extracted five gems that I’ll share below.  The good thing is that once you become conversant with these tools you’ll have less reason to download third-party software and you’ll have more ammunition to impress your friends.

Let’s go!

1. Memory Diagnostic Tool

If your computer is beset with more problems than Lamar Odom right now then you should probably check out the Memory Diagnostic Tool.

You know the feeling: your computer randomly reboots, freezes, and barfs up blue screens of death (BSOD) errors like it’s suffering in anguish.  All these problems could be endemic of a hardware problem, but how do you know for sure?

The Memory Diagnostic Tool, also known as mdsched.exe, does a comprehensive test of your RAM checking it for errors along the way.  It does this by taking multiple passes of your memory to ensure sure it’s running well.

To launch the tool click Start and enter this command:

memory diag

Windows 8.1 Memory Diagnostic Tool

Now you have two options.

If you’re not in a hurry choose Check for problems the next time I start my computer; however, if you need results sooner choose Restart now and check for problems.

In either case, when the computer reboots, it loads a blue screen of… …  hope.

That’s right, although the diag screen bears an uncanny resemblance to the Blue Screen of Death, this screen is just the opposite and is actually an omen of something good.

Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool in Action

One thing to keep in mind is that the diag test isn’t quick.  It took my computer 10 minutes to complete and yours may take longer depending on how much RAM you have and any hardware errors you have.

2. Disk Cleanup

Disk Cleanup can give your PC a new life.

Okay, I’m being dramatic but that doesn’t nullify the benefits of running Disk Cleanup.

Also known as cleanmgr.exe, Disk Cleanup is a computer maintenance program that frees up disk space on your hard drive.

To start annihilating unwanted files click Start and enter this:

disk clean

Disk Cleanup Calculating Space

Disk Cleanup gets right to work calculating an estimate of the space you’ll gain.

After a minute or so you’ll see a list of everything Disk Cleanup can fry.

Disk Cleanup Cleanup List

The cleanup list includes options to purge:

  • Recycling Bin
  • Temporary Internet Files
  • Temporary Windows Files
  • Unused Applications
  • Optional Windows Components
  • Compressed old files
  • Setup logs
  • Offline files

Superfluous software get’s dumped with Disk Cleanup.

Disk Cleanup working hard cleaning your hard drive

3. System Information

When you need to get all the details about your computer, you need to run System Information.  You’ll find juicy facts on your hardware like your processor, disk space, system memory, USB information, print jobs and well… I could go on and on but it’s better to see if for yourself.

Click Start and enter this command:

msinfo32

Windows 8.1 System Information

If you need to send your system information to a friend you can click File and choose Export to save it all as a text file.

Or even better, go to SupportDetails.com and export your system facts as either a CSV or PDF.  You can email the report to a technician by entering his or her name in the green email bar at the top of the homepage.

Supportdetails.com

4. msconfig

Ahh, what would tech support do without msconfig?  Msconfig is the sine quo non for startup problems.  Start here when you system is slow to boot and you think a program or service is crippling your computer.

To enter msconfig land, click Start and type in:

msconfig

Windows 8.1 MSconfig

As you can see, I have selective startup with load system services and load startup items checked.  If I were troubleshooting a system that took a long time to boot, I would uncheck these two options or I would click the Startup tab to manually start eliminating extraneous programs from starting up.

If you click the Tools tab you’ll see a veritable cornucopia of system tools ready to leap into action at your command.

You’ll find everything from launching System properties to System Restore – from loading the Registry Editor to opening your Internet Options.

It’s all there in one place.

Windows 8.1 Msconfig Tools

I would encourage you to spend a few minutes here so you can review your abounding options.

The Bottom Line

I often find the first thing we do when we need new software is google it so we can install software solutions.  But, Windows innately has four top notch tools baked right into the operating system.

The Memory Diagnostic Tool, Disk Cleanup, System Information and MSconfig utilities are a quartet that will make your computer sing.  Give it a chance you you’ll be pleased with both the performance of your computer and your ability to fix things using your newly discovered tools.

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Posted in How To, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 Tagged with:
  • curiousLee

    Thank you, @vonnie. The msinfo32 is an amazing tool for documenting system settings but I’d never heard about it. Very nice article!