These days we all worry about security, and with good reason.Viruses and malware abound on the internet. Phishing scams capture well-meaning users. Today’s internet user can’t make a move without wondering what the consequences are. Fortunately there is software to help out — Windows 8 comes with Windows Defender built right into the operating system and programs like Malware Bytes offer added protection.
However, if you want a complete audit of your system from hardware to software to security then Belarc Advisor may be your new best friend. It provides both information about your system, as well as security data.
The program self-describes itself as “a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, network inventory, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, security benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser. All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server.”
Belarc Advisor works with, according to the maker, “Windows 8, 2012, 7, 2008 R2, Vista, 2008, 2003, XP, 2000, NT 4, Me, 98, and 95″. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows are supported.
Belarc Advisor is a free program for home use. “The license associated with this product allows for free personal use only. Use on multiple PCs in a corporate, educational, military or government installation is prohibited.”
Once installed (the file size is only 3,433 KB) and run the app pops up all of its detailed information using your default web browser. It can work with Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and more.
What Information will you get?
This is what you get Belarc Advisor for. It provides endless detailed information about pretty much anything you could possibly want to know about your computer, network, security and more. You must run the app as an administrator — the simplest way is to right-click on it and choose the “Run as Administrator” option. The app will first prompt you check for the latest security definitions, which I would advise doing.
Taking it from the top, we begin with a ton of geeky system information. All of the data appears in two columns, each prefaced with a header. The first up is Operating System — this includes version, language and installation date. To the right of this you will find information on your system model, such as manufacturer and serial number.
Moving down the list, we find information about the processor such as gigahertz, memory cache size and number of cores. Under Drives you will find capacity, available space and manufacturer, as well as information on your optical drive as well.
There is information on the circuit board and memory modules, including serial numbers for each. There is information about each installed printer, including virtual ones such as those created by OneNote and PDF programs.
There are headings for Display, Network Drives, Multimedia, Local Drive Volumes, Controllers, Bus Adapters, Hosted Virtual Machines, Communications and much more.
However, the data many users come to this product for are specifics on Windows and users and that is where the app really shines. It can provide data that not even Windows itself seems capable of telling you — at least not in any coherent and easy manner.
This is key information for many people. The Users section lists the names of each user on the PC and what he or she’s privileges are — for instance if they are an administrator. You can mouse-over each name to get additional information such as logons and SID (System Identification Number).
This is somewhat the same information that your router should be able to tell you, but it provides a bit of additional detail, plus saves you a trip to 192.168.0.1 (or wherever your router resides).
This shows all devices currently connected to your network and lists device type, device details, device roles and, most importantly the IP address of each and every one. This is critical, not only to trouble-shooting problems, but also to detect intrusion from a nosy neighbor — a reason to use encryption, if you didn’t already have enough reasons.
Next up is a list of security vulnerabilities. These are not just for Microsoft or Windows either. The list also takes into account third-party software like the often vulnerable Java and Adobe. For Microsoft, this list includes the Hotfix ID number, which is easily spotted, as it always begins with KB (Knowledge Base). It will also list the severity of each — critical, important, etc. In addition, there is a link to each so that you can read up on the vulnerability and also grab the update.
This is another great feature. If you purchased a computer with Windows installed then you can likely find the key, which is frequently on a small sticker on the back. If you upgraded with a purchased DVD, then the disc case should show you the key. However, with Windows 8, Microsoft has tried to move away from physical media in favor of downloads. If you weren’t careful to write down or print that key, or misplaced it, there is no solution provided by Microsoft to find it. However, Belarc Advisor can find it and show it you under the “Software Licenses” section.
Software Versions and Usage
As the name implies, this last section shows you the name and version number of each and every software program that is installed on your computer. In addition, it also shows usage. Mouse over each program to see when it was last used, if it is currently running and if it is scheduled to launch upon Startup.
Belarc Advisor is free for home users and it is a great tool for geeks and power users, but perhaps unnecessary for the average consumer. It is not available for business, however Belarc does provides similar software that can be licensed for that use.
The program provides invaluable information for those of us who like to really get into what is going on with our systems. If you need to know the details of what is going on then this is perhaps the app for you.