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10 great tools to test your PC

Brilliant free and low-cost online apps

Use these super testing tools to test and track practically everything about your PC - including its hard drive, internet connection and inside-the-case hardware.

If you've heard an unusual sound coming from your PC recently, or its running slower than usual - its worth taking a deeper look and seeing if there are any underlying problems.

The web offers a number of diagnostic tools that will let you track every aspect of your PC to see if there's anything a miss. We've rounded up the 10 best tools, and guess what - most of them are free too.

Hard drive health

Hard drives are about as stable as the stock market. The more you know about your drive - the brand-specific idiosyncrasies and the diagnostic sounds that drives produce - the better prepared you are for the inevitable crash. Here are a couple of helpful services and programs.

Hard Drive Inspector

This utility is always on guard, monitoring all your drives for spin rate, seek time, and almost 20 other potential problem spots. Hard Drive Inspector gives you technical data, including the drive model, firmware version, and serial number, all things you'll need to know when calling for warranty support.

It displays the hard drive's temperature in the system tray. If the drive gets too toasty, the program can send you an email alert or, better yet, automatically put the computer in Standby mode.

You can view a summary health report, which typically has enough information for most users; while the S.M.A.R.T. report has the details. The program costs $30, but you can download a 15-day trial version of Hard Drive Inspector to get a feel for the tool.

DataCent's Hard Drive Sounds
You shouldn't hear more than a low hum from your hard drive. But drives don't know the rules, and they often make weird sounds, emitting thuds, screeches, knocks, or whining. Determining whether one of the sounds means trouble can be, well, troublesome.

The data-recovery company DataCent has an extraordinarily helpful site that plays the actual sounds of bad or unstable drive heads, stuck spindles, wobbly bearings, and media with bad spots, to name a few. You can hear your specific drive brand.

The company also offers another valuable tool that lists typical hard-drive failures by manufacturer.

NEXT PAGE: Broadband speed tests

  1. Most of these online apps are free too
  2. Broadband speed tests
  3. Inside your PC

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