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June 1, 2020

Toolkit Item: Software Information for Windows (SIW)

Even though it’s not free, I find Gabe Topala’s System Information for Windows (SIW) indispensable. He does make a trial version available: it’s good for 14 days, but cannot be upgraded to a commercial version. That said, it’s safe to think of SIW as a replacement for Windows 10’s own built-in System Information tool (aka msinfo32.exe). This means that SIW does everything that System Information does, plus a whole lot more. If you purchase the SIW Home Edition for US$20 a year, you can run it on up to 3 PCs under that license. I like the program well enough that I purchased a 10-seat license years ago, and renew it yearly without demur. Other versions are available, including a 1-year Technicican’s Version for US$50 (lifetime free updates for same: US$130).

Introducing the SIW GUI

As I update this story (late October 2019), SIW is at version 2019 v.9.4.1001d. SIW runs a variety of standard API calls against Windows, and uses the information it gathers to offer detailed information about system properties and settings. The GUI looks something like the Windows Registry or any of the Group Policy editing tools, divided into 3 major categories: System, Hardware and Network. Here’s what the GUI looks like reduced to its barest expression (I collapsed all 3 of those major headings, so you see only those three named categories).

This is the minimal SIW display, which I show purely to illustrate its major categories. Normally, I use it with all three categories expanded (the usual default).
[Click image for full-sized view.]

SIW: Software Information

To the left, I show only the left-hand pane from this SIW category. If you click an item with a plus sign (+) to its left, it expands further into subcategories. Items without plus signs are essentially “leaves” in the Windows Information tree, and display associated information. Simply click on any item in the left-hand-pane to see corresponding info. If you read the headings showing in the graphic, you’ll see that SIW provides a wealth of Windows and application info. Under Licenses, it shows full or partial keys for installed Windows and Office items. Passwords for all website logins appear, as do those for the OS office, and more.

System Directories shows all default or standard directories/folders under Windows 10’s control. System Files provides ready access to inspect the contents of the various hosts files, networks, protocol definitions, services, and more. Installed Programs lists all desktop applications (e.g. those installed using the Windows Installer or some equivalent tool), while Applications includes built-in Windows applications as well as third-party items. Security shows the security info Windows maintains, including security provider health, firewall information, antivirus info, Windows Defender, antispyware, and audit policy settings. Accessibility brings all access related settings together, and Environment shows what you’d see by running the “SET” command in cmd. exe.

Other notable items under this heading include File Associations, Drivers, Services, Scheduled Tasks, MMC Snap-Ins, Shell Extensions, and Event Viewer. Thus, you really can use SIW as a kind of one-stop console for virtually all OS and software information available from Windows 10. I’ve gotten accustomed to using the tool as a jumping off point for system investigation, documentation, and troubleshooting tasks of all kinds.

SIW: Hardware Information

Hardware information is a particular area where SIW also offers ample insights. This is the part of the program I use most myself. The System Summary heading shows PC info, lists all disk drives, overall RAM info, pagefile data, and more. Additional headings allow drill-down into the specific elements named. Thus, you can get mobo information under the Motherboard heading, including Summary maker data (mfgr, model. version and serial number). The Bridge category covers North Bridge and South Bridge chipsets for Intel mobos, and similar information for AMD mobos (haven’t seen the output for ARM mobos, and have none to check). CPU info includes name, socket type and max CPU clock rate. Memory Summary provides general memory info, and system slots are described by type and number.

BIOS information can be quite helpful, because it includes maker, version, and date information, among other fields. It also shows a detailed list of features supported or not available (Characteristics), and a complete set of ACPI settings and characteristics. The other heading that follow next — CPU and Memory — provides details about the PC’s main processor and module-specific RAM information. I find the Sensors information particularly useful, because it assembles all sensor data for motherboard, CPU, memory, storage media, and GPU in one place, including temps, voltage levels, usage/consumption info, and more.

Network Adapters shows general information for each NIC (or networking device, such as a USB network adapter) present on the PC. My production machine includes two built-in NICs: an Intel I211 and an Intel I219-V, and SIW shows me associated network names, driver provider, version and date, as well as operational status (I only use the I211, so I can easily see it’s connected while the I219-V is disconnected). Video data includes information about my Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU, and both of the monitors I have attached to this PC, including resolution and attachment info, and more.

The remaining information under this heading is more or less self-explanatory, though I encourage readers to play around with each of the other subheadings to see what they can learn about their systems.

SIW: Network Information

SIW is likewise incredibly informative about network information, under which heading Groups and Users information also appears. Under the general Network Information heading, you’ll find network name and type, WinSock info, NIC info, and a list of all currently-installed protocols. Extended Network Information uses the well-known IP2Location service to identify your PC’s location as others would see it online, and provides additional IPv4 and IPv6 data about each NIC on your computer. Network Statistics include data about TCP and TCPv6, UDP and UDPv6, and IP and IPv6 activity, errors, and more. Network Connections shows links for mapped rives, SMB connections (if any, this protocols is turned off by default in Windows 10), and RAS Connections (Remote Access Server or VPN).

Windows Firewall shows current firewall settings, including for networked domains (Domain Profile), plus private (Private Profile) and public (Public Profile) networks. It also shows all currently defined firewall settings, including all current rules (a whopping 770 are defined on my production PC, to my surprise). Shares lists and describes all shares defined, including hidden, default, and explicitly defined network shares. Active Directory provides access to current AD settings and info, and Groups and Users offers access to groups and user account information, both local/workgroup and domain-based. And finally, Open Ports lists all TCP and UDP ports currently open on the target PC in ascending port address order (TCP and UDP ports are numbered 0 through 65,535).

Concluding Exhortation

If you want to work with dozens of different built-in and third party tools (like those from Nir Sofer’s NirLauncher or KLS Software’s Windows System Control Center (WSCC), there’s no reason to spend US$20 on SIW Home, or more on Technician versions. Why then, do I recommend this tool (and use it myself almost daily)? Because it is incredibly convenient and brings most of what I need for Win10 system admin under a single application. You may not be ready to plunk down your hard-earned cash for this tool. But before you decide not to buy into its capabilities, do please download the trial version and take it for a spin. You may decide it’s worth buying, after all!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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