There are many great computer diagnostics tool suites on the market, but most of them are not free, or have some limitations in the freeware version. The TMGS (TestMyGeekStuff) staff compiled a list of their favourite free computer diagnostics utilities and packaged them in a USB flash drive format for use on any system.
What You Need
- A Windows based PC with a USB port to create the bootable USB flash drive
- A USB flash drive, 128 MB or larger
Download TMGS Computer Diagnostics from the author’s website or from the following link:
- Unzip the archive.
- Open the USB Image Tool as administrator and select the USB flash drive you want to use. This will erase everything on your USB flash drive!
- Click the Restore icon.
- Select the image file (.img) included in the TMGS Computer Diagnostics archive.
- Say yes to the question about restoring the image to your USB flash drive. After a minute or so, you should have a bootable USB flash drive with the TMGS Computer Diagnostics on it.
- Plug the USB flash drive into any system you wish to analyze and boot from it.
After you boot the USB flash drive, you should be presented with a menu similar to the one shown. This is the main menu for TMGS Computer Diagnostics and every time the USB flash drive is booted this will be your starting point.
The system information is provided by ASTRA version for DOS and will display a system summary of all the hardware in your system. This is a great place to start when diagnosing what's wrong with your PC. Scroll through the system summary screen and make sure all the system components are there that you would expect. After that, take a look at the processor section and select the CPU. This will provide some details about your clock speed and what features the CPU supports. After that, take a look at PCI/AGP devices. This will force ASTRA to interrogate all of the hardware in your system and compile a more detailed summary. Make sure all of the devices are present that you would expect to be (especially any plug-in cards). Next look at the storage selection and select your storage device. This will list the detailed information of the storage device, along with the current health status, which it reads from the S.M.A.R.T attributes. You can read these attributes directly as well in the storage section. Lastly, take a look at the monitor and video sections and make sure your video card and monitor information is displayed correctly. Much of the rest of the information is read from the SMBIOS table, which is a table in memory set up by your system BIOS. This table is typically static (the same every boot no matter what), so it tends to be not as accurate in diagnosing problems.
Note: USB based devices will likely be missing from this summary.
The memory test section is powered by Memtest86+. Memtest86+ will size up your total system memory, and then start a memory test by writing and reading specific data patterns that are known to cause issues on broken hardware. Make sure to let all of the memory tests run, as we have found that test #7 and test #8 catch most of the errors. This can take a while, an hour or two if you have a lot of memory.
Hard Disk Test
The hard disk test is powered by Drive Fitness Test by IBM/Hitachi. This utility was written for Hitachi drives, but seems to work great on every drive we have tested. Drive Fitness Test will auto-detect your hard disk drives, then ask which one you wish to test. After you select the drive, we recommend you start with the quick test first. This will analyze the interface, read the S.M.A.R.T. data, and do a quick media scan. If this finishes successfully but you think you still have a hard drive issue, run the advanced test. The advanced test will also analyze the interface and read the S.M.A.R.T. data, but will then do a complete media scan. This can take quite a while if you have a large hard disk.
Optical Drive Test
The optical drive test is powered by HDAT2. HDAT2 will auto-detect the drives in your system and give you an option of which one to test. After you select the optical drive, proceed to the drive tests menu. This will run through some quick tests to make sure your optical drive is accessible, and require you to insert media if you don't have any loaded. From here you can do things like read bad sectors or do a seek test, but these tests are partially disabled in this version of HDAT2.
The display test is powered by a tool called Video Test Bench. This tool has many options to display video test patterns on your video card and monitor. As a first pass, we recommend choosing VGA Test Loop from the VGA Utilities Menu. This will loop through several different video test patterns so be on the lookout for any sort of visual defect.
The keyboard test is powered by a tool called Enhanced Keyboard Checking Program. This tool lets you type any key on your keyboard, and displays the associated keypress on the screen. Make sure and test out all of the keys, plus the modifiers (CTRL, ALT, SHIFT) and the lock keys (SCROLL, NUM, CAPS).
The mouse test is powered by a tool called Software Mouse Test. Move the mouse around on the screen and follow the instructions for the different click zones to test out your mouse, pointing stick, or touchpad.
The modem test is powered by a utility called the Modem Doctor. The Modem Doctor attempts to auto-detect any non-USB modem you have installed, but if it can't you may have to manually tell it which COM port to use. After identified, this tool will run a quick set of diagnostics on your modem and provide back a report.
The performance test is powered by a tool called Speedsys. Speedsys will analyze your system, run some CPU and memory benchmarks on it, and then display the results in a graph form. Next it will run some hard disk benchmarks on the drive you select; hard drive 0 is the USB flash drive and hard drive 1 is usually your hard disk drive. The results will be shown in graph form, items like read speed, verify speed, and access time. The performance test section is a good way to test the stability of your system by stressing it with CPU and disk operations.