Kiwi System Info reveals much, but not enough, about your PC

If you regularly troubleshoot other people’s PCs then you’ll know that the process usually starts by collecting system information. Which graphics card does it have, for instance? How many network interfaces, which USB controller, what user accounts are there? And whatever it might be.

You may be able to collect some of this data by browsing the target PC, but life will probably be a lot easier if you have a system information program to collect and present everything in a single place. And few tools provide quite as much data as the free Kiwi System Info.

The program certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to tell you very much. It’s a tiny 195KB download, for instance, and unzips to a single executable. This looks like the kind of tool that will tell you your Windows version, total RAM, free hard drive space, and that’s about it.

But the reality is quite different. Kiwi System Info organizes its data into 7 key areas: “Hardware Info”, “Data Storage”, “Memory”, “System Info”, “Network”, “User & Security” and “Developer”, and each of these in turn has multiple categories to choose from. So “Hardware Info” includes “BIOS”, “Printer” and “Processor”, for instance; “Data Storage” has “DiskDrive”, “DiskPartition” and “LogicalDisk”; and “System Information” gives us “Account”, “Process”, “Service” and so on. Just select a category and you’ll see a report covering that particular area.

While this sounds great, there is a catch here. Kiwi System Info works by using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to discover and display the information available on the current PC. This is very easy to do, which is why the program can be so small, but the problem is that most WMI data is highly technical, poorly presented, or both. Which doesn’t make for great reports.

When you’re browsing categories, for instance, options like CIMLogicalDeviceCIMDataFile, HeatPipe and PerfRawData_W3SVC_WebService probably aren’t going to mean much to the average user (or even many experts).

And worse still, when you do select a more basic category you’ll often find that its data isn’t presented particularly helpfully. When we clicked “DiskDrive” on our test system, for instance, it listed our drives with their physical IDs rather than drive letters (so \\.\PHYSICALDRIVE1 rather than D:), reported our drive D: capacity as “1000202273280″, and didn’t list the drive space used at all.

This isn’t necessarily a fatal problem, though. Look past the occasionally dubious presentation and there’s still lots of useful information here. So if you choose “Service”, say, you’ll see all your installed services, their full names, descriptions, short names, the service executable file, its current process ID, whether it can be paused, whether it can interact with the desktop, and more (all of which can be exported as a TXT file with a click). If you’re an experienced PC user, and willing to spend time discovering which areas of the program are helpful, and which really aren’t, then Kiwi System Info could prove very helpful.

For simpler and more general troubleshooting, though, you’ll need a regular system information tool, as well -- Piriform’s Speccy, for instance, delivers a great amount of detail but in a much more readable way.

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