The Windows Resource


Determining Your Computer's Hardware

Obviously before you can go and buy a game (or any piece of software), you need to know what games will work, and what won't.  This may seem quite daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it it will become second nature.

There are several ways to find out what hardware is in your machine.  Using the DirectX Diagnostic Tool (follows below), the Device Manager (link) and Help and Support.  The easiest way (for me haha!) is to tell you to look at the documentation that came with your machine.  But well if I did that I wouldn't have anything to do would I?

So let's begin.  For games the most important parts to consider are:

1) The processor (CPU).
2) The amount of memory (RAM).
3) The video/graphics card and it's own memory.
4) The sound card.
5) The amount of free disk space.

Not meeting any of these requirements could mean the game will either run slowly, or not at all.

The simplest way in my opinion to find out the most information quickly is to go to the DirectX Diagnostic Tool, DirectX is a component of Windows that basically simplifies how software accesses the hardware.

1) Click Start.
-2) Click Run.
--3) In the new Run box that appears type dxdiag.
---4) Press OK.

Start Menu / Run

This will open up the DirectX Diagnostic Tool window which is what we're after.


Here we can see two things we're after.  The processor (CPU), in this case an 'AMD Athlon 64 3200+' the amount of memory (RAM) '1024 MB'.

I've also marked down the version of DirectX in the machine as well, it's good practice to make sure you're using the latest version that can be downloaded from most games ship with the minimum version of DirectX they require on the CD/DVD.

If we then click on the Display tab at the top we can move onto the next bits of information we're after.

DXDIAG Display

Here we can see the installed video card 'Radeon 9800 Pro' it's manufacturer 'ATI' and the amount of memory on the card '128 MB'.

We're pretty much done here, so let's click the Sound tab and move onto the next page.


Here we can see a 'SB (SoundBlaster) Audigy' sound card.

OK we're done with the DirectX Diagnostic Tool, we've just got one last thing to find out, the amount of free disk space we've got on the computer. 

To do this click on My Computer (in the Start Menu).  You'll be presented with a window similar to this one below.

1) Right-click on your Hard Disk Drive, usually C: but you may have others too.
-2) Click on Properties.

My Computer

The drive's property box will then pop up.

Disk Properties

There we go, the used space, and free space and the total space, the important part here is the free space, showing '36.5 GB'.  Unlike the rest (well unless you upgrade) the free space will change. A modern game can sometimes take up to 6GB of space, so you'll need to check often if you install a lot of software.

So after all that we've determined the main specifications of the computer which are:

1) AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor (CPU).
2) 1024 MB (1 GB) of memory (RAM).
3) ATI Radeon 9800 Pro with 128 MB of memory.
4) Sound Blaster Audigy sound card.
5) 36.5 GB of free hard disk space.

We're now ready to take these to a shop and compare them with the requirements on games!

The Device Manager

I'll talk about the Device Manager, although it doesn't show things like video RAM like the DirectX Diagnostic Tool, it does pretty much show everything connected to your machine from mice to monitors and their driver versions, and lots of other bits and bobs.

To access the Device Manager (it's also available through System in the Control Panel):

1) Click Start.
-2) Right-click My Computer.
--3) Click Properties.

Start Menu

This will bring up the System Properties window (note the CPU and RAM are displayed here too).

1) Click the Hardware tab.

System Properties

1) Click Device Manager, this will bring up the Device Manager window.
-2) To expand an entry click on the '+' plus next to a hardware type.

Device Manager

With this tool you can determine if hardware is not functioning or failed to initialise correctly (they would be marked with an '!' exclamation mark).  You can also determine driver version and other information by right-clicking and then clicking on Properties on the individual pieces of hardware.

Last updated 19th of April 2005.