Windows diagnostic tool big on info, short on help

Smith Micro's CheckIt Diagnostics gives you an A-to-Z look at your system's components, but not much assistance for the problems the program reports.

PC problems can be real time sinks. That's why people are willing to pay for programs that them help find, fix, and prevent tech glitches. Smith Micro's $49.99 CheckIt Diagnostics claims to help you prevent hardware failures before they happen. The program's hardware tests put your system components through the wringer, but if it finds a problem, the solutions suggested by the utility can be severe.

For instance, when my 8-month-old laptop failed CheckIt's memory and video tests, the advice the program offered in the first case included reinstalling the CPU. For the second failed test, I was instructed to update the machine's video drivers and to avoid using third-party drivers.

I hadn't noticed any problem with the notebook's memory or display, so I thought these might be examples of the failures the utility nips in the bud. What stopped me in my tracks was the memory-failure advice, which entailed disabling external cache and changing a BIOS setting in addition to reinstalling the CPU, memory modules, and cooling fan. These actions seem a little extreme to perform on a relatively new system that hadn't exhibited any symptoms of trouble.

Smith Micro CheckIt Diagnostics test results
Smith Micro's CheckIt Diagnostics may suggest dire solutions to failed tests. Smith Micro

As for updating the video drivers, I'm disinclined to update a driver when the device in question is functioning normally. But at least the test results have made me more diligent in monitoring my PC's health. While CheckIt's test results may be difficult to interpret, the program provides a thorough view of your system components.

CheckIt's System Information screen gives you the lowdown on your memory, processor, BIOS, video, audio, storage devices, network adapters, printers, and software. An uninstaller is provided, but it doesn't offer the features of the free Revo Uninstaller is described in a post from last August .

CheckIt Diagnostics System Information window
The details of your system components are presented in a single, multitabbed CheckIt Diagnostics window. Smith Micro

Other CheckIt tools include a video calibrator, a ping and tracert automator, a benchmarker, and a stress test that combines various component tests. In addition to the memory and video tests, CheckIt tests your processor, audio, modems, graphics, and disks of every sort.

The scope of CheckIt's tools and tests is impressive, but Iolo's System Mechanic—which I reviewed along with Stardock's TweakVista in a post last May—remains my preferred all-in-one Windows utility, despite System Mechanic's annual fee.

Still, if you manage more than a handful PCs, especially machines that are getting long in the tooth, CheckIt Diagnostics can save you plenty of time, and possibly some money by helping you get a jump on component failures. Just be sure to take the program's advice with a grain of salt.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.


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