By Jim Norris
The overclocked CPU? The interleaved banks of exotic RAM? Finding out the limits as you fine-tune a system can be harder than you might expect. HWMonitor (free) can help.
Newer motherboards provide helpful feedback when things go wrong, but gaining access to the diagnostics often requires a reboot into BIOS or some other disk trickery. Stability problems that arise in demanding, high-load situations aren’t likely to reveal themselves during idle diagnostic states. This is where HWMonitor steps in, providing real time, dynamic feedback on the temperature, voltage and operational status of system’s main board and subsystems, such as video cards, fans and batteries.
You can run HWMonitor side by side with a stress-test benchmark (such as Cinebench) or suspect game, watching the temperatures rise until a crash predictably repeats. Is the video card showing a spike before the blue screen? Does your CPU get hot enough to make s’mores? Chances are you just found your problem. HWMonitor also maps out power usage in detail, allowing an easy means to determine whether a particular component is overwhelming the system; for example, a new video card that draws more current at peak load than an old power supply can reliably provide, triggering intermittent reboots.
Has your system suddenly become stealthy when it used to groan and moan? Don’t be happy; be worried. That newfound silence might be an ill omen. HWMonitor helps here by telling you if a crucial fan has gone offline or is running abnormally. Remedying the situation can be as simple as unblocking a vent, reseating a cable, or clearing out a dust-choked grill–a small price to pay given the consequences. The cost of cooked CPUs and replacement motherboards adds up fast.
Handy as it is, there are eccentricities in the code. Some hardware configurations pose problems for HWMonitor. For example, several AMD processors stopped reporting internal temperatures on an ASUS test system when the motherboard core unlocking feature was enabled. This problem disappeared when default CPU settings were used. For the most part however, operation was flawless.
A pro version for IT professionals features remote operation, superior logging capabilities and graphing, but weighs in at a steep €19.95, almost $30 USD at the time of this writing. For most users, the free Basic version has all the information and features they will ever need. Given this goodness, recommendation is an easy call. HWMonitor is a utility that belongs in every computer user’s toolbox.