Do you use any PC Diagnostics software?

Hi everyone,
I’d like to request some advice. At our Fixing Factory Brent we prepare for reuse laptops which would otherwise be recycled as e-waste. One of the volunteers suggested that we could improve the workflow by using a software to diagnose all potential faults in a PC. Pc Check Windows was suggested as an option - this is a commercial piece of software, although is apparently available at a discounted rate for charities.

Does anyone have experience with this or other similar tools? Would you recommend them?

And…is there any free and open source alternative that you would recommend instead?

I’d be interested in opinions from community repair volunteers, as well as professional repairers (such as @Lee_Grant!)

Thanks! :slight_smile:

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Worked in IT for decades. The only diagnostic tool I (did) regularly use is memtest86 for checking if a PC or laptop had a faulty memory module.

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Personally i’d look for testing code that runs on bare metal, (probably booting from usb, itself a basic functional check) i.e. not requiring a working operating system. To get a gui running needs a lot more functional cpu, ram, disk, etc.

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Hi @ugo

As it happens, I do use PC Check Windows in the shop. Like any tool, it’s not bullet proof and it won’t find every fault, but it’s very good and I think it’s worth the team looking at it.

It’s extremely customisable, so the operator can select which tests to run. This can speed up diagnosis when, for example, a new drive (of unknown origin) is installed and a quick peace-of-mind test on a single component is useful. Where I find it most useful is the ‘run and leave’ test, so I load it up, let it rip and then get on with another machine. I don’t need to babysit the unit. It’s also possible to create custom scripts to run a bespoke set of tests.

I use the Eurosoft bootable USBs to run the tests, which means that the software runs from a Windows PE environment (not the hard-drive on the machine (if there is one)). This allows me to test machines where an operating system hasn’t been installed, which can be useful in finding show-stopper problems before someone spends hours trying to load Windows onto a faulty machine. Eurosoft will supply software which will create the bootable USBs.

A nice feature is the report generator, where a customised PDF or printout can be created and given to the customer - a bit like the MOT sheet given out by garages.

The software itself is a little ‘clunky’ in places and software updates have historically been a manual process (rather than ‘press a button to update’ that we’re all used to). This year, they have released an update tool to address this :grinning:, but I tried it on one of my installations and it broke :face_exhaling: - still work to be done here. Their documentation leaves a little to be desired too - it’s all there, but it could be a little more user friendly.

It is also possible to use hardware plugs - like USB loopbacks to test ports and Eurosoft can supply these.

I’ve found the support via email really good. The team know exactly what they’re doing and will work hard to get the product working for you.

I can’t think of an open-source or free alternative to this suite. There are plenty of freebies like memtest86 (as @Adam mentioned - which is great software) which are strong, but swapping between the freebies can slow the diagnostic process as the techs switch software. PC Check also allows for unlimited cycles of tests, which means you can run a whole bunch of tests multiple times to really stress the system (I once encounterted RAM which took around 96 hours to fail - but it was faulty). Freebie tools tend to limit the amount of cycles.

I hope some of that helps. If you, the team or anyone else has questions about the software, I’ll do my very best to answer them for you.

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Hi @Lee_Grant , thanks so much for this - so helpful! And good to know it could also be used for assessing laptops not running Windows

It sounds like it could be useful in the context of a Fixing Factory, where we don’t know what’s wrong with a laptop (compared to a Restart Party, where you would be discussing a problem with the owner of the device)

We’ll investigate the cost of a charitable license…

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Hi @Lee_Grant ,

One more question: which version would you recommend? I imagine the “Pc-Check UEFI & Pc-Check”, or is there any advantage in also having the Windows version

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Use System Mechanic which is downloadable for free!
Also use the built in windows trouble-shooters (in the control panel) for other things such as memory, ports etc.
Most utilities to do this a available for free.

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Excellent question.

As far as I understand it, the UEFI version will only work with UEFI booting devices - it doesn’t like older machines which are setup for CSM\Legacy boot. All new machines boot with UEFI now, but some older machines could be setup with a CSM\Legacy configuration.

This isn’t a show stopper, but the tech would need to enter the BIOS and tweak a few settings to enable UEFI boot.

The PC Check for Windows supports both UEFI and CSM boot.

The two products also use different interfaces and my personal preference is the non-UEFI version. I used the first generation of the UEFI tool and didn’t think it was as good - however, that was some time ago, so it may have improved.

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I don’t know if this is any use or not, as I am much more familiar with Macs than PCs! But I have often used DriveDX to test the health/lifespan of a drive, and coconutbattery to test battery health/cycles.

Another tool which I always worthwhile, although not strictly for diagnosing faults, is Grand Perspective. That can be really helpful for showing exactly where space is being eaten up on the drive, and can sometimes help solve small issues.

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I’m also a happy user of both CoconutBattery (https://www.coconut-flavour.com/coconutbattery/ - commercial) and (http://grandperspectiv.sourceforge.net - free & open source).

Note that if you just want to check the battery stats on a Mac without the convenience of CoconutBattery or any other additional software, go to System Information (Option + the Apple icon, top left of the screen) and then in the Hardware section, click on Power.

Another option for some battery information is the excellent Stats (https://github.com/exelban/stats - free & oen source) which provides lots of useful information. My favourites of its many options are CPU, Network, Battery and more recently Sensors for CPU temperature.

DriveDx can be tried before being purchased (I’m still in the trial period). If you’re considering it, check out the FAQ (https://binaryfruit.com/drivedx/kb) as macOS imposes some limitations which may affect your use case.

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