To troubleshoot PC performance issues, it helps to audit the system’s components, both hardware and software elements. This can often reveal a shortcoming or potential issue.

If more drastic action is required, such as a new computer, having a complete record of all software installed (including the product keys required) will be useful to whoever is tasked with restoring the system. You can think of an audit as a “backup of the setup” as it explains exactly how the system is put together and gives all the vital information about the various components.

Belarc Advisor is a utility designed for creating system audits, which is free for personal or home use. It’s been around for many years and is updated to support even the latest Windows systems, while still supporting legacy systems as far back as Windows XP.

Install: Download Belarc Advisor from www.belarc.com - click the “Free Download” option at the top of the page. Run the downloaded “advisorinstaller.exe” file to install the software. If prompted with “Would you like to check for new Advisor security definitions?” click “Yes”. The tool doesn’t change anything to do with your system set up but needs elevated permissions to scan your computer in depth, so you may also be prompted with “Do you want to allow this program to make changes to your computer?” which you can safely answer “Yes”. Finally, the Belarc tool spends some time scanning your local network, checking all the connected devices. This is optional and can be skipped mid-way if not required. Once all these steps are completed, the extensive audit results open as a detailed report in your default web browser.

Share: For ease of use in future, or for sharing the audit results with someone else, first save the Belarc Audit report to your computer - you can always re-run Belarc Advisor again if you need to, but saving the report is a good idea anyway, in case your system crashes at any time in the future. You can save the audit reports in various ways, depending on which web browser you are using. If it’s Internet Explorer, choose File - Save As, then choose “Save as type: Web Archive, single file (*.mht)”. This ensures the report can be opened on another PC and saves it as a convenient single file. In any browser, you can also print the report.

If you’re using Google’s Chrome browser, you can conveniently save the file as a PDF - simply right-click anywhere within the audit results, and choose “Print”. In the Print window that appears, next to “Destination”, choose “Save as PDF” instead of your usual printer.

Status: In the first section labelled “System Security Status”, Belarc provides a “Security Benchmark Score” for systems running Windows 7 or earlier. Windows 10 installs updates automatically, so this item doesn’t apply for Windows 10 devices. More important, though, for all versions of Windows is the Security Updates section, which alerts you to any missing updates. Regular software updates are essential to secure systems against hackers or malware and to fix bugs in software, so follow the advice and links provided if your report indicates some are missing.

Results: Analyse the results for common indicators of performance-related problems. Start by finding out how much memory your PC has. This information is listed under “Memory Modules”. Note the total for “Usable installed memory”. Below this line, see if you have any empty slots remaining - these are used to add more memory. If you have no empty slots, you will have to remove one or more of the existing memory modules and replace them with higher capacity modules - a common scenario with laptops.

I’ll have more advice on whether your system needs more memory, and other performance-affecting components in next week’s Switched On. See you then.