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by JB Burke

Q. What's a convenient way to document my system – hardware, software, network, etc.? We have three computers plus printers on our home network, and it would be a big job to pour through all that and write it down manually.

A. Here is a very good way to document your system – for free, of course. Belarc Advisor Computer Profile is a free program that analyzes just about everything about your system and prepares a report in html format (as a web page) and open in your browser. Like any web page you can save this or print it. When you reopen it, it pops up within your default browser. The report it provides you is very thorough. It starts with a computer profile summary, which includes the operating system, processor, system model, main circuit board, memory modules, hard drives and local drive volumes (partitions), user accounts, display, printers, communications, and USB storage usage in the past 30 days. It's an amazingly complete in-depth analysis of every part of your system.

This is followed by a network map, and a report of any missing security updates. Next is a list of software licenses, which could be a real time saver if your system should crash, and you need to reinstall your important programs.

After that comes a list of essentially every program installed on your system, with version numbers and indicators of when you last used the program. If you mouse over the "i" symbol before each entry, you'll see when it was last run and other useful information. This could be used to get rid of software you'd installed, perhaps used once or twice and then forgotten about. Finally, at the bottom, is a link to a list of all the hot fixes (Microsoft updates for Windows, Office and other Microsoft components) that are installed on your system.

In order to use Belarc Advisor to document your system, run it and save the output to a USB flash drive, and put it somewhere safe. Then if you ever need it, you'll have handy, easily accessible documentation of your entire system.

Published: Courier 8/10/14 - Page 3D