Whether you want to check how powerful your current computer is or whether you want to learn the details of a certain component in order to upgrade it, you will need to know how to find and understand the details of your system.
There are many ways to learn what kind of computer you have. You can find out the specs using built-in Windows utilities such as Task Manager and third party utilities like CPU-Z.
However, it is one thing to simply know the specs you have and a completely different thing to understand what the specs MEAN. If you particularly want to understand how powerful your PC is, or what kind of component you can upgrade, you will need to learn WHAT the specs mean.
In the following text I will talk about simple methods to check what kind of PC you have and about the details of each component.
Checking What Kind of Computer Do I Have?
While there are countless ways to check the specs of your PC, I will cover two very easy methods below:
- Using the Task Manager
- Using CPU-Z
1. Using Task Manager to Check The Specs
Task Manager is perhaps the easiest utility you can use to get a very clear picture of what kind of computer you have.
You can access Task Manager by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL keys or by right clicking on the Task Bar and selecting Task Manager from the Menu:
Once the Task Manager opens, head over to the “Performance” Tab above.
In the Performance tab, you will see a separate button for each of the core components you have in your PC.
Selecting the different buttons for each component on the Left-Hand side can give an in-depth look into the selected components. Let us discuss each:
CPU is perhaps the main component that defines the overall performance of your PC and also has a direct relationship with what kind of components the PC can be occupied with.
There are two popular CPU brands namely Intel and AMD. The PC above has an Intel 11th Core i7-11800H CPU.
CPUs series follow a certain hierarchy such as that:
- Intel Pentium / AMD Athlon are the WEAKEST
- Intel Core i3 / AMD Ryzen 3
- Intel Core i5 / AMD Ryzen 5
- Intel Core i7 / AMD Ryzen 7
- Intel Core i9 / AMD Ryzen 9 are the STRONGEST
Now each series of CPUs is further defined by their generation. Each newer CPU generation is about 20-25% more powerful than the previous generation (if you take the flagship or top of the line CPU into consideration).
You can generally tell what CPU you have by looking at the numbers and prefix in the model number so in Intel Core i7-11800H, the first two letters define the generation, the number 800 is the SKU number and the final Prefix H means it a high performance CPU for LAPTOPs.
The following is the Intel’s list of prefixes and what they entail:
Another important spec you can learn is the amount of cores and threads (logical processors) your CPU has.
My CPU above has 8 cores and 16 threads. The number of cores is an important metric for learning how well your PC can handle multi-tasking. Higher number of cores generally means a better processor.
And finally, Task Manager not only shows the rated BASE clock speed of the CPU (2.30 GHz per core), but also its current utilization in the shape of a neat graph.
RAM / Memory Specs
Moving on to the RAM, the Task Manager is a bit lacking when it comes to memory specs since it DOES NOT tell you what RAM type you have.
While it does tell you its specs and the capacity, it does NOT tell you whether it belongs to DDR1, DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, or DDR5.
While adept users can tell from the speed of the RAM stick that the RAM installed is MOST likely DDR4, but that is NOT a definitive answer since even DDR3 RAM can be clocked at 3200MHz.
And when upgrading YOU HAVE to make sure that you get the right type since DDR sticks are NOT backward or forward compatible. Meaning you cannot plug a DDR3 RAM into a DDR4 motherboard or vice versa.
To find the definitive answer with regard to the RAM type, I recommend using CPU-Z (more on this below).
Moving on to storage. Task Manager can show you the details regarding each of the installed hard drives in your PC.
I have two hard drives installed. The following shows the details of one of the hard drives:
The limitation here is that it DOES NOT tell me the generation of the NVMe SSD installed. If you want to find out what generation the SSD belongs to i.e Gen3, Gen4, I recommend searching the disk up online.
I can see that the PC above has the Western Digital WDC WDS100T2B0C hard drive. Searching this up online would tell me that this is a Gen3 SSD with 1 TB capacity.
Finally, you can learn about the details of the Graphics Card from their respective buttons.
If your computer has an integrated AND a dedicated graphics card, you will see two different buttons belonging to each:
The PC above has:
- Intel UHD Integrated graphics
- NVIDIA RTX 3070 dedicated graphics card
The integrated graphics card is far weaker as compared to the dedicated graphics card. The integrated graphics card powers the basic tasks. The dedicated graphics card kicks in when graphic intensive and heavier tasks are performed such as gaming or editing.
This helps in conserving battery on laptop. Integrated GPU uses less power as compared to the dedicated GPU.
You do need to have a dedicated graphics card in your PC. An integrated graphics is more than sufficient for average systems.
2. Using CPU-Z to Find Out What PC You Have
While the Task Manager is an excellent built-in utility, it is a bit limited in what details it can provide.
The Task Manager does miss out some of the more important specs including:
- Motherboard Make and Model
- CPU Socket
- PCIe Generation
- RAM Type and Its Channel
CPU-Z is a free third party utility that can be used to find out comprehensive information regarding the specs in your system. This is pretty much an industry standard from finding your PC’s specs.
After downloading and running it, you will see several tabs for different components:
From the CPU tab you can find out not just the model number, core count and the frequency, but also the socket type and the TDP of the CPU:
The package field tells you the socket number. This CPU has the Socket 1787 and of FCBGA type.
The socket is a VERY important parameter PARTICULALR if you want to upgrade your CPU. While laptop CPUs cannot be upgraded, desktops CPU can and for that you need to know the socket type.
The socket basically identifies how many pins the CPU has (1787 in this case) and whether it will physically plug into your motherboard.
If you wish to upgrade your CPU, its socket type HAS to match with the one already installed on your PC. Otherwise you will need to change the entire motherboard.
For instance, CPU with LGA1200 socket type will NOT be compatible with LGA1700 motherboards and vice versa.
The TDP is an important parameter, particularly for PC builders, as it defines the cooling solution the CPU requires.
The motherboard TAB in CPU-Z shows a plethora of important details such as the make and model (MSI-1581 in this case) as well as the bus interface version.
This motherboard is based on the PCIe V 4.0 interface. The version of the PCIe interface identifies what generation of components the PC can handle i.e whether it can handle Gen 4 SSDs or not.
This tab also shows you the chipset model (HM570 in this case). Which can further be used to learn about the PCIe Lane details and what kind of sub-components this chipset can feature such as the WiFi Version, the number of USB ports and their version.
And finally, it shows you the BIOS version. BIOS version is very important particularly for overclockers and for those who wish to roll back their BIOS to the vanilla version at any time.
The RAM details in CPU-Z succeeds where the Task Manager failed.
In addition to the size, CPU-Z tells you the RAM type i.e DDR4 which is an important bit of information should you wish to upgrade or buy a new RAM stick.
It also tells you whether the RAM sticks are working in dual or single channel.
Single works in single channel mode. However, if you have two RAM sticks, it is important that they work in dual channel mode to get the best out of your system.
Essentially, using a combination of Task Manager and CPU-Z, you can easily find out exactly what PC you have.
But of course, to exactly figure out what kind of computer you have in terms of overall performance you will need to have some essential knowledge regarding where each of the components stands. You can use benchmarks for these such as PassMark, Cinebench, Geekbench etc.