Belarc Advisor ™
close look at Belarc Advisor
I have used Belarc Advisor for years and I'm sure others will find it useful too. Belarc audits your local computer and identifies the components that are sat inside the PC. A lot of people don't even know what is on their computers and on top of that they don't know what the specs are. How much memory it has? How much CPU power it has? Things like that confuse them much. They might even not know what OS is on their system. You will not run in that problem because of Belarc Advisor.
CNET editors' rating:
Average user rating:out of 642 votes
" This program doesn't fix the problems itself, but gives clear advice on how to address each issue..."
Reviewed by: CNET Staff
Reviewed by: CNET Staff
Belarc Advisor Review
Belarc Advisor is a free software program that provides an "audit" of your computer. This audit will give you detailed information on all of the software and hardware you have installed on your computer. This can be especially useful in situations such as:
- You are having a computer problem and your tech support person needs details about your system configuration.
- You want to check your system for software you no longer use and can delete to free up drive space.
- You wish to get a sense of how secure your computer is and whether your virus and security settings are up-to-date.
- You wish to keep a record of your system so that any future changes can easily be identified.
Belarc Advisor Download and Installation
Belarc Advisor (version 8.2a) was easy to download and install on my Windows XP PC. I simply went to the Belarc Advisor webpage (http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html) and clicked the Download button. I downloaded the file to my Desktop and double-clicked on it, then followed the instructions to install.
The software works on a wide variety of Windows operating systems: Windows 7, 2008 R2, Vista, 2008, 2003, XP, 2000, NT 4, Me, 98, and 95 (both 32-bit and 64-bit are supported). It also works on a wide variety of browsers including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.
As soon as it installed, it asked me if I wanted it to check for the latest security definitions. I said "Yes" and less than a minute later the definitions were updated and it proceeded to scan my system.
Using the Software
The software is very easy to use - you simply launch the application and it immediately proceeds to scan your system. There are no settings to mess with or questions to answer.
The results of the scan are displayed using your Internet browser (such as Internet Explorer). This is a "local" webpage, meaning it is only visible on your computer, and is not uploaded to the Internet, according to the Belarc Frequently Asked Questions. But for those of you that wish to be extra sure your data is secure, the program can be run while you are disconnected from the Internet (but of course it can't update the security definitions in that case).
The scan results are in the form of one long list. The amount of information collected in one place is impressive, even on a PC like mine without a whole lot of bells and whistles. When I pasted the results into Microsoft Word, it amounted to 10 pages.
The first thing you will notice at the top of the page is the "Security Benchmark Score". Unfortunately, the score did not work my Windows XP Home Edition. It does work with Windows XP Pro, 2000, 2003, Vista and Windows 7. This security score looks at your virus software, Windows security updates and other system settings and rates you on a scale of 1-10 on how well your system is meeting the recommended security measures. The higher the score the better. Click "Details" under the score to see exactly where your security is lacking. Belarc Advisor will not fix these problems for you, but it does give most of the information you need to fix them yourself.
The following information is covered by the report:
- Key system information - computer model, operating system, processor, circuit boards, memory, drives, etc.
- Network Map - a list of all other computers detected in your network
- Missing Microsoft Security Hotfixes - with a link to the page on the Microsoft website describing the details of each hotfix
- Software Licenses - a list of your licensed software and what the license number is for each one
- Software Versions and Usage - a list of all the software on your computer, its version and (in some cases) how long ago you last used it
- Installed Microsoft Hotfixes - a list of hotfixes already installed
Despite the depth of information provided, if you're not particularly computer savvy, some of the information is difficult to interpret. And there is no user manual or help files to help explain any of the more esoteric data.
Another issue is that in the "Software Versions and Usage" section, some of the programs were mislabeled. For instance, the Windows Media Player was listed as "Microsoft Windows Operating System" - you had to hover over the information icon to see what program it was really referring to. Other programs were listed 2 or 3 times, and only by hovering over it could you tell that they were actually different files related to the same program and not (as I first thought) the same program installed multiple times.
There is also no way to easily save a report, so you can keep it for future reference. The best you can do is either print a hard copy or take a screenshot and save it as a graphic file.
Finally, I would say that the overall look of the program is dated and bare bones. Belarc clearly uses this free tool as a way to generate business for their paid software programs and there are multiple links throughout the report reminding you to check out their other programs.
I would rate the Belarc Advisor software a 7 out of 10. It gets big points for simplicity and ease of use. And it is a great way to quickly check your system security. However, a user manual explaining some of the settings is needed to make this more accessible to non-computer experts and an export function would be greatly helpful as well. But overall, it's free and useful, so it's hard to complain too much.
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