How To Get Your Computer Specs

Is your computer 32-bit or 64-bit? Are you on the latest Windows version?

Computer Specs
My computer specs. Keith Ward for

If you're normal -- in other words, not like me -- you probably want to do things like get on the Web and figure out how to set up Spotify when you get a new computer. Well, I like to do those things too, but not right away.

Being a hardened geek, I like to look at what kind of computer I have -- what kind of processor, how much RAM, what version of the operating system (OS) I have -- first. In other words, my computer's specs.

Of course, I like the other stuff, too, but I like to see the geeky stuff first.

This also comes in handy when you're in a situation when a program requires you to have a 64-bit version of Windows, for example. How do you know whether it is or not? Or what your computer's name is?

It took a lot of work to get this information in Windows 7 and earlier versions. In Windows 8/8.1, however, it's just a few clicks (or touches) away. First, you need to be in Windows Desktop mode. You can get there in different ways. Here are two of the easiest:

When you're in the Modern/Metro user interface (UI), find the icon that says "Desktop." In the example here, it's the one with the sports car (the one I'll never have, of course -- this is about as close as I'll get to it). Clicking on that brings up the traditional desktop. 

The other way when you're in the Modern/Metro UI is to click on or touch the down arrow icon in the lower left of the screen, as you can see in the screen shot.


Doing either of those gets you into the traditional desktop, which is similar to the Windows 7 UI. At the bottom of the screen, you should see the taskbar -- the thin bar with the Windows logo at the bottom left, and icons representing any programs you have open, or have "pinned" to the taskbar. In that group should be a folder icon, which contains various files.

Double-click or press the folder. 

Once you do that, you'll see a bunch of stuff on the left, with folders and other things you might not recognize. What you want in this list is the "This PC" icon, which has a little monitor next to it. Left-click it once or touch it, to open it up.

Next, you'll see at the top left, a picture that's a piece of paper with a check-mark on it, that says "Properties" underneath. Left-click the icon, to bring up the properties. Another way to call up the properties is to right-click on the "This PC" icon; that will bring up a menu of items. "Properties" should be the item at the bottom of this list. Left-click the name to bring up the properties list.

Once this window comes up, you can check your computer's specs. The first category, at the top, is "Windows edition." In my case, it's Windows 8.1. It's important to note the ".1" here; that means I'm on the latest version of the OS. If yours says "Windows 8," then you're on an older version, and should update to Windows 8.1, since it includes numerous handy and important updates. 

The second category is "System." My processor is a "Intel Core i-7." There's a bunch of other numbers there that pertain to the speed of the processor, but the main thing you need to take away from this is that it's 1) An Intel processor, and not an AMD.

AMDs are put in some systems instead of Intel processors, although they're uncommon. For the most part, having an AMD processor shouldn't result in many differences from an Intel proc. 2) It's an i-7. This is currently the most advanced, fastest processor sold in laptops and desktops. There are other types of Intel processors, called i-3, i-5, M and others. This information is mainly important if you want to know if your computer can handle certain programs. Some will need a higher level processor like the i-5 or i-7; others don't need that much horsepower.

The next entry is "Installed memory (RAM):" RAM means "Random Access Memory," and is important for computer speed -- more is better. A typical computer these days comes with 4GB or 8GB. As with the processor, certain programs may require a minimum amount of RAM.

Up next is "System type:" I have a 64-bit version of Windows 8.1, and most systems made today are 64-bit. The older type is 32-bit, and it's important to know which kind you have, as this can definitely affect what programs you can use.

The last category is "Pen and Touch:" In my case, I have full touch support, which includes using a pen with it. A typical Windows 8.1 laptop will be touch-enabled, while a desktop typically will not.

The categories after that aren't relevant to this article; they are primarily concerned with networking functionality.

Take a little time and get to know your computer specs; it will help you to know that information when considering what programs to buy, with troubleshooting when you have a problem, and in other ways.

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