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What have I got under the hood? This question often comes up at the least convenient times--most notably when an impatient someone in tech support wants to know the answer now so he can tell you the problem isn't his fault and he can get back to playing Solitaire. The $30 Astra32 helps you to provide the answer to that question--and to generally monitor your system for unexpected problems, errors, or conflicts.
Astra32 pores over your system, querying the hardware directly instead of relying on the registry (think of Dr. House performing tests instead of just trusting what the patient tells him), and produces an easy to use, terrifyingly comprehensive list of what you've got, what version it is, what features it has, and so on. Everything from current Windows uptime to the data packet size of your mouse is presented to you, and it's done in a way that makes it easy to find what you're looking for. A lot of this information can be extracted via Windows system tools, but doing so is more difficult and less intuitive. Astra32 presents it all cleanly.
It will also report on it, in a variety of formats. The reports are clean and easy to read, with plenty of options, but be warned -- the trial version has this feature disabled. (You can produce reports so as to test out the options, but the actual output is encrypted and unreadable.).
Astra32 also highlights any driver issues and reports on the state of your hard disk controller, alerting you ahead of time to potential issues.
Astra32 is of moderate use to a single user who does not do a lot of hardware tinkering. It is of greater use to IT professionals, as it can be used to quickly get a reading on a computer or even run in batch mode to generate reports via the command line. This can be inserted into a startup script and the reports saved to a network drive for further processing.