System information utilities are freeware favorites around here, with multiple PCs to monitor. Hardware Freak is a new one to us, but it's a lot like the others, extracting and displaying a lot of useful information about your computer and software in a centralized, easy-to-use interface. Also like the others, it's portable freeware, which makes it a useful addition to your USB drive's portable toolkit.
While system info tools tend to display the same data, that's what they're supposed to do. Where they differ greatly is in layout and look, and Hardware Freak's Main Menu bears this out. It's a white field with a central Start button ringed by individually accessible categories covering, in clockwise order from the top: CPU, Motherboard, and BIOS; Graphics, Sound, and Storage; Operating System, Optical Drive, Keyboard, and Mouse; Battery; Networking, Printers, and USB Ports; and RAM Memory. We pressed Start, and Hardware Freak scanned our system and began returning data in pop-ups. The CPU page displayed our processor's load in real time in a bar graph. A series of three buttons at the bottom let us go forward or back or return to the Main Menu. We could also click a link to see what Hardware Freak thought of our system. Some of the recommendations were spot-on, while others seemed questionable, but for novices, it's probably a helpful feature. The Video Card, Sound Card, Storage Device page called an error in Microsoft Visual Basic, but the page loaded normally and even displayed the Nvidia logo, which will come as a surprise to ATI since we were running a Radeon HD 5450. Sound checked out, though, and the disk info included a real-time display of the drive assembly's temperature sensor data. Hardware Freak's other tools returned accurate information, and the program finished with a printable summary sheet.
Despite a couple of quirks, Hardware Freak showed itself to be a decent system information tool, neither as basic as some nor as complex as others. Some features, such as its upgrade adviser, will have particular appeal for less experienced users who might wonder if their systems can still cut it.