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Inspector Gadgets: 13 Windows 7 gadgets for monitoring your PC

August 18, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Connection info

Network Meter

Having connectivity problems? The Network Meter gadget can help you keep an eye on your connections.

Network Meter gadget
Network Meter displays a wealth of information about either a wired or a wireless connection.

Network Meter takes the concept of "utility" to its natural conclusion. It's chock-full of key networking data, including current upload and download speeds as well as total data moved. It even shows your system's internal and external IP addresses.

The gadget can show you data about a wireless or wired connection as well as the network interface card in use. It's a great first step in troubleshooting a faulty Web connection, helping you pinpoint where to start: the router, the broadband connection or inside the PC.

You can adjust the gadget's size, color scheme and how often it gets new data. At any time you can refresh the local or external IP address, which in itself can save a minute or two of clicking. There's also a link to SpeedTest.net to check your online bandwidth.

Download Network Meter (79KB)

DC Wireless Network Monitor
DC Wireless Network Monitor gadget
DC Wireless Network Monitor shows just the basics about your Wi-Fi status.

The DC Wireless Network Monitor gadget, on the other hand, shows only the Wi-Fi basics in a tiny rectangle that takes up almost no room on your desktop. Below the main signal strength bar is the name of the network you're connected to as well as the system's IP address and a padlock symbol if it's an encrypted link.

And that's about it, except for the ability to change the color of the gadget. It's ideal for minimalists who just want to keep an eye on their wireless connection.

Download DC Wireless Network Monitor (42KB)

Disk space and usage

O&O DiskStat

Wondering how much space you have left on your hard drive or whether your drive is working too hard or overheating? O&O DiskStat brings that info and more to your desktop.

O&O DiskStat gadget
O&O DiskStat's default display is shown at right. Click it and the second screen (left) slides out with more information.

By default, the gadget shows two circular gauges: One is a pie chart of drive capacity and availability, and the other shows the drive's activity level. When the drive is idle, it shows 0%; when it's maxed out, it shows 100%.

If the S.M.A.R.T. drive-monitoring technology is enabled on your system, DiskStat shows the hard drive's temperature below the gauges. You may be able to enable S.M.A.R.T. in your system's BIOS or use a utility like Ariolic's ActiveSMART ($30), which doesn't require a system restart to work.

Click on any part of the DiskStat gadget and it doubles in size, revealing a new section with more details about the drive, including its size and free space.

O&O DiskStat can look at only one drive or disk partition at a time; you choose which drive to monitor in the setup screen. Click on the monkey wrench icon on the right side to get to it.

Of all the gadgets I've seen, O&O DiskStat is the best looking; it displays the right amount of information without seeming cramped. There are two skins that can help this gadget fit into your desktop decor, and you can remove the O&O logo for a minimalist approach. You can't adjust its size, but the gadget lets you choose whether you want the temperature displayed in Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Download O&O DiskStat (134KB)

Drive Meter gadget
Drive Meter can track disk activity for multiple drives.
Drive Meter

Those who have multiple hard drives or multiple disk partitions on a single drive should consider running Drive Meter as well. It shows how much data is going into and coming out of each drive as well as its percent utilization.

It doesn't watch the drives' temperature or show you how much space is available, but it provides a good way to keep an eye on disk activity for up to three drives or partitions simultaneously.

Download Drive Meter (33KB)



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