Inspector Gadgets: 13 Windows 7 gadgets for monitoring your PC

See your computer's key operations at a glance

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System Control A1 gadget
System Control A1 shows the computer's CPU thread utilization.
System Control A1

In contrast, System Control A1 focuses on the essentials. In addition to a prominent digital clock that shows the current time (in a 12- or 24-hour format) as well as uptime, System Control presents a nifty bar graph showing how much memory the system has as well as its free memory available.

It also monitors the utilization of the processor's threads (which it calls cores) over time and displays the results in graphs -- useful information for those who push their systems to the limit.

Unfortunately, System Control's display isn't adjustable, and it can steal a lot of desktop area.

These two gadgets complement each other nicely: SysInfo does a good job of showing a snapshot of many of the current goings-on inside your system, while System Control A1 graphs processor utilization over time, which can be helpful in trying to trace a program that's been using a lot of system resources.

One of these gadgets -- or both -- belongs on every PC.

Download System Control A1 (26KB)

Temperature gauge

Core Temp Gadget

There are few things worse for your computer than allowing its processor, often its most expensive part, to overheat and burn out. All it takes is one key transistor in the chip shorting out and the whole thing is an expensive piece of garbage.

ALCPU's Core Temp Gadget can help keep your PC from getting hot under the collar. For it to work, you'll also need to load the free Core Temp application, but the whole process takes just a couple of minutes.

Version 2 of the Core Temp Gadget shows what processor your system has, its actual clock speed and how much of the system's memory is being used. On many systems, it'll also display the chip's voltage, although some processors -- mine included -- don't support this.

Core Temp gadget
Keep an eye on the temperature of your CPU's cores with Core Temp.

The center of attention, however, is its temperature readings: Core Temp shows how hot it is inside your processor in surprising detail. The gadget displayed not only the temperature in each of my processor's four cores, but graphed them in a line plot. It's excellent information for trying to troubleshoot an intermittent overheating problem.

On top of adjusting the size of the gadget, you can change what information to show, the colors to use and how the graphs are set up. The gadget works with recent AMD and Intel processors, although some Phenom and Phenom II chips have a single temperature sensor and provide only one reading for the entire chip.

In the event that your system does start to overheat, Core Temp has your back. It will display "(!)" next to the temperature reading, open a pop-up warning and even start shutting the system down if you want it to.

Think of it as free insurance for your computer.

Download Core Temp Gadget (389KB)

Process watch

Top Process Monitor

Inside a PC there are thousands of individual software processes running, including those that interact with your computer's CPU, RAM and hard drive. The fabric of a working computer is the sum of these processes.

Top Process Monitor gadget
Use Top Process Monitor to keep an eye on software processes that are using lots of system resources.

The Top Process Monitor gadget acts as your PC's greatest hits chart, showing which processes are using your computer's resources the most. It can show the top processes for various operations including CPU use, memory use, virtual memory use, input-output operations and drive reads and writes.

You can also choose to view any individual process along with its usage data, or have the gadget cycle through any group of them. It's the ultimate snoop to see what's going on inside your computer.

On top of letting you adjust the size of the gadget, Version 2.5 of Top Process Monitor lets you choose which type of operations to display and customize the number of individual processes to show (up to 20) and the colors used.

A nice touch is that Top Process Monitor lets you set a threshold for the amount of system resources any process uses. If it's exceeded, the software gives you a warning. It's a great help if, for example, a sloppy program is using too much virtual memory.

Download Top Process Monitor (139KB)

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