Inspector Gadgets: 13 Windows 7 gadgets for monitoring your PC

See your computer's key operations at a glance

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An eye on graphics

GPU Monitor gadget
GPU Monitor keeps an eye on your graphics subsystem.
GPU Monitor

Unlike general system gadgets, GPU Monitor cares about just one thing: your graphics processing unit and how well it is running. A fount of information about your system's graphics and video, this gadget can help pinpoint problems whether you have a budget PC with integrated graphics or a high-end system with a discrete GPU.

In addition to showing which accelerator chip your system uses and key stats such as video memory used and graphics processor load, GPU Monitor shows the chip's and graphics board's temperatures. You can have the gadget warn you with an audio alarm if the graphics subsystem starts overheating, although it can't initiate a system shutdown to prevent damage.

For those experiencing intermittent problems with video, GPU Monitor can keep a log file containing info on any of five main graphics parameters, such GPU temperature and if the fan is on, along with time stamps to help troubleshoot the issue.

GPU Monitor presents a lot of data and can seem crowded, but you can customize it by limiting the types of data it shows, showing data in separate graphs or a single one, and changing the gadget's size and color combination.

Note: Some users with integrated graphics systems might need to load the RivaTuner software, which collects the data that GPU Monitor shows. It's free, and you can download it from within the gadget.

Download GPU Monitor (1.2MB)

Firewall status check

Windows Firewall Profile

Buried inside the Windows Firewall settings page (accessible via the Control Panel) is the ability to set your firewall profile as Public (for unsecure networks, like café hot spots) or Private (for your secure home or business network). Each profile involves a different mixture of which incoming connections are allowed or blocked.

When connecting a laptop from the road, many travelers move around between secure private connections and public hot spots several times a day. But changing your computer's firewall settings for public or private connections each time you switch networks is a tedious task, and one that's easy to forget. The Windows Firewall Profile gadget assures you that you've made the change properly.

Windows Firewall Profile gadget
Is your Windows firewall profile set to Private or Public? Windows Firewall Profile knows.

One of the most basic gadgets around, Windows Firewall Profile doesn't actually help you change your profile setting; it just shows you the current status (Private or Public) in a small black rectangle. Its size can't be adjusted, and there isn't much to configure either, aside from how frequently the system's firewall status is checked (from 10 seconds to 5 minutes).

But what this gadget does, it does well. It immediately figured out when I changed my firewall profile from Private to Public settings and back again during a busy road trip.

Ideally, the gadget would provide a way to adjust the firewall settings or at least link to the firewall settings dialog. All the same, it's reassuring to see what the firewall status is at a glance, without having to wade into the system settings to check.

Windows Firewall Profile (119KB)

Juice meter

9-skin Battery Meter

When you're on the road and far from an AC outlet, it's important to know how much power is left in your notebook's battery. Windows 7 includes a battery gauge in the taskbar tray, but it stays hidden during most use; you have to click on it to see the charge level.

9-skin Battery Meter gadget
Keep an eye your laptop's battery level with 9-skin Battery Meter.

That's where 9-skin Battery Meter comes in. It does an excellent job of putting your battery level in your face in an artistic way.

The gadget comes with nine different decorative skins (hence the name) that range from a circular gauge to something that looks like an AA battery. You can either open the gadget's Options to select one or give the gadget a double-click to bring up a new one.

The gadget glows green when the system is charging, and most of the battery gauge designs have eight elements that change color to show that the cells are running down. All turn to orange and then red for the last two segments; some add a triangular caution sign as the end nears.

Unlike many other gadgets, 9-skin Battery Meter can't be resized, although you can choose whether to have the gadget display how much time remains before the system dies.

Download 9-skin Battery Meter (1.89MB)

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