Locate and fix hardware faults

HardInfo

One of the most popular information tools with built-in test routines for Linux is HardInfo [13]. The program is available in almost all current package managers. Depending on the distribution, the installation routine creates a System Profiler and Benchmark or System Information launcher in the System or System Tools submenus. When clicked, HardInfo comes up with a two-pane, easily manageable window.

In the left segment of the window, the software sorts the hardware detected in your system into categories. Clicking on one of the components – they are also represented by symbols – displays detailed data on the respective component or assembly to the right (Figure 7). If several devices show up in a category (e.g., for drives or PCI devices), clicking on one of the devices at top right in the window splits the right-hand pane; then, detailed information is displayed at bottom right.

Figure 7: HardInfo displays the individual system components in a clear-cut format.

Since the respective device information does not yet provide any conclusions on the functional capability of the component, HardInfo uses benchmark tests to trace irregularities. A Benchmarks group in the left part of the screen contains multiple CPU and FPU tests. Using this, you can measure the performance of the current system and determine weaknesses in the computer's cooling system from a high CPU or FPU load in the respective tests.

HardInfo is particularly useful on laptops, where you can use the benchmarks to check whether the CPU fan needs cleaning or whether you need to reapply thermal compound. If network access problems arise, HardInfo provides information on the data throughput in the Network | Statistics entry in the left pane.

For the Record

The Generate Report button in the small buttonbar below the menubar, lets you generate a test results summary. If necessary, you can restrict the report content to certain component groups in a separate window in order to view only the relevant information. HardInfo then stores the report as a simple HTML file in a directory of your choice (Figure 8).

Figure 8: The HardInfo report provides a good system summary in the form of a simple HTML file.

Checkbox

Checkbox [14] is a piece of software for testing hardware components that Canonical uses for Ubuntu certification. The application requires an installed Python environment and is available in several versions. In addition to a command-line version, Checkbox with a Qt-based graphical user interface is available.

The tool collection partly uses internal Linux commands to detect the hardware. Ubuntu and Debian users install Checkbox directly from their repositories; no precompiled packages exist for other distributions.

After you call the application, Checkbox opens a very simple window without controls in the graphical version and first scans the hardware internally. You then click on the Start Testing button. A list with various test categories appears (Figure 9). You can disable it on the right side of the window by removing a check mark.

Figure 9: Select the tests to be completed in Checkbox by removing the corresponding check mark.

After clicking n Continue, the software lists the individual tests sorted by main category. The tests can also be disabled if necessary.

The test is divided into passive and interactive routines: For example, while CPU and storage tests run without the user's help, the functional test for multimedia components such as speakers, headphones, microphones, and cameras, as well as memory card slots, requires user interaction. After a run, you actively need to tell the system whether or not it has passed the test by clicking on Pass or Fail. For those routines for which Checkbox runs a third-party program with administrative privileges, the software requires authentication.

Because Checkbox also runs a number of benchmarks, the total number of categories can be as high as 100 or more. Thus, a complete test of the entire system can take quite a long time if all the categories are enabled. It is thus a good idea to deactivate any routines you do not need.

Jump to the next dialog window by clicking the Start Testing button at the bottom of the window. For interactive tests, the program window will first display a brief note regarding the purpose of the test; then click on Start the Test. After the run, you need to confirm whether or not the system has passed the test. If a routine fails, a corresponding display shows you this in the program window.

In the following section, you then decide whether you want to repeat the test by clicking on the Back icon top left in the window or jump to the next routine by clicking on Continue at the bottom of the window.

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