Inspector Gadgets: Windows 7 Gadgets for Monitoring Your PC

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It’s been nearly two years since Windows 7 was released, and yet there are still some features that Windows 7 users may not be taking full advantage of — such as desktop gadgets. Similar to the Mac’s Dashboard Widgets, Windows desktop gadgets are mini-applications that reside on your desktop and can display live data, perform simple functions like search or password generation, or give you a sneak peek inside the inner workings of your PC.

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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 to check your online bandwidth.

Download Network Meter (79KB)

DC Wireless Network Monitor

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.

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.