XScanSolo 4: Tom’s Mac Software Pick

Monitor Your Mac's Hardware Sensors With an Easy-to-Use Interface

XScanSolo 4 app icon
Courtesy of Adnx Software
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XScanSolo 4 is a hardware monitor that can keep an eye on your Mac, and ensure that all of its various components are working as they should be. There are actually quite a few of these hardware monitoring utilities available; what sets XScanSolo 4 apart are its simple approach and well-designed interface that make setting up and using XScanSolo 4 a piece of cake.

Pros

  • 12 different widgets for monitoring your Mac’s hardware.
  • Each widget includes display and recording options to let you tailor the results to your needs.
  • Generates alerts in real-time when problems are detected.
  • You can arrange widgets to create your own dashboard.
  • Little impact on your Mac's resources.

Cons

  • Doesn't support user set alarms or warnings.
  • Doesn't log sensor information for long-term monitoring.

XScanSolo is a new application from the folks at ADNX Software, replacing an earlier hardware-monitoring app named XScan 3. XScan 3 owners should check for a free update to the newer version.

XScanSolo 4 is one of two apps that ADNX Software created for monitoring a Mac’s hardware. The second app, XScanPro 4, provides the same capabilities as XScanSolo, but allows you to monitor multiple Macs across a network, just the thing for the family IT person who can’t be everywhere at once. Today, though, we'll concentrate on the solo version of the app.

Installing XScanSolo 4

Installation is straightforward; drag the downloaded app to your Applications folder, and then launch the app.

The first time you launch it, you'll be warned that XScanSolo 4 can't start because of a missing daemon that needs to be installed. Simply select the option to install the daemon, which spends its time in the background, gathering the data from your Mac’s hardware sensors.

Once the app is running, you may want to add it to your Dock for easy access.

Should you ever want to remove the app, you'll find an option to uninstall the daemon under the XScanSolo menu. Be sure to ditch the daemon before deleting the app; don’t forget to remove the app from your Dock as well.

Using XScanSolo 4

With the installation complete, XScanSolo 4 will open a single window, with a Processor widget installed and running. Currently, XScan Solo supports 12 widgets, each designed to monitor a specific sensor or group of sensors in your Mac. The available widgets include:

Processor: Monitors processor load on each CPU in your Mac.

Memory: Displays memory use, including the amount of free, active, and used memory, and the amount of memory assigned to apps.

Network: Monitors data in and data out on all network interfaces.

System: Displays the version of OS X your Mac is running.

Disk: Displays the free space as well as the amount of space used on a disk.

Processes: Displays the top 5 or top 10 processes, and the CPU load they're taking up.

Temperature: Displays the current temperature within your Mac.

IP Address: Shows your current IP address, as well as the MAC address of the current network interface being used.

Fans: Monitors multiple fan speeds within your Mac.

Computer: Provides configuration information about your Mac.

Web Server: Monitors the status of the built-in Apache, PHP, and MySQL servers.

Some of the widgets replicate what is found in the Activity Monitor app included with the Mac, but the presentation of the information is a bit different here, which may be helpful for some of us.

Each of the widgets can be dragged to the main display window, rearranged as you wish, and configured to display data in the best form for you. This usually includes selecting to display graphs, charts, instantaneous values, and averages. You can also remove any widget you don’t need.

The freedom to select which widgets to use, how to configure each widget, and how to arrange them is the main strength of XScanSolo 4, but not all the widgets are that useful, or provide the details that are really needed.

An example is the Temperature widget. The Mac contains multiple temperature sensors; there are sensors on the CPUs, drives, power supply, heat sinks, and other locations. But XScanSolo only provides one temperature; there's no way of telling which sensor or sensors were used. We can only assume it's meant to be an average internal temperature, or perhaps the CPU temperature; the point is, we don’t know.

This same lack of detail occurs in multiple places, including the graphs that sometimes seem to be missing any legend, making it difficult to know what's going on.

However, XScanSolo 4 is designed to provide a simplified view of how a Mac is working; as such, it may be a better choice for those of us who don’t wish to delve too deeply into its interior, but do want to know how things are working overall. This mindset is reinforced by the lack of the ability for the user to set alarms, even though there's an alarm system that will issue warnings when certain thresholds set by the developer are crossed.

Because of the lack of detail and user control, I have mixed feelings about this app, but I'm impressed by its overall design. Normally, I find Mac monitoring apps get in the way visually, but XScanSolo 4 and its single window, which doesn’t float over others but acts like a normal window, just fits better with how I work. Still, I would like to see better sensor labeling and selection, as well as user control for alarm thresholds. Despite my reservations, I think XScanSolo 4 deserves a look, so download the demo and give it a try.

XScanSolo 4 is $33.00. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks