Yes there is, but may be easier for most beginner users to use the inbuilt tools if they exist, and run the OEM Diagnostics. For instance, in an HP computer you would choose F9 at boot, and run the hp diagnostics. Dell also has this, don't know much about the others yet.
Not all computers have this so then a LinuxLiveSession would be of great help like you are suggesting, or you would need to boot other purpose built tools to do the job. Sometimes I get a pc that won't boot, and I need to know if it is worth fixing for the customer, so I boot up LinuxLiveSession usually a USB, but sometimes a DVD. If you want to test Heat and HDD for errors you will need to install other tools, or create a Full Install USB that has all the tools built in which I do all the time.
This is not the best thing for beginners that visit this site though because it requires installing tools via the terminal, booting USB's etc. that they may not be all that comfortable with, or need more attention to do so than can be provided via the Forum. I like doing it in Linux because I then also have an OS that I'm already in. I can surf the web, listen to music, create word documents and save to USB, or anything else I want while I'm working on a computer. I can also grab the specs like Mike_Walsh said with a simple command. Test Wifi, Ethernet, Video, Sound etc. it works quite well.