In this paper, a set of three hardware counter (HC)-based tools to characterise memory access of parallel codes in Symmetric Multiprocessors (SMPs) is presented. This toolkit simplifies accessing and programming HCs, which are included in modern microprocessors. Hardware counters are used to obtain information about memory accesses in a parallel code at very low cost. This information is presented to the user in a friendly way. The first tool can be used to automatically monitor the memory accesses of a system and to analyse a code even if the source is not available. The second tool allows the user to insert in a source code, in a simple and transparent way, the instructions needed to monitor and manage HCs. This way, specific parts of the code can be analysed. The user can either add appropriate directives to a C code or use a graphical interface to select those parts of the code to be analysed. The tool takes this source file and automatically adds the monitoring code. The third tool takes the information gathered by the aforementioned tools, processes it and displays it graphically. This tool shows the information in a comprehensive and simple way, allowing the user to adjust the level of detail. The aim of these tools was to characterise the memory accesses of parallel codes in multicore systems, in which the cache hierarchy can greatly influence the performance. For illustrative purposes, these tools were used to carry out two case studies, a sparse matrix vector product and a dot product. These studies have been made in two different environments. Anyway, they can be used in almost any system as long as the necessary HCs are available.Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.