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As a Windows administrator, what tools do you feel you cannot live without?

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50 Answers 50

Richcopy, a released tool that used to be used internally in Microsoft. It's a ultimate copying tool that is much better than robocopy.

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TextPad is great.
VirtuaWin is fantastic if one is a fan of virtual desktops.
PuTTY
UltraVNC (because VNC will need to be used eventually, even despite RDP)
I personally like using Cygwin over cmd/command for console
Definitely Wireshark
All of the Administrator Tools that come with Windows

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Heh... Norton Comander.. I like console (since DOS/Windows 3.x) and i use FAR Manager (farmanager.com) as my file manager for a long time.

Now new version (2.0) with Unicode support(!) is availible. And this version not shareware, it's FREE (BSD-like license). It's still in "alpha" and a bit tricky to install but fully working (even x64).

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3rd party tools are great, but before I start there, the basic ones you get with the system:

  • Computer Management
  • Event Viewer
  • Services Console
  • Perfmon
  • Active Directory Users and Computers
  • Active Directory Domains and Trusts
  • Active Directory Sites and Services
  • Group Policy Management Console (okay, so you download this one)
  • The command line itself with
    • netstat
    • nbtstat
    • ipconfig
    • net
    • findstr
    • netsh
  • Internet Explorer/Firefox
  • Scripting tool like VBScript/PowerShell/Perl
  • Notepad

Other Tools:

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I love OneNote. I'm astonished that MS only made it available in Office Enterprise; it should be in every downlevel edition! –  dmoisan Jun 3 '09 at 3:20

I have been testing Spiceworks for IT management (inventory, monitoring, reporting, tracking). So far, made my life easier, so let's toss it on the pile.

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WMIC lets you do pretty much anything to any networked windows computer.

Some fun things to try:

wmic computersystem get name

What user is currently logged into the system:

wmic netlogin get name,lastlogon

Users who have logged into a system, and when they last logged in:

wmic os get lastbootuptime

When was the last time the machine booted; (do you have a machine not getting updates?)

wmic product get name,verion

Finds applications installed with a specific name:

wmic product where 'name = "%Product Name%"' get name

Also remember you can run these on networked systems:

wmic /node:"computername1" os list brief
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Remote Desktop Manager is awesome, It centralize all my remote connections (Including RDP, Putty, SQL Server, HTTP Interfaces, (S)FTP, CIFS shares, OpenVPN connections...

It's really a must have, all this for free, but the enterprise edition allows you some nice thing like storing connections settings in a database to push modifications to the others admins)

http://remotedesktopmanager.com/

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smsniff from NIRSOFT. The quick network sniffer.

http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/smsniff.html

Fiddler a good HTTP debugging porxy with really good SSL support http://www.fiddler2.com/fiddler2/

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For Sysadmins that have a laptop, I would add NetProfiles .

Also, the website http://portablefreeware.com is absolutely awesome.

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Never underestimate the power of a really good text editor. I've used UltraEdit for years and couldn't live without it. I've tried moving to Notepad++, Editplus, and a few other text editors and I always end up frustrated and back using UltraEdit. You can also get a U3 version that lives on a flash drive.

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If for some reason you don't want to get and install the whole Cygwin GNU utilities for Win32 are useful. It's nice to fire up cmd and use grep, wget, tail, etc.

sniffer to see what exactly is happening on the wire [ unless you can tap somewhere on the switch with port mirroring].

Far Manager for those like me who still prefer console rather over Windows Explorer. and yeah - it's open source now! Ready to use builds are here.

Notepad++ was already mentioned, but Notepad2 - not. It's very useful Notepad replacement. It has syntax hilight, block operations, different encoding.

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More votes for PowerShell, Notepad++, PuTTY, pscp, Cygwin, sdelete, WinDirStat, and System Internals.

Also some sort of Remote control software be it UltraVNC, RDP, or whatever.

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SciTE for text editing and Servant Salamander as file manager. Unfortunately, Salamander is a commercial product, but it is exceptionally good for working with files and folders.

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A couple of things that make my life easier:

Terminals - multi tab terminal services/remote desktop client.

and

Nmap - network scanner extraordinaire

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The SysInternals suite, live edition:

http://live.sysinternals.com/

hexedit or another hex editor.

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I can't live without PowerShell.

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TreeSizeFree for figuring out what's using all your storage space.

http://www.jam-software.com/freeware/index.shtml

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Joeware tools and Sysinternals

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RD tabs http://www.avianwaves.com/Tech/Tools/RDTabs/ is a great RDP replacement. It allows saving connections like bookmarks, tabs, pop-outs, screen capture! Works really well!

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Bart PE, with a large assortment of plug-ins. Not so much for day-to-day use but for all those times when things go wrong and normal tools won't help or when something can't be achieved while the regular OS is running.

Perl. Tools such as logparser might be OK for some jobs but Perl has no limits.

Robocopy. In my opinion the best readily available copy utility for Windows. If you have a copy/move/sync operation that you can't do with Robocopy it's time to read the manual again.

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  • Notepad2
  • Executor
  • BgInfo (on all servers)
  • LPD.exe
  • NirCmd
  • Blat
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A new open source to alternative to ProcessExplorer is ProcessHacker.

You can install it or just run it off a thumb drive. If you install it you can take advantage of some of the special features. On such feature is a kernel mode driver that acts as a proxy to query process information. This is apparently to avoid UAC prompts in Vista. Another feature is the ability to launch ProcessHacker instead of task manager from the ctrl+alt+delete menu. Finally, you can set ProcessHacker to run at login.

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I find Agent Ransack or its non-free version, File Locator Pro, to be much much more effective than the basic "Search" function of Windows (which was/is broken on XP)

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Ant or NAnt to run some kind of operations with easy way to check if the tasks runs ok or not, parallelize, and so on.

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Terracopy or Richcopy. Quick file transfers. Scored points at my new job by mentioning this to my boss!

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Remote Desktop / Terminal Services

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RDtabs from Avian Waves for managing and organising RDP connections

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I'd throw 7-zip into the pool. Free/Open source and opens most compression formats. I use it often for moving files from one server to another (updates and/or images).

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