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


locked by Mark Henderson Dec 3 '12 at 4:50

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50 Answers 50

  • Active Directory - if you manage a domain this is your best friend. It centralizes all control over users/computers/printers/groups in your organizational unit into one program.

  • gpedit - the group policy editor, allows you to easily manage registry entries for groups of users at a higher level.

  • regedit - Great for making lower level tweaks to the system not available through the group policies.

  • ProcessExplorer
  • PS Tools
  • Perl
  • Perfmon
  • TextPad/Notepad++
  • Terminal Services
  • Cygwin

I can't live without PowerShell.


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:

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 always post this one, but it remains true. Beyond Compare is the best folder & file diff program. It is so ridiculously useful for maintenance work and updating, plus it does built-in FTP


These are more for the desktop/laptop power users:

  • safarp: small and fast Add/Remove Programs
  • launchy: keystroke launchyer
  • console: multi-tabbed cmd.exe, (and then some)
  • jkdefrag (portable):lite-weight defragger
  • AnVir task manager: manager for running processes, services, and startup programs (commercial but has a lite free version).
  • Notepad++: Probably best text-editor available for windows.
  • WinMerge: visual diff/merge tool

The SysInternals suite, live edition:

hexedit or another hex editor.


I live by TaskInfo, an integrated utility that beats Task Manager and Systems Information hands down.


WinDirStat is great for finding out how all your disk space it getting used.


I still find myself firing up Sequoia View to spot the massive temp files/caches that can otherwise lie unnoticed on a volume.


Batch files :-)


shutdown - can shut down a non-responding host remotely

shutdown -r -t 0 -f -m <machine>

taskkill - kill processes from the commandline

taskkill /pid <pid>

psexec - the windows equivalent of ssh (from sysinternals, as previously noted)


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.


A Linux LiveCD (Knoppix preferably)

And processexplorer



Recursive copying with solid reporting and allows you to update changed only. Used to be part of the windows resource kit, but i think it's distributed with Vista now.


Well I'd say but then I would say that, wouldn't I :-)


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.


Apart from the regular Windows MMC tools and OS native support tools, these are a few I use regularly. Sysinternals, Resource Kit tools, WinDBG, WMI scripts, Performance & reliability monitor and PowerShell scripts


Total Commander - Norton Commander look-a-like for Windows. I use this all the time, it's simply the best (!) file manager. Also it's shareware, so if you can live with a startup nag-screen it's free.

Ultraedit - Not free, but nothing beats this text editor. Once you go down the path of ultraedit, there's no turning back.

putty - It just works.


testdisk - saved my ass a when my raid screwed up, was able to copy the data off it to another drive even though it wasn't showing up in windows. now i can't live without it.


Heh... Norton Comander.. I like console (since DOS/Windows 3.x) and i use FAR Manager ( 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).


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.



Invaluable command line tool I primarily use for killing programs and processes although it does allow a fairly high degree of control over hardware.


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.


Logparser is a must.


XCopy (although RoboCopy is more capable) and Ping (cmd), along with .bat files for scripting.


Windows Installer Cleanup Utility - saved my bacon multiple times.

Visual C# Express - really! The .NET framework has a LOT of useful classes for automating admin tasks, and I've rolled my own small army of useful utilities.


Ultra Vnc SC a free remote desktop tool. Some features: You only need one exe to pass to client, no install, Can be customized and You also can translate this tool, got a file transfer and chat.


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