Tech Line

Troubleshooting Tools: Best of the Best

Readers weigh in on their favorite admin tools.

Over the last few weeks, I have been conducting a poll of administrators' favorite troubleshooting tools. While many of the tools I found may not surprise you, there may be a few that are new to you.

Here are the tools that your fellow administrators loved most:

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Ethereal -- When you need to see exactly what's happening with network traffic, no tool is better. I have been using Ethereal over the last couple of weeks to nail down the cause of Cisco VoIP phone disconnects over a VPN connection.

Netperf -- This tool was described in my article "Bottleneck Battle." Netperf can give you an instant network throughput value in Mbps between two points on your network. It's ideal for determining if a network bottleneck is application-related or network-related.

Ultimate Boot CD -- It's hard to beat a free bootable repair CD, and the Ultimate Boot CD has just about everything you need to repair a system. It includes several bootable antivirus scanners, hard disk diagnostic tools from nearly all major disk vendors, disk cloning and partitioning tools, CPU and memory testing, benchmarking tools, and system information auditing tools.

Sysinternals -- These have long been your go anywhere, find anything Windows diagnostic tools. Filemon and Regmon are great at finding file and Registry access related hangs. For examples on how these tools are used, read "The Case of the Mysterious Driver" or "The Case of the Intermittent (And Annoying) Explorer Hangs" from the Sysinternals blogs. [Editor's note: Microsoft recently announced that they acquired Sysinternals. Click here to read the story.] -- This is a great place to go when you need to track down the cause of a mysterious event in the Windows event logs. From the site, all you need is the event ID number associated with a particular event and you're on your way.

Top 100 Network Security Tools -- For security auditing and troubleshooting, this site provides links to most of the best tools out there. I would go ahead and list every tool on this site in this article, but that would cause my editor to have to put in more overtime than he already does.

Gencontrol -- This is a very simple remote desktop control tool, which requires no software installation. I recently wrote about this one in the article "In Control with Gencontrol."

ActivePorts -- This tool shows all inbound and outbound port connections in real time. It also lets you terminate a process that's executing an outbound connection and can perform DNS lookups of remote IP addresses.

Look@LAN -- Look@LAN is an easy-to-use network monitoring tool with a nice GUI interface.

ServersCheck -- This tool lets you monitor the status of up to 3 servers for free and more if you purchase additional licensing. With ServerCheck, you can monitor and report on OS status and performance, mail or web server status, and database server status. The tool also supports email and IM alerts.

Microsoft Tools -- To be fair, I can't ignore the troubleshooting tools that are provided by Microsoft. This link includes information on the free supporting tools for Windows Server 2003.

For me, the more tools that I have or know about, the better off I am. You never know what you're going to need on any given day to fix a problem. My brother-in-law seems to get by on duct tape as his only tool. One day when I told him that his RAM was broken, he replied "Can't we just duct tape it back together?" While I may never convince him to use any of these tools, hopefully you'll find some of them helpful.

I'm sure I probably left a couple off the list, so if I missed your favorite, post a link to it as a comment to this article.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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