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Vista EXE Deep Dive

A list of all the executable files that come with Vista, some familiar and some brand-new.

I've been running Windows Vista since its very first day of release, and in that time I've gotten a lot of opportunity to work with both its GUI and command-line interfaces. Vista brings back a number of the old command-line tools we're used to seeing in Windows XP and previous Windows version, as well as adds its own new tools for viewing and configuring system settings.

What I haven't seen, however, is a good rundown of all the EXEs that make up Windows Vista. A few online locations, like www.greatis.com/vista and www.processlibrary.com provide searchable interfaces for determining what each EXE can do, but nowhere have I been able to find a single list that gives a short description of each.

So, I decided to build my own.

In this -- part one of a three-part series on the EXEs found within Vista's System32 folder -- I'll present to you the first third of my research. These and those in next week's part two are all executable files found in the System32 folder that enable command-line functionality for viewing and manipulating system configurations.

In part three, I'll list the EXEs you can run that will launch various GUI wizards and control panels. Knowing these will help speed up your administration of the system and prepare yourself for the kind of command-line management you'll need to improve your administrator skill set or to implement Windows Server Core.

Out of 390 EXE files in a default RTM Vista installation, 234 can be invoked by a user to accomplish some task. Eighty of those will launch a GUI-based tool, while the remaining 154 are command-line tools. The first 66 command line tools, representing "a" through "l" are listed with very short descriptions here:

Executable Description
append.exe Allows programs to open data files in specified directories as if they were in the current directory.
ARP.EXE Displays and modifies IP to MAC address translation tables.
at.exe Creates scheduled tasks.
attrib.exe Displays and changes file attributes.
auditpol.exe Configures system auditing policy.
bcdedit.exe Boot configuration data store editor.
bitsadmin.exe Background Intelligent Transfer Service administration utility.
bootcfg.exe Configures, changes, or deletes the BOOT.INI file.
cacls.exe Displays and modifies file and folder access control lists.
certreq.exe Manages tasks associated with certificates.
certutil.exe Manages tasks associated with Certificate Services.
change.exe Used to change Terminal Services TCP port and install mode as well as enable or disable logons.
chglogon.exe Enables or disables Terminal Services logons.
chgport.exe Changes the Terminal Services TCP port.
chgusr.exe Changes the install mode for Terminal Server.
chkdsk.exe Verifies disks for errors.
chkntfs.exe NTFS Volume maintenance utility.
choice.exe Used in scripts to enable selecting an item from a list of choices.
cipher.exe Manages the encryption of files and folders.
cleanmgr.exe Disk space cleanup manager.
clip.exe Redirects script or command line output to the clipboard.
cmd.exe Creates an instance of the Windows command interpreter.
cmdkey.exe Creates, displays, and deletes stored usernames and passwords.
cmstp.exe Connection manager profile installer.
comp.exe Compares the contents of files.
compact.exe Displays and manages file compression for NTFS partitions.
convert.exe Converts FAT volumes to NTFS volumes.
cscript.exe Launches an instance of Windows script host.
debug.exe Runs a program testing and editing debugger tool.
Defrag.exe Runs the Windows defragmentation utility.
diantz.exe Cabinet file creation utility.
diskpart.exe Disk partition utility.
diskperf.exe Enables or disables disk performance counters.
diskraid.exe Manages and configures RAID subsystems.
dispdiag.exe Logs display information to a dump file.
doskey.exe Command line macro creator.
dosx.exe Windows virtual DOS machine.
dpapimig.exe Used in recovering encrypted files that have been migrated to another computer.
driverquery.exe Displays a list of installed device drivers.
edlin.exe A line-oriented text editor at the command prompt.
esentutl.exe Database utilities for the Extensible Storage Engine.
eventcreate.exe Provides a way to create custom event log entries.
exe2bin.exe Converts EXE formatted files to binary format.
expand.exe Uncompresses compressed files.
fc.exe Compares the contents of files.
find.exe Searches for text strings within files.
findstr.exe Searches for text strings within files. Greater functionality then find.
finger.exe Displays information about users on servers running the finger service.
fltMC.exe Loads, unloads, and lists file system filter drivers.
fontview.exe Displays various views of on-system fonts.
forfiles.exe Executes a command against a list of files.
fsutil.exe Used for managing file system parameters.
ftp.exe FTP client application.
getmac.exe Displays MAC addresses for network interfaces.
gpresult.exe Shows resultant set of policy for Group Policy.
gpupdate.exe Updates Group Policy.
help.exe Displays help information for a subset of these commands.
hostname.exe Displays the local host name.
icacls.exe Displays and modifies file and folder access control lists and Windows Integrity Control settings.
ipconfig.exe Displays and updates IP configuration information.
iscsicli.exe Manages iSCSI Initiator configuration.
label.exe Views, creates, and deletes disk volume labels.
lodctr.exe Manages performance counter configuration.
logman.exe Manages Windows data collector sets.
logoff.exe Used for logging users off computers.
lpremove.exe Used for removal of unused language packs.

Tune in next week for part two, a.k.a. "m through z" of Vista's command-line EXEs.

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.

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