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Simplifying Windows 7 troubleshooting tasks with built-in tools

There are numerous tools for Windows 7 troubleshooting and management, and here are some helpful ones that IT admins may have overlooked.

Now that Microsoft Windows 7 is a fairly mature product, let's take a look at Windows 7 tools that may have escaped IT administrators' notice. Whether you need to troubleshoot a problem or just gather information about a system, some tools and a few tricks can make your life easier. Here are some basic command-line and GUI-based Windows 7 troubleshooting tools.

Read more about Windows 7 troubleshooting

Free client diagnostic tools for troubleshooting desktops

Taking advantage of Windows 7 management tools

Troubleshooting with Windows 7 Task Manager

Consider these third-party Windows desktop management tools

Managing memory with the Windows 7 Task Manager

Command-line tools

Although many command-line tools have been around since the days of Windows NT, these commands are still available and very useful. Here are my favorites:

Netdom is a native tool for Windows Server but can run on Windows clients by simply copying netdom.exe from the \Windows\System32 directory on a server to the \Windows\System32 directory (or any directory in the Windows Path). Netdom is also available in the old Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit. I have not tested every one of these tools, but I haven't seen any that won't work on the client.

A handy Netdom command on the workstation is the Netdom Reset command. This command resets the secure channel connection between a workstation and a domain controller. A command to reset the connection for workstation (Mypc) and the domain controller (DC1) in the mydom.com domain is as follows:

Netdom Reset mypc /domain:mydom.com /server:DC1

Note: The Netdom resetpwd command is used to reset the secure channel password to a domain controller. Use the Netdom Reset command for workstations.

IPconfig is a well-known Windows 7 troubleshooting tool for gathering Internet Protocol address information for network connections on any Windows machine, but a couple of commands that are not in the help file can be handy.

IPconfig /FlushDNS

IPconfig tool

Figure 1: The IPconfig tool can yield extra information about the DNS cache.

This command purges the domain name system (DNS) cache and is very helpful when DNS names were changed or the client joined a new DNS domain, authenticated to a new domain controller, etc. This command ensures that connections will re-register and use the new definitions. If you want to see what DNS entries are stored on the workstation, use this command:

IPconfig /DisplayDNS

(see results in Figure 1)

MyToken.exe reveals security details

Figure 2: MyToken.exe reveals security details.

MyToken.exe, another Resource Kit tool, displays the details for security groups, privileges and so on. (see Figure 2)

MSInfo32.exe displays basic Windows system configuration information

Figure 3: MSInfo32.exe displays basic Windows system configuration information.

MSInfo32.exe is a command that many admins are not aware of even though it's been around for a long time. The command can be executed from the Start-Run dialog or a command prompt, and it displays valuable configuration information, as shown in Figure 3. This includes the Windows version, system type (x86 or x64), processor and memory, currently logged-on user, and the boot device. The command also exposes disk size network components and device information such as display, modem and network.

GUI-based tools

Event Viewer is a well-known native graphical user interface (GUI) tool that records errors, warnings, informational events and other things. Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 introduced some new options that make culling the event logs for information much easier.

Custom View can be filtered for specific events

Figure 4: The Custom View can be filtered for specific events.

Figure 4 shows the Custom View creation dialog. Right-click on any of the Windows event logs, and select Create Custom View to build a custom filter. In this example, I focused on the application event log and filtered it to show only errors, warnings and critical events. If I want to monitor the log for a certain event ID or text in the event description, the filter can add those options.

Custom View can show results such as app errors and their details

Figure 5: Custom View can show results such as app errors and their details.

Figure 5 shows the results. The custom view was saved as "Application Errors" and displays a filtered application log. In addition, you can select one or more events and click "Save selected events" in the right pane, and those events will be saved to a file.

This is handy for identifying events for a support call to focus on. This could be easily emailed as opposed to sending a lengthy event log. It's especially helpful for security events because the security event log is usually quite large.

'Tools' is not in the Folder Options task bar

Figure 6: Note that "Tools" is not in the Folder Options task bar.

Folder Options can be a challenge to find in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, but they can easily be accessed by adding the "Tools" menu to the Windows Explorer task bar.

  1. Open any folder in Windows Explorer. Note that "Tools" is not in the task bar (Figure 6).
  2. Select ALT-T and choose Folder Options.
  3. Go to View and add "Always Show Menus" (Figure 7).
  4. Open Windows Explorer, and the "Tools" menu will appear. Click on it to see Folder Options (Figure 8).
Folder Options views

Figure 7: You can add menus to the Folder Options views.

Admin Tools Folder is another good one. In Windows 7 troubleshooting, all the admin tools can be collected into one folder. This includes all tools in Action Center, Backup and Restore, BitLocker, Credential Manager, Date and Time, Device Manager, Devices and Printers, Display, Folder Options and more. No more clicking through all the menus. Use the following procedure to collect them to one folder and put it on your desktop:

The Tools option should now appear
Figure 8: The Tools option should now appear.
  1. Create a folder -- name it "Admin.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}."
    1. Make sure there are no spaces at the end if you cut and paste.
    2. Admin" can be anything you want to call it.
  2. If you do it correctly, you'll see an "Admin" icon on the desktop (Figure 9).
'Admin' tools folder can be made accessible

Figure 9: The "Admin" tools folder can be made accessible.

In addition to these Windows 7 troubleshooting tools, there are some good downloads. Of course, the premier tool download is Windows Sysinternals. These Windows 7 utilities are vital to any administrator's tool box for those lonely nights when something breaks and users can't wait for tech support to call back!


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