Monday, September 24, 2012

Yet Another 10 Free Tools for System Administrators

[Originally by John Bagley ( from March 2010 edition of]

Audit Active Directory and file servers, detect inactive users, block USB devices, and more - for free
The following freeware tools by Windows IT Pro Community Choice Awards finalist NetWrix Corporation can save you a lot of time and make your network more efficient - at absolutely no cost. Some of these tools have advanced commercial versions with additional features, but none of them will expire and stop working when you urgently need them.

1. Active Directory Change Reporter (Windows IT Pro Sep'09: InstantDoc ID 102446, Windows IT Pro Jan'09: InstantDoc ID 100593, TechTarget - This is a simple auditing tool to keep tabs on what's going on inside Active Directory. The tool tracks changes to users, groups, OUs, and other types of AD objects, and sends summary reports with full lists of what was changed and how it was changed. In addition, it has a nice "rollback" feature that helps rollback unwanted changes (including deletions) very quickly.

2. USB Blocker (Windows IT Pro Nov'09: InstantDoc ID 102860) - Users bring tons of consumer devices: flash drives, MP3 players, cell phones, etc., into the office and this aptly-named tool can block them with a couple of mouse clicks to prevent the spread of a virus and to restrict the take-out of confidential information. The product is integrated with Active Directory and is very easy to use.

3. Password Expiration Notifier (Redmond Magazine Feb'09, 4sysops - This tool will automatically remind users to change passwords before they expire to keep you safe from password reset calls. It works nicely for users who don't log on interactively and, thus, never receive standard password change reminders at log on time (e.g., VPN and OWA users).

4. Inactive Users Tracker (MS TechNet Magazine May'08 - This feature tracks down inactive user accounts (e.g., terminated employees) so you can easily disable them, or even remove them entirely, to eliminate potential security holes. The tool sends reports on a regular schedule, showing what accounts have been inactive for a configurable period of time (e.g., 2 months).

5. File Server Change Reporter ( - This tool enhances the line of auditing tools; this one for file servers. File Server Change Reporter detects changes in files, folders, permissions, tracks deleted, and newly-created files, and sends daily summary reports. This is a very useful tool to detect mistakenly-deleted files and recover from backup or to see if someone changes some important files.

6. Active Directory Object Restore Wizard ( - This tool can save the day if someone accidentally (or intentionally) deleted a bunch of Active Directory objects. It provides granular object-level and even attribute-level restore capabilities to quickly rollback unwanted changes (e.g., mistakenly deleted users, modified group memberships, etc).

7. VMware Change Reporter (TechTarget/SearchVirtualDesktop - If you don't know what is being changed by your colleagues in the VMware infrastructure, it's very easy to get lost and miss changes that can affect the things for which you are responsible. This tool tracks and reports configuration changes in VMware Virtual Center settings and permissions.

8. Windows Service Monitor ( - This very simple monitoring tool alerts you when some Windows service accidentally stops on one of your servers. The tool also detects services that fail to start at boot time, which sometimes happens, for example, with Exchange Server.

9. Bulk Password Reset (reviewed by SoftPedia - While most companies have strong password policies for their employees, one critical issue is still neglected: local Administrator passwords on all servers are usually managed in a "set and forget" fashion, sometimes using some "well-known" passwords, opening a major surface for security attacks. The Bulk Password Reset tool quickly resets local account passwords on all servers at once, making them more secure.

10. Disk Space Monitor (MS TechNet Magazine Sep'09 - Even with today's terabyte-large hard drives, server disk space tends to run out quickly and unexpectedly. This simple monitoring tool will send you daily reports regarding all servers that are running low on disk space, below the configurable threshold.

(More tools: