Microsoft

10 things every new IT admin needs to know

When you launch your IT career, it's important to understand concepts -- but you also need to know how to perform these real-world tasks.

You're about to graduate from college and enter the IT workforce. What do you really need to know? What fundamental skills should you have before you step foot into that first interview?

Sure, you should know IP subnetting and the fundamentals of firewalling, switching, and routing. But what about the everyday tasks you'll need to be able to do in your sleep?

We're talking math students having a firm grasp on differential equations but not simple math. Indycar drivers not knowing the rules of the road. Authors not knowing how to write dialog — real fundamental stuff. Let's take a look at 10 "in your sleep" tasks that every new admin should know.

1: Domain a computer

If you know how to add a computer to a workgroup, you should know how to add a Windows computer to a domain. This is basic stuff that will cause a department head no end of frustration if the staff can't do it. Along with this task, you should know how to cache credentials on a computer. (This can be especially important for a laptop.)

2: Troubleshoot printing

Printing can easily become the bane of your existence. Never a "set it and forget it" piece of your workday, printing is constantly causing problems. You'll need to understand all the many ways there are to troubleshoot local and network printing, as well as how to remove printers from the Windows registry in case of a more serious issue on the desktop machine.

3: Boot into Safe Mode

It's inevitable that some machines will become infected with a virus that will require the use of a tool like ComboFix. When this happens, you will need to boot that computer into Safe Mode. I would like to say that any person who does not know how to boot into Safe Mode has no business in the IT industry — but I've seen this quite a lot over the years. F8 is your friend. Get to know it. Make sure you know how to boot into Safe Mode With Networking so you can further troubleshoot a machine that simply won't behave in regular mode.

4: Install an OS

This is another must-know on the list of admin skills. If you've managed to get through college (or your first gigs as an admin) without installing an operating system, something is definitely wrong. IT admins should know how to install Windows 7/8, Windows Server, Linux, and Mac — at a bare minimum. It would also behoove you to know how to set up a dual-boot machine.

5: Manage users in Active Directory

From my perspective, managing users in Active Directory is a constant job — whether you're adding, removing, editing, locking, unlocking, or just resetting passwords. You'll need to know how to find your way around Active Directory and how to manage the AD users. If you can't do this, you will be scrambling to get up to speed the second you wind up working on a network that takes advantage of Active Directory.

6: Reset a password on a server

This isn't always as simple as resetting an Active Directory password. There might be times when you need to change an admin password on a non-AD machine (and know how that change can affect things like Acronis backups and such). You should also know how to reset passwords on a Linux server/desktop as well as on a Mac desktop.

7: Create an Outlook profile/account

Sometimes, there is no choice but to blow away an Outlook profile to resolve Outlook issues. When this happens, you have to know how to remove the corrupt profile and add another. And if you're in a Windows-centric environment, you can be sure this task will fall into your lap sooner than later.

8: Run chkdsk

Hardware goes bad. Disks wind up with errors. At some point, you're going to run into an issue that requires a disk be checked — and you won't be able to do it using a fancy GUI tool. You need to know how to force a chkdsk at boot as well as be able to have the command automatically repair errors (so you don't have to be present during the reboot/check).

9: Schedule a Windows Server backup

There are a number of reasons why you need to know how to schedule a Windows Server Backup. Even if you use third-party software for backup solutions, you will still need to take advantage of the only tool that can reliably flush an Exchange log (without having to resort to circular logging). Know how to schedule the Windows Server Backup and how to run one immediately.

10: Clear space on a C drive

When the C drive fills up, bad things happen. If this is on a server, really bad things can happen. Should a C drive start to fill up, you need to know exactly what to do — even if it's just running a simple tool like CCleaner to clear out the temp files that have accumulated. One tool that can really help save you is WinDirStat. With WinDirStat, you can quickly find out what file types are hogging that precious C drive space.

Essential tasks

There are many tasks you have to fully understand to be a successful IT administrator. But when you're just starting out, you should at least have a solid grasp of these 10 things.

What other tasks and knowledge do you think new admins need to have under their belt? Share your suggestions with fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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