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Assemble the perfect system administrator's toolkit

A good system admin is like a boy scout: always prepared. Paul Mah puts together a list of items that belongs in every system administrator's survival toolkit.

The Job

Picture this: You've been in IT for the past 15 years. The IT manager of a big firm, you manage a team of 10 IT staff that serves the in-house needs of more than 500 employees, and you know you do a great job at it.

After another day hard at work planning the new PBX migration project, your mobile phone rings. It's your CEO on the line. There's a problem with his home PC, which refuses to boot. He needs to retrieve a critical document from it for a keynote presentation the next day. He lives down the road from you.

So what do you do now?

A) Tell him you're an IT manager, and you don't do PC servicing anymore.

B) Tell him that you're at as much of a loss as he is.

C) Tell him not to worry and show up at his house an hour later with the team leader.

D) Tell him not to worry and that you're be right over in 5 minutes yourself.

If your answer is option A, B, and maybe even option C, then I suggest you head down to Toni's excellent Career blog for some advice on getting a new job.

If your answer is D, then perhaps this Right Tool post is for you.

Sometimes, there's no other way but to rollup your sleeve and get your hands dirty. Nothing beats being prepared, however. To help you along, I have put together a list of items that you can assemble into your very own system administrator survival toolkit.

The list is presented in no particular order.

The Tools

Screwdrivers

As you might have noticed by now, today's Right Tool post is somewhat different. Instead of the tool, I'm presenting you with a list of 20 tools that you might want to consider throwing into your own system administrator's toolkit. (Come on, you know real IT pros builds their own kits.)

  1. Cable tester
  2. Portable labeler
  3. Bluetooth mouse
  4. Anti-static strap
  5. Releasable cable ties
  6. Portable hard disk drive
  7. Encrypted USB flash drive
  8. Crimping tools
  9. Hard disk wiper
  10. Hard disk to USB adapter
  11. USB hub
  12. RJ11 cable
  13. Patch cables
  14. Multimeter
  15. Screwdrivers
  16. Multi-plug adapter
  17. Original disc media
  18. Serial to USB adapter
  19. RJ-45 extender
  20. Wireless modem

Check out this gallery for a more detailed discussion of each tool.

The Right Tool for the Job?

How well does this lineup represent your needs? Please let us know what you would put in your toolkit. And yes, it should be something you can lug around relatively easily, so you can leave out that 42-U server rack and SAN array.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

104 comments
ronald_55
ronald_55

So I have been looking at redoing my toolkit again, but I am looking for a good case/bag to build it in. What do you guys use? Right now I have an old softside bag, but I want something functional, professional, but that will not eat a paycheck to get.

captainvon
captainvon

The Job Picture this: You???ve been in IT for the past 15 years. The IT manager of a big firm, you manage a team of 10 IT staff that serves the in-house needs of more than 500 employees, and you know you do a great job at it. After another day hard at work planning the new PBX migration project, your mobile phone rings. It???s your CEO on the line. There???s a problem with his home PC, which refuses to boot. He needs to retrieve a critical document from it for a keynote presentation the next day. He lives down the road from you. So what do you do now? A) Tell him you???re an IT manager, and you don???t do PC servicing anymore. B) Tell him that you???re at as much of a loss as he is. C) Tell him not to worry and show up at his house an hour later with the team leader. D) Tell him not to worry and that you???re be right over in 5 minutes yourself. If your answer is option A, B, and maybe even option C, then I suggest you head down to Toni???s excellent Career blog for some advice on getting a new job. If your answer is D, then perhaps this Right Tool post is for you. Sometimes, there???s no other way but to rollup your sleeve and get your hands dirty. Nothing beats being prepared, however. To help you along, I have put together a list of items that you can assemble into your very own system administrator survival toolkit. The list is presented in no particular order. The Tools Screwdrivers As you might have noticed by now, today???s Right Tool post is somewhat different. Instead of the tool, I???m presenting you with a list of 20 tools that you might want to consider throwing into your own system administrator???s toolkit. (Come on, you know real IT pros builds their own kits.) 1. Cable tester 2. Portable labeler 3. Bluetooth mouse 4. Anti-static strap 5. Releasable cable ties 6. Portable hard disk drive 7. Encrypted USB flash drive 8. Crimping tools 9. Hard disk wiper 10. Hard disk to USB adapter 11. USB hub 12. RJ11 cable 13. Patch cables 14. Multimeter 15. Screwdrivers 16. Multi-plug adapter 17. Original disc media 18. Serial to USB adapter 19. RJ-45 extender 20. Wireless modem 21. Hire Jason Desveaux 22. Hire James Mcfarland

drbayer
drbayer

Personally, I think the time of carrying around bundles of CD's is over. With the advent of huge hard drives, I simply keep copies of all of the appropriate CD's on a portable and/or network hard drive and install from there. Carry a laptop with you and keep a couple of pieces of CDRW/DVDRW media in the case - you can burn OS or other bootable CD's as necessary. For ease of use, have a bootable USB flash drive with UBCD or Knoppix on it. For hardware tools, you can also keep it pretty simple. Multi-bit screwdriver with T15/T8, Philips 1 & 0, & blade bits. LED flashlight, paperclip, hemostats. Make sure the hard drive for your software is in a case that you can put a different drive in so you can connect to the laptop if necessary. Spare network cable (should be in the laptop bag anyway). For emergency field repairs/recovery that should be enough. If it takes much more than that, take it in to the shop (your home or office, your choice). Notice I said emergency repairs - when I performed field diagnostics/repairs for a living I kept a much larger kit in the car, but didn't necessarily take it inside unless necessary.

eyupo92
eyupo92

How can you fix problems without a diagnostic toolkit package ? Diagnostics were very popular in 80 s and 90 s, however they left the spotlight. You can buy an excellent one for $400, PC Doctor Service Center 6. It suuports even Vista. http://www.pc-doctor.com/pcd_service_center.php Instead of trying to assemble a lot of things and tools and try to fit them together, starting from a solid base an extremely smart move. If someone is interested I may try to create a right tool report for it.

rickydoo
rickydoo

I agree with most of the list, and carry almost all the above tools wherever I go, including boxes of indoor and outdoor Cat5 cable, since NW installs are part of my job. Need a new patch cabe? Make one custom sized on the spot. In addition to bootable CDs, all my SW tools (AV installers, Spybot, AdAware, reg cleaners, etc) I carry on my Ipod classic. Enough room left over for my music, podcasts and transferring user files to another machine if need be, too.

reisen55
reisen55

Where is your software collection??? I have all or most of the above in a bag, but almost all computer problems these days are, by virtue of MICROSOFT making a mess of things, is software related. WINTERNALS ERD COMMANDER Diagnostic Boot CDRom such as Ultimate boot ORIGINAL CDROMS of ALL software Small tools, a plethora of them. Drivers NetStat, RPing, etc. Sheesh.

mrdave_215
mrdave_215

So, what is the most dangerous thing in a business? An IT guy may well say a programmer with a screw driver. So if the Admin comes from a programming background, it would typically be best if they got someone who knew what they where doing. That aside, I have a really cool USB to IDE/Sata/Notebook drive adapter that i find is invaluable for post mortem support. Couple that with a copy of "gasp" Hiren's Boot disk latest version plus a notebook and you are well on your way to tackle most problems.

BlueKnight
BlueKnight

First off I'd swap the Bluetooth mouse for one suited to more systems. Your bosss may not have a Bluetooth capable system. A USB/PS2 capable mouse would be more appropriate in my estimation. So you have most of the tools you'll need and can open the box and "wrench" on whatever you need to. So, tell me hotshot, what software are you packing to diagnose problems and correct them? I'd be packing the major operating systems in addition to diagnostic software as well as software to get rid of malware etc. that could be part, if not all, of the problem. OK, now, go modify your toolkit and let us know what you come up with.

padenc2001
padenc2001

Cant live without the following: MemTest PartedMagic Dell Diagnostics CD TCP/IP Boot Disc DBAN Live CD Ubuntu Live and alternative CDs Trusty Tool CD containg AVG, Spybot S&D, Hijack This, some helpful utilites for killing off troublesome viruses and spyware or locked files Other Tools: --------------- 5 - in - 1 Network Admin Cable Extra screws, RJ-45 ends, SATA and IDE cables, Power Supply Tester Cable Crimpers Spare CDROM/DVD drive for those just in case situations Star tip drivers or wrenches for those sometimes pesky Macs Thats all i can remember at the moment however im sure i missed a few, i also made sure to leave out a few live/install cds that i use for only certain clients such as SME Server, smoothwall, etc.

Alfa11
Alfa11

Never used one, never needed it.

wmiller
wmiller

It is fine to have all that 'Stuff' in your 'Tool Kit', but it is even more essential to have a Laptop that can be used as a Tool with that list. I myself like the IBM Thinkpad X32 cause it has built in Ethernet, Wireless, Bluetooth, Modem , 1394 , USB, and an LPT output. It's small , thin and thus light wieght for easy carrying! I find a Laptop allows you to more quickly ensure things are working right and with it and that Hard disk to USB adapter you can at least get the CEO accessto his critical document and get it printed out or heck I would just lend him the laptop!

gstrickland
gstrickland

There's too much crud in that kit - remember you are fixing a PC not the Titanic. If it's not been said before in a previous post, take a spare working ADSL router too.

kaspyr.jansen
kaspyr.jansen

First off, I've used a lot of live recovery disks (Trinity rescue disk, UBCD4WIN, Kubuntu, etc), but none of those came remotely close to having the flexibility and reliability of LSoft's Active@ Boot Disk Win Edition. Based on the Windows Vista framework, this boot disk allows the user to do anything from data recovery (even when linux boot disks don't recognize the HDD) without the need for a password, to wiping the HDD with a program called Active@ Kill Disk. For two years now I have used this boot disk without a single hiccup. There is also one more boot disk that comes in very handy, and that is Alwil's Avast BART CD. This network administrator's dream software allows the user to once again bypass the hard disk on boot-up and search and destroy/quarantine malware. Both these pieces of software come in incredibly handy, and no IT administrator should go without them. They have saved my life many times. Find Active@ Boot Disk at: http://www.ntfs.com/boot-disk.htm Find Avast Bart CD at: http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_bart_cd.html

jeff
jeff

I've been out of this type of environment for about 7 years but people would often ask me why I still have a tool box (by this time I was the President over a company of about 30ish techs and engineers - we services the cruise industry so it was 24/7/365). The company grew like mad and this story is a good example of why.

Brian
Brian

This list is starting to look like what a PC tech would need, not a sys admin. Having said that, there a couple of things missing. A small pill bottle with some various screws. Needle nose pliers for pulling jumpers, but also picking up any of those screws that get dropped into the case.

pouigardens
pouigardens

sorry double post! Refer to one above

pouigardens
pouigardens

First things first. Ask him basic questions first to get a feel for the problem. Stuff like the if there are any lights on and if there are beeps and such. Then you will know what to carry. I would have a power supply tester, some known good RAM, needle nose pliers (reset BIOS jumper)POST card, an eraser (to clean RAM contacts), screwdriver set, Flash drive with all my needed software, linux password reset CD,standalone bootable utility CD. I would not walk with the network stuff, after all it is a home PC and the file is local. No remote connectivity needed as the file is local so no RJ11 or modem either. Bluetooth mouse ??? Hard disk wiper? More likely data recovery software you want to retrieve not destroy. Labeler ? we probably know which wires go where or else you should not even open the case. Bottom line is don't walk with what you don't need. If the problem is really huge then take the system to your home workshop (yeah all techs have that)and fix from there. Or simply yank the drive and, connect to another PC and extract file (unless encrypted). Good tech keep it real simple and real quick. The list above is really a system admin tool kit, not a PC tech toolkit .The PC tech kit is what you need in this situation. Possibly a PC tech as well!!

billd
billd

Obviously a trick question. In a typical company where a CEO's total comp is >10x the average workers' salary, he does not live down the road from you. At best, he's across town. More likely, he's in another county living in a gated community.

g.robertson
g.robertson

I'd add a copy of SpinRite from grc.com This little gem has revived many a hard drive that's failed to boot or was on the verge of giving up the ghost. Not freeware but well worth the investment.

melwongpl
melwongpl

All this are hardware related. I recommend Ultimate BootCD for the software part.

Tom_geraghty
Tom_geraghty

What about the coffee? Or chocolate? In all seriousness though, how often are you called out to a job that "should" take 20 minutes and turns into 6 hours? Have a snickers in your toolbox and you'll be fine!

Dave Howard
Dave Howard

Bluetooth mouse? Give me a break----how many people are you going to run into that even know what it is, or that their computer can support it? And where are the needle nose pliers???? These are very handy. Long handle, medium and very fine pointed, non-magnetic are available from Crafsman, Snap-on Tools, MAC Tools. These are some of the best tool companies out there, and their products are top of the line. CHeck out there catalogs online, or, if you know a mechanic or anybody in the automotive or electronics trades, they will tell you where to get good screwdrivers, needle-nose pliers and anything else you may need. I was and have been in the automotive industry for a little while, enough time to collect about 30K in tools over the years while I do LAN administration and fix PC's for my new occupation.

aveper
aveper

Last time this happenned to me I thought i had the right tools and the pc stayed in my hands booting 12 hours later only.

Jay Purple
Jay Purple

he needs to add a mac to that list and an iPod and pliers

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Screen your calls. When you get in make your apology, ???I was chasing dingbats in my back yard or what ever.??? Personally, I don't do work on people's personal machines or work machines when I am not at work: 1. I am a manager and not a tech; I get paid to do that, period. 2. You don???t want to get jacked up because his home machine is a nightmare and fall into the trap of not being able to deliver. 3. Whatever tool you need will not be the one you have. 4. You actually make a mistake, hey, it happens to the best of use (see number 2) 5. You have a life and deserve to live what little you can in the free time you have. 6. You have just established an unhealthy relationship. I try to keep work and personal life separate so I don???t open myself up to situations like this.

jbrown
jbrown

I personally would just do a fast data pull using a combination of the hard drive removal of the data needed. I have had to make a stop at the CEO's house to fix her computer and it actually was across town in the gated community. I personally have been working on computers in the field for 10 years before I went to network admin for this company and my original software collection is now on 6 spindles of about 100 each. 3 computers in the home based lab with all tools and all software needed. Way too much to drag along for a full on emergancy repair. I did get her the files needed, put them on cd for her to use on her laptop, and took her system and had it back in the morning sparkling clean and running perfect.

john3347
john3347

BlueKnight (and others), you're missing the purpose of your trip down the street here. You are not going for the purpose of diagnosing and repairing the boss's computer. You are going there to retrieve the boss's presentation for their conference tomorrow. You may or may not bring the computer home with you to diagnose and repair it on a more suitable schedule where you have time and tools available to you. Your goal is to retrieve your boss's presentation then get back home with your family or whatever you would have been doing had the boss not called. The boss wants to do likewise. If this were a professional service call, the situation would be different; but it's not.

patrick.moran
patrick.moran

Not in our shop. We get more than computers here. Today?s Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment all use customized high-end computers. Most can be networked. When probing the innards of these devices I do NOT want to be the shift supervisor explaining to the CIO/CEO why a $3,000-$5,000 (or even more) custom-built circuit card was damaged due to ESD. One thing I would add to the kit is what we call a ?Green Cord? (not referring to being eco-friendly but rather only the green ground wire is utilized). Simply connect one of these between the computer and its power cord. NOW connect the ESD strap to the computer chassis and be assured any stray charges have indeed been shunted away. One possible source is here: http://www.ziotek.com/templates/searchdetail.asp?productID=5338

jeff
jeff

If you work for a multimillion (or billion) dollar company and the CEO wants you to upgrade his memory, it's worth the time, cost and, even with the .000001% chance of a problem, your job to use one. Even if it's useless, many of your customer's (internal or external) don't know that and would expect to see a grounding strap. Also, what if the senario was that you had to go to the owner's home and while there, he wanted you to look at his kid's old hand-me-down? My brother, an international bank executive, still uses a 12" Pentium notebook since that's all he needs. I've seen 10 year old computers that are still highly depended upon and those can be a bit more touchy. Another reason (I'm feeling chatty this morning) In some environments, especially ships, there are steel fibers in the carpet. On ships these metal fibers are part of the static disipation and grounding system as well as improving wear. Similiar carpet is used in many hotels and heavy traffic commercial areas, also because of how well the wear. On a ship the floors are steel and you often get static discharge when touching grounded components such the rings around elevator buttons, etc. If you open a case when that carpet fiber builds up in the computer chassis and you are standing on similiar carpeting, you will OFTEN blow something out. Ships, again, are a bit of an extreem example but this example does apply to one degree or another in land based environments.

memman
memman

As a long-time member of the IT community I still find new tools regularly. You can see some of what I have found to be of use in resolving speed issues and Anti-Virus or Anti-Spyware sources by going to http://usmot.org/PDFgallery.htm and just looking around. Another couple of good tools to keep handy are recent tools put out by Systernals (which is now MS owned) called "Autoruns" and "ProcessExplorer" downloadable from Microsoft at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/cb56073f-62a3-4ed8-9dd6-40c84cb9e2f5.aspx and free of charge. In my personal opinion and in agreement with many posts here, I generally take only what I need for the job plus a few things I don't just in case but leave them in the car unless I need them. Most of the time I walk in with just a thumb drive and my CD case since most issues seem to be software related unless my initial assessment of the situation revealed that it was hardware. I still keep those things in the car (just in case). In my scenario, I keep most of my admin tools in one location so that it is easy to just grab and go if needed. My staff take care of most of the issues but I stay ready for special clients or upper management and am not afraid to roll up my sleeves to get the job done if needed and sometimes that is necessary. IT manager does not always mean that you are too far from the issues to remember how to do it or that you should ever let yourself get to the point that you don't know how. Stay "up-to-date" with technology or in two to three years you'll be replaced.

john3347
john3347

It would be a very small business in the US business world that the CEO's salary could be called >10x. Typical CEO salaries in the mid and large corporations in the US tend to be more like 50 to 100 times the rank and file employee's salary. This number is so much greater than 10x that "greater than", while correct, is a ridiculous understatement. (The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.)

grayson.stedman.jr
grayson.stedman.jr

Both my CEO & GM do actually live in the same area as I do. But then I live in the Caribbean so things are a bit different over here. And I have been bullied into solving problems that are not company related. I held back my cuss words and resolved the issue, which involved getting a new laptop for his wife, and a new PC for his kids. But for any major problems I bring the PC in rather than work on it from his home. For unlocking local Windows passwords I've used ERD Commander which does the job, and allows me to access & backup files when Windows won't boot. It doesn't have any anti-virus or anti-spyware tools though. Will try out the UBCD.

tech.republic
tech.republic

I can't agree more, SpinRite is one of the few toolkit utilities I have paid for and think its worth every cent five years later. Steve Gibson created the ultimate small & focused utility that will recover most corrupt drives enough to boot or dump data from. No frills, just 100% friendly user functionality with a simple menu interface. Try it before you say you will never need it. Option 2 is what most everyone will ever need.

patrick.moran
patrick.moran

Agreed, SpinRite is well worth the investment. I had it only for two weeks when it paid for itself.

LordTye
LordTye

All of us are glorified geeks with more knowledge in a certain subject than others. I'm a company owner, 85 techs and clear over $750k/year myself. I've put dudes that have your attitude onto the streets and blackmarked a few into 3rd world country's forever. If I get a call from one of my customers, I still at 49 years old can get my happy ass up off the couch and do a favor that may mean the difference between firing sombody or expanding. Rethink your attitude son.

christopher.fujii
christopher.fujii

Although I agree with some of what you are saying, most IT professionals I know are on call. That being said, if the person in question is the CEO and he has come to you as an employee to fix this issue because it is critical, as stated in the example, then it probably is your duty to at least retreive the file. Fixing the computer is not the biggest issue. If that file is critical to running the business like say the difference between winning a huge contract and losing it, then it is critical you help the CEO out. After all, he's the one running the show that pays your bills. On the other hand if he, or anyone else in the business, is always calling you up and asking you to fix their malware issues, etc. then it's probably best you inform them of best practices and refer them to trusted computer repair shops. /stepsoffofsoapbox As for tools, one password removal tool I have found useful is DBAN. Linux command and works great. Also, any type of PE that allows you to view and modify startup configuration, view Explorer shell entries, LSA providers, etc. works wonders. It's amazing how many BSODs and Explorer boot loops I have fixed with just common sense and the right tools like the ones stated. On top of these, a good temp file cleaner like CCleaner, command line scanners that are updated, Windows Dbg tool, Dial-a-Fix, and WinSockFix are also good ones. And one last "tool" that I would suggest (although I haven't had to use it as often) would be a compilation of all base XP/Vista drivers for things like the keyboard and USB devices along with .reg files that reset settings that are sometimes FUBARed (CD-ROMs not able to load drivers properly anyone?) So that's my two cents...

teebes2004
teebes2004

Preferably a LED flashlight. I am always amazed at what these 51 year old eyes can see with one of these.

christopher.fujii
christopher.fujii

First off, your and you're are two different things. As a note, I was in a rush since I had other things to do at work when I originally posted. What I had meant was the CEO should be someone you always help but other people like common employees as an example should be referred to the proper outlets. If you think that the money you pay your techs is being spent properly by allowing them to fix personal computers of random employees then by all means, spend the money. I know people have their own lives and don't always want to be bothered with helping every person that has a problem. If you run your own shop, then the prospect of future business may incline you to help them. And again, if you're hired by someone that just makes decisions and isn't technically inclined, of course you help out your superiors...again, they pay your bills. But to come off that arrogant by stating you make well over $750k a year? Cookie? Is that what you want? Good job but I don't care how much you make. Makes no difference to me. Learn some modesty. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't want to work for you, anyway. Take care.

joopdog1
joopdog1

You are 100% correct LordTye. I personally understand mikifinaz1 is not a techie, however, you delegate or you send your best techie out. Management doesn't want to hear "It can't be done." We are I.T.!!! These are challenges that we must accept. We fix everything electronic. From PC?s to laptops, from printers to faxes, from Cell Phones to iPODs and at times the little Adding Machines. We get called on everything. My CEO calls I?m at the house, uh-hum, Mansion in two minutes. We have four I.T. personnel looking after 300 employees and 600 LAN devices. We also do home PC?s just for practice. Over the past three years we?ve received 100 home PC?s to clear out spyware, malware, crapware. What we?ve learned in that time is incredible. We?ve become so good, they call us the Doctors. Best Buy charges $200 dollars in what we do for 20 bucks. Among my tools are the following: Ultimate Boot CD for Windows(http://www.ubcd4win.com/) is the best Admin Tool I?ve used. It has helped me immensely. Bart PE (http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/): Bart's Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) bootable windows CD/DVD. BartPE is Admin's best friend... Version 3.1.10a (released on Feb 17, 2006). Bart's PE Builder helps you build a "BartPE" (Bart Preinstalled Environment) bootable Windows CD-Rom or DVD from the original Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 installation/setup CD, very suitable for PC maintenance tasks. It will give you a complete Win32 environment with network support, a graphical user interface (800x600) and FAT/NTFS/CDFS filesystem support. Very handy for burn-in testing systems with no OS, rescuing files to a network share, virus scan and so on. This will replace any Dos bootdisk in no time! My Self Boot Personal CD Doctor (All FREE Utilities): CCleaner (http://www.majorgeeks.com/download4191.html): CCleaner is a freeware system optimization and privacy tool. It removes unused files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. It also cleans traces of your online activities such as your Internet history. But the best part is that it's fast (normally taking less than a second to run) and contains NO Spyware or Adware! :) Lavasoft Ad-Aware 2007 Free (http://www.lavasoft.com/products/ad_aware_free.php): Ad-Aware is no ordinary anti-spyware, it is the original anti-spyware product, offered to consumers worldwide to protect their personal and home computers from malware attacks. SpyBot 1.5.2 (http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/index.html): Spybot - Search & Destroy can detect and remove spyware of different kinds from your computer. Application to scan for spyware, adware, hijackers and other malicious software. Emergency Recovery Utility NT (http://www.larshederer.homepage.t-online.de/erunt/): ERUNT - Registry Backup and Restore for Windows NT/2000/2003/XP/Vista. ERUNT (Emergency Recovery Utility NT) allows you to keep a complete backup of your registry and restore it when needed. HiJackThis 2.0 (http://www.majorgeeks.com/download5554.html): Trend Micro HijackThis is a free utility that generates an in depth report of registry and file settings from your computer. HijackThis makes no separation between safe and unsafe settings in its scan results giving you the ability to selectively remove items from your scan results identified as malicious or unwanted from your machine. Pocket Killbox (http://www.majorgeeks.com/download.php?det=4709): Pocket KillBox is a program that can be used to get rid of files that stubbornly refuse to allow you to delete them. Codestuff Starter (http://www.snapfiles.com/get/starter.html): Starter is a startup manager, that allows you to view and manage all the programs that are starting automatically whenever Windows boots. Process Explorer (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653.aspx): Ever wondered which program has a particular file or directory open? Now you can find out. Process Explorer shows you information about which handles and DLLs processes have opened or loaded. VCleaner (http://free.grisoft.com/doc/29223/us/frt/0): Specialized utility for virus removal. The utilities can be used to remove of some of the most common viruses. I-Worm/Stration, Worm/Generic.FX, Agent.A-AN, BackDoor.Agent.A-Z, BackDoor.Agent.AA-BG, Downloader.Agent.AS, I-Worm/Atak.A-I, Bagle.DA-IU, I-Worm/Bagle.A-Z, I-Worm/Bagle.AA-JD, I-Worm/Bugbear.D, I-Worm/Mytob.A-GC, I-Worm/Netsky.A-Z, Worm/Netsky.AA-AD, I-Worm/Sasser.A-F, I-Worm/Zafi.A-E, PSW.Bispy.A-E, Win32/Gaelicum, Win32/Hidrag. NTFS4DOS (http://www.bootdisk.com/ntfs.htm): Sometimes you need full Read AND Write access to NTFS drives if XP/NT is not booting in order to delete a file, replace a file, rename a file, or edit a file such as boot.ini or perhaps win.ini. Remove Admin Passwords (http://home.eunet.no/~pnordahl/ntpasswd/bootdisk.html): This guy has put together a single floppy and/or CD which contains things needed to edit the passwords on most systems. However, it?s highly cryptic for non-nerd people, I would not recommend anybody to try it on their own unless there is a guru nearby, or the person itself be highly skilled. But it works.(Please use this with responsibility.) TCPView (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb897437.aspx): TCPView is a Windows program that will show you detailed listings of all TCP and UDP endpoints on your system, including the local and remote addresses and state of TCP connections. On Windows Server 2008, Vista, NT, 2000 and XP TCPView also reports the name of the process that owns the endpoint. McAfee Stinger (http://vil.nai.com/vil/stinger/): Stinger is a stand-alone utility used to detect and remove specific viruses. It is not a substitute for full anti-virus protection, but rather a tool to assist administrators and users when dealing with an infected system. These are just a few FREE utilities that have helped me get out of PC jams many, many times.

wolffhouse
wolffhouse

I think you should seek therapy. I don't know if you have ever been unemployed but to blacklist a person in a single corporation, much less a city, state or country is a grievous crime. There are many people who have committed suicide when such things happened to them. And whether it really happened or not, you seem to think that small acts of aggravation to yourself justify that. What you claim to have done is a far more outrageous and hurtful act than many of us would ever admit to outside of war.

pkrdk
pkrdk

The person in the question is the CIO/IT manager, running your IT staff of 10 persons to support 500 users - it's clearly a Windows shop. Now the boss - You - get a problem on your PRIVATE PC, just like a problem with your pool, dog, roof or other private stuff. You call your COMPANY's CIO and asks him to fix your PC in his sparetime for free, and if he says: 1. It's not work related and I advise you to take your PC to a PC repairshop just as you call in the carpenter, or at least take it in to the company IT staff tomorrow where experts will fix it - for free, which will interest the IRS. 2. I'm not a techie guy, I know how to manage your IT department, get the right people for the right jobs, and tailor the company IT to suit and support the company business model. I don't have a clue as to what technically goes on inside your PC, let alone Windows. you just fire him. On what reason? You hire staff, not slaves.

btd
btd

From the tech side. I've been in the middle of a major software/hardware retooling and had a CEO ride me about why he can't get his email (He forgot his password by the way) and basically brow-beat me until I transfered all of his info to the NEW laptop he purchased because his old one (

The Truth
The Truth

You're fired, not your fired... I'm a company owner employing over 85 techs... blackmarked? What is that? countries, not country's...

email
email

enough said..

harrylal
harrylal

I personally think more CEO's should be fired without their golden parachutes for this kind of incompetence and attitude. Good lord you are such a jerk. Employee retention must be a serious issue at your company. I am willing to bet you have a revolving door at your place of business with your kind of attitude. It would be a wonder if anyone would even want to come to work for you. I personally would like to know who you really are because I think a lawsuit might be in your near future.

TechrepLath
TechrepLath

I disagree. When someone makes the move from techie to manager. Chances are he's is out of touch with the basics in less than year or 2. When managers take it upon themselves just to prove they have "the right attitude" instead of sending an expert, they just might do more bad than good. Besides, a good manager would give one of his guys the chance to shine before the big boss and not try to get some quick easy credit himself. A good techie doe not a good manager make... and vice versa.

Haas
Haas

I would give the guy another chance. If he screens his calls and doesn't take care of business, I would have a very constructive conversation about the reasons we are in business and most importantly why we need to stay in business. If he repeats the same mistake over then he and I would know what would happen (because he would know what I told him in our previous conversation.) On helping others, I try to help anybody that asks me for help, because that is an opportunity for future business. If the problem is a minor one such as removing spayware / malware, I would fix it and give him/her some preventive advice, and if the issue is serious such as data recovery, then I would explain to him/her how much I will charge and how much it would cost him if he/she takes it to the competition, and let him/her make his/her own decision. Knowledge is power. You can empower people by helping them with your knowledge. Thanks Haas

santeewelding
santeewelding

...has a certain parallel attitude, I see. Contain it, son, lest it consume you.

brian
brian

I agree with your IT toolset, but the answering machine is not part of it. If you are working on building a toolbox like this, I'd say there's a 99% chance you are on call or do house calls for a living. YOUR CEO is already working nights/weekends, trying to keep the doors open and maybe even trying to be more profitable. The problem is important enough for him/her to need YOUR help, on the weekend or in the night. He/She is there for the company, regardless of the time of day. One company I worked for had dedicated one person exclusively to Executive IT Support - He was on call for CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, and several Executive Admins. Yes, he had calls for simple fixes and other such nonsense (who hasn't?) He's also the one who built out the networking for the corporate jet, and flew to various locations on the globe to assist during in-flight meetings with execs from other companies. The person I speak of is still working with the same CEO years later; at a different company, a very large Internet company, and is in charge of IT Telecomm for that company. In IT, being good at what you do isn't good enough. Ask anyone laid off in 2001-2003. Being there for the company keeps you employed AND gets you ahead. You want to get ahead? Who can help you the fastest? When do you get chances to connect with them? What can you do (for them) to notice you?

Endoscopy
Endoscopy

Darick's Boot and Nuke will take care of the password problem all right. It is a disk wipe program. There goes the file as well.

hasan.nasr
hasan.nasr

Hi cfujii, can you provide a source to download those tools from please? thanks.

pkrdk
pkrdk

I baffle at this. It's called the sysadmins toolkit, it looks more like a tv repairmans's toolkit to me. This is not the sysadmin's toolkit, this is the techsupports toolkit, and the bad techsupport's toolkit even. Running around fixing things at the spot as they go wrong, is by far the worst and cheapest approach. It's more akin to the early century when the mechanic repaired your car at the roadside, while you waited in the nearby inn. How are your car being repaired today? It's towed to the workshop, and you many times they lend you a spare car while your own is unavailable. Why should IT be different, and even different on the bad side? I am the IT manager mentioned in the text, running an 8 man department supporting 1000 users worldwide. When my tech supporters are sent on a case, they carry with them 6 things - a replacement thin client, a keyboard, a mouse, a power cable and a lan cable. This is what makes up a workplace, and this is what is needed to get the user going again in case of a HW failure. If it is not hardware, we fix 90% in the server room, because we dumped the most expensive and inefficient support heavy office equipment ever invented - the Windows PC - years ago. Our real toolbox is the knowledge inside the supporter's head. The knowledge that get users out of troubles, and THAT toolbox is very different according to what system you administrate. The tools and knowledge for running a Microsoft shop is very different to what is needed for running a UNIX shop, and different again to running an IBM iSeries or mainframe shop. In none of the the latter have I ever found any use for tools from the local tool shop. This list of pliers, hacksaws, various screwdrivers, flashlights and hammers is nonsense, unless ewe talk of the PC- or electronics repair shop, and especially for anybody calling themselves system administrators. If my boss carried an important non-retrievable business paper along on his laptop, I'd tell him a little about security. Maybe tell him how many laptops are found in airports, hotelrooms, taxis, hired cars, not forgetting motel-rooms rented for 2 hours and other unspeakable places.

Puzz623
Puzz623

A flashlight - I couldn't agree more, and I'm surprised to wait so long for somebody to suggest it. BUT add a mirror. I'm still amazed how often the torch and the mirror (and the ability to read backwards) get me out of trouble where the alternative is moving a whole bunch of filthy gear or dismantling it.

rentauri
rentauri

Did you even read the post he is responding to? CEO has a problem (one that is related to company problems) calls you up and you dodge his calls because you have a life? because its unhealthily to work on his personal computer? No, its one thing if you actually have a reason (Like sorry boss love to help but I'm 400 miles away right now, or can't boss at the Hospital wife is sick) but if your dodging your bosses calls something is wrong. The boss calls the shots and while I can see you going over to fix the problem I don't see why it would be so wrong to send over a guy who is better suited for this task.

bvoris
bvoris

I disagree, not all managers are out of touch with IT support. Majority are, however as they do not communicate with staff, learn standard proceedures for support. I work closely with my staff as well as on the support grounds with them. Manager doesn't just have to sit behind a desk all day and anwser the phone.

LordTye
LordTye

Don't hold back, it causes undue stress. Let passion consume you but don't overdo anything. The title is from a passion of mine as well as earned.

christopher.fujii
christopher.fujii

You're right Endoscopy...I was in a rush when typing and DBAN is something I use for computers that won't restore completely...but yeah it is the wrong tool for passwords...a good linux password removal tool will do the trick though.

kkopp
kkopp

The only times I'd pull out the nukes in this case: 1. Thats what was requested... (I would spend a few minutes clarifying what we were about to do.) 2. I had another job lined up in a different field working for someone that the CEO doesn't know.

christopher.fujii
christopher.fujii

Windows Debugger: http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/devtools/debugging/default.mspx CCleaner: http://www.ccleaner.com WinSockFix: http://www.softpedia.com/get/Tweak/Network-Tweak/WinSockFix.shtml As for preboot environments, etc. the one I use is proprietary but you can always use BartPE or some other one to boot from and remove files that you can identify as rootkits. Word of advice on rootkits though is that if you find the rogue file, search the registry for the entry, as well. Usually, running Spy Sweeper, CounterSpy, Spyware Doctor, etc will remove all the traces but they all catch/miss things that the others don't find.