Windows optimize

Windows 7 command-line tools for the IT ninja

Bill Detwiler reveals four lesser-known command-line tools for IT pros who troubleshoot Windows 7 problems.

These days, many enterprise IT pros don't spend much time troubleshooting PCs. If a problem takes more than an hour to fix, they're likely to roll the machine back to an earlier restore point or re-image the hard drive. And if users work on VMs, resetting a machine is even easier.

But many consultants and IT pros in smaller shops still spend time identifying and fixing desktop problems. And on Windows 7 machines, troubleshooting often requires a trip to the command line. So during this week's episode of TR Dojo, I show you several lesser-known commands that every Windows ninja should know.

For those who prefer text to video, click the View Transcript link below the video player window or check out Brien Posey's article, "10 Windows 7 commands every administrator should know," on which this video is based. And more Windows command-line tips and tricks, check out the following resources:

You can also sign up to receive the latest TR Dojo lessons through one or more of the following methods:

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

7 comments
irprogrammer
irprogrammer

I work in a back shop that supports field techs of varying skill. A customer was having problems with Outlook not sending email from her main PC, but would work from any other system she logged. She got tired of having her PC reimaged only to have the problem recur. After the fourth reimaging, she brought the system in and I intercepted it from one of our reimage-happy techs. Turns out after asking her a few questions (oh no, I spoke with the customer!) I was able to use the ScanPST tool to fix the pst file on her trouble machine which fixed the problem. I had to tell the techs the reason it didn't happen anywhere else was because she worked off the server on the other machines (default for our domain.) This was one of those problems where all of the reimaging or rolling back in the world wouldn't help.

pjboyles
pjboyles

Quick fixes are god for some situations. When a problem starts occuring on multiple systems or are repetative then troubleshooting the root cause and fixing the root cause for all machines better serves the customer! A prime example of "it needs trouble shooting" is STOP issues that repeat on more than one system. Less obvious are application issues. A recent one we had is an application that hung for several minutes after a specific reproducable set of steps. Our users are much happier after the vendor patched the underlining issue. A user behavior issue example is persistent drive mappings to coworker's systems. (Oh how I wish I could disable the persistent switch forever.) These drive very slow Windows Explorer and FILE | x action in applications. It is even more painful when the co-worker (and their machine) are not in the office.

masungit
masungit

Yes, because so you will know what really was the problem, arrive with a logical conclusion and go through all or most of the processes to come up with the best solution. The whole process will surely eat up time but that???s how you learn and the shortest way isn't always the right way. Now that is if you have the time to spare.

kgriffith
kgriffith

I answered yes to the question on Is There Value to Troubleshoot. However, in the working world it is more about time, so we backup all the info we can, and then put a fresh image back on with all the users??? info. This can be done in less than an hour depending on the user???s info. But why yes, because if I have the time I will see if I can fix it without breaking it more. lol I'm a little old school here, been in computer for over 25 years. OMG! I like removing viruses without using software to do it from the registry. Oh what fun! I got it down to about 3 or 4 hours give or take. I believe this behavior comes in handy when working on an unknown problem with a system. But to get this time I sometimes have to lie to the user on why his system isn't done. Enjoy, Kevin

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Most of our desktops don't have any data on them. If a System Restore doesn't fix it then it's re-imaging time. Ditto laptops used for testing and diagnostics that don't leave the building. About two-thirds of my laptops have locally stored data. Depending on how long it's been since the user last backed it up and how long they can wait, I'll take a whack at it. I don't want to let the skills atrophy.

zentross
zentross

The better question to ask is "when should troubleshooting be applied?" versus the speedier roll-back or imaging. From past experience with conflicting devices, specialty software, and downloaded utilities from the net, odd occurrences can happen and are likely to repeat as the new devices are re-applied. Troubleshooting steps that can not be ignored include: 1- Question the user about the estimated time/ day when the issue began. 2- Obtain an example of the behavior. 3- Open programs and features in the windows control panel to view what software was installed around the date given. 4- Question what peripherals may have been attached around the time the behavior began. I once had to deal with an issue launching MS office where the default printer could not be reached over wireless without VPN, so office did not work when the system was not physically connected to the network. This turned out to be characteristic of the driver for a specific model printer. The system had been re-imaged due to the 'level of urgency'. When imaging failed to resolve the issue, a loaner was provided in order to troubleshoot.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

When a problem occurs, many IT pros are quick to roll a PC's operating system back to an earlier point in time or re-image the hard drive. Such quick fixes get the user back up and running, but may or may not help the IT pro understand the problem's cause. Is there still value in "troubleshooting" PC problems? How do you balance the user's need for a quick solution with IT's need to understand what's really happening on the systems they support? Share your thoughts and take the poll: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/itdojo/windows-7-command-line-tools-for-the-it-ninja/3009