Three great IT tools you can carry with you

No one wants to do the unthinkable, Yes, I mean having to troubleshoot a user or network issue using nothing but your wits and of course, vast knowledge of all things IT. I know one IT Admin that supported 85 users in 18 offices (not virtual offices, actual office locations). Without a single centralized tool, not even the antivirus software. We have a term for that in our business (unemployed). However, sometime circumstances do not permit us the luxury of centralized management. That is not to say that we have no alternatives, in fact today we will look at three very cool tools Magical Jelly Bean Key Finder, Angry IP Scanner, and Windows in a box. Each of these tools runs via an executable and runs right from a USB thumb drive with nothing to install on the local machine.

All three utilities run from self-contained executables and can be invaluable for troubleshooting, diagnosing, and administering workstations. Let's take a quick look at the pros and cons of each tool.

Magical Jelly Bean Key Finder

Key finder is a tool that allows you to find the Product Key for software. Key finder searches the registry of Windows and locates the product keys. The information can then be saved to a file or printed. Key finder is not a key generator (which would be illegal), The tool itself is great for use as a simple software audit management program. Taking the information from each system, you can compare product keys and ensure that all you're licensing is straight. This serves as a great tool for re-installation of licensed applications in cases where you may have lost the physical license.

For obvious reasons I am not showing my product key, but you can see from the screen shot that I can quickly find those keys As well as information about my Windows Installation, like service pack level. Registered owner and registered organization.

The downside to key finder is obvious as well when you look at the screenshot. I have many pieces of software that require a product key for installation. Key finder has only generated a report on about 30% of the software I have installed on my system. The configuration file can be manually edited to locate more product keys, but then we are back to the same base problem. Searching out where in the registry the product key is kept.

This tool is in version 2.0.1 and is constantly being refined by the developer. I hope that the issue of unreported product keys will continue to improve as it has from past versions. To obtain a free copy of Key Finder go to http://www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder/

Windows in a Box

A great troubleshooting tool that can be used from a USB drive or that can remain on the desktop is Windows in a Box. The idea behind this tool is that all the functions for managing and using Windows XP that sit in various locations on your system, such as the control panel, Computer management, The Programs Menu, etc, can be launched by this single desktop utility.

This small utility can launch Media Player, logoff, launch task manager, and check your certificates, change wallpaper, open hyper-terminal, and many other functions for Windows systems. In fact, Windows in a Box handles 116 functions for Windows XP.

What is both pretty cool and frustrating at the same time is that about half of the same functions work on Windows Vista.

On the downside when it does not find a familiar command in Windows Vista, it gives a runtime error and closes out. The program of course only supports Windows functions and cannot launch third party applications. It would be great to see this tool come in a fully supported Vista version. To download these free tools go to http://bigdaddydesign.5gbfree.com/windowsinabox.htm

Angry IP Scanner

Angry IP Scanner is a useful tool that although it runs on a USB drive unlike the other two tools we spoke of, is a centrally managed IP networking tool. Angry IP scanner can scan all the nodes or a range of nodes you determine on your network.

Aside from scanning the IP's and reporting if the host is alive or dead. You can gather information such as:

  • Ping response(ms),
  • Hostname
  • Open ports
  • TTL
  • Filtered Ports
  • Web Detection
  • NetBIOS Information
  • Comments

Additionally you can choose the IP of a live host and choose to open additional Management tools such as:

  • Windows Shares
  • Web Browser
  • FTP
  • Telnet
  • Ping
  • Trace route
  • Geo locate
  • Email sample

While Angry IP Scanner can export the information, it pales in comparisons to what a tool like What's Up! Gold can do in the way of network management. Again, for a simple and free tool that will help make life easier go to http://www.angryziber.com/w/Download.

For quick easy and free management of your Windows Network you cannot go wrong. None of these or other cheap or free tools will replace the abilities of commercial packages. But for the small network or the budget constrained. They are portable and easy to use. Moreover, if you find little use for these tools they do not cost you a dime.

Recent Posts...

Easy Windows Management that's even easier on your pocket

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Now read: Getting grounded in IoT