Windows desktop computer tools and troubleshooting

toolboxIn our latest update and expansion we have added sections on desktop computer troubleshooting and Windows Server based on many questions and notes collected over the years.

I just wanted to make a few notes on some of the very basic, and often used used tools and tasks in network and workstation troubleshooting. 

In the world of consulting you are sometimes pressed for time and doing a basic assessment and analysis of a situation is sometimes seen as a waste of time.  Any type of information gathering, if done quickly and effeciently, is a good starting point. 

Sometimes the most basic tools and tasks are also the most overlooked. In the hectic day to day grind of problem solving people often forget to take a step back and do a basic assessment of the situation.

Many times multiple problems with create a variety of what appear to be conflicting symptoms.

 

The goal of the Guru42 websites is geek speak made simple. With Smart Technology Info we hope to educate the folks in their roles as business professionals or managers on various technology topics.

Here at Computer Guru we aim more at folks looking to learn technology concepts as someone who supports technology as a profession. 

We are a fan of open source tools.  Often the biggest issue with technology profession is finding low cost, or if possible, free tools, that help us to do our jobs.  Think of this as our personal tool box to share with you. We hope they help you better use and understand technology in your world.

Please keep that in mind that software changes frequently. Often something that worked well for years is no longer supported. Software that is sometimes given away as free by commercial software companies as limited edition versions is discontinued without notice.

We will do our best to keep the information in this section up to date but make not guarantees that all the information here is the latest and greatest.



 

Windows computer troubleshooting using command lines

Windows 8 Run CommandAs Windows becomes more "graphical" one of the biggest pains of an IT professional is navigating to common tools when going from one operating system to another.

The answer quickly becomes, learn the Windows operating system command line short cuts for troubleshooting!

For instance, say you have a computer that does not appear to be connecting to the network.  Go to a run line and type in "cmd" and there you go, the only interface you need, a command line.

Type in "ipconfig /all" and that tells you all you need to know about the network cards.  Need to check a network card config, type in "ncpa.cpl" and the window that pops up gives you a quick access to your network cards. Do a right click on properties, and check your settings from there!

Play around with the command line tools listed below, and soon you will be able to say, "I don't need no stinking interface!"

If you have a mixed environment, say Windows XP and Windows 7, you soon notice that you can work much quicker simply using the command line tools, and not use the GUI (Graphic User Interface).  Even if you are a casual computer user looking to do some home networking, you will soon find your answers to common configuration questions using these command line short cuts.

They even work in Windows 8

Most of the commands work in multiple operating systems from Windows 95, Windows XP, Windows 7, and yes even Windows 8!

If you have a Windows 8 computer take the time to check out using using command line utilities.

Go to the search in Windows 8 Metro and type cmd or cmd.exe.  This can also be entered in Run, which can be launched in desktop mode by pressing the Windows key and R at the same time, to show the run command line and then enter "cmd" (without quotes).

Once the command shell is open, it looks pretty similar to previous versions.

Run Commands

Run commands are the executables for the programs you use in Windows. In other words, a run command is the name of the file that starts a program.

On the page that follows you will see many run command shortcuts for Windows operating system management. Items that end in an extension with .msc are Microsoft Management Console Snap-in's. Control Panel applets end with .cpl, represent various tools in Control Panel.
 
You can run most of these directly from the RUN line of the operating system, by pressing the Windows key and R at the same time, to show the run command line, and then typing in the name of the command.

Command Prompt Commands

Command Prompt commands are the command-line based programs that perform different functions like managing files and troubleshooting network connections.

The Command Prompt in Windows provides access to over 280 commands, and yes they even work in Windows 8. These commands are used to do certain operating system tasks from a command line interface instead of the graphical Windows interface we use most of the time.

Sometimes command line utilities are referred to as DOS commands.  Technically DOS no longer exists. The modern Windows XP and newer operating systems refer to these utilities as Command Prompt commands

On the pages that follow we will take a look at common Run Commands and Command Prompt Commands that cam be used to troubleshoot and configure your computer.

Networking related Command Prompt commands like nslookup, ping, tracert, ipconfig, and netstat are discussed on a page discussing network troubleshooting.


 

RUN command shortcuts for Windows computer management

Windows 8 run commandThe Microsoft Management Console (MMC) lets system administrators create much more flexible user interfaces and customize administration tools. Items that end in an extension with .msc are Microsoft Management Console Snap-in's.

Control Panel applets end with .cpl, represent various tools in Control Panel.

You can run most of these directly from the RUN line of the operating system, by pressing the Windows key and R at the same time, to show the run command line, and then typing in the name of the command.

Like we have in other sections of Computerguru.net we have grouped items and definitions together so they compliment each other and help to better understand a general concept. Rather than just publish a laundry list of run commands we have listed the more commonly used tools below.

Command Prompt commands are listed on the pages that follow based on how they are used. Networking related Command Prompt commands like nslookup, ping, tracert, ipconfig, and netstat are discussed on the page discussing network troubleshooting.


List of Windows Snap-ins (.msc) and Control Panel applets  (.cpl)

To Access… Run Command
Accessibility Controls access.cpl
Add Hardware Wizard hdwwiz.cpl
Add/Remove Programs appwiz.cpl
Automatic Updates wuaucpl.cpl
Certificate Manager certmgr.msc
Character Map charmap
Computer Management compmgmt.msc
Control Panel control
Date and Time Properties timedate.cpl
Device Manager    devmgmt.msc
Direct X Control Panel directx.cpl
Direct X Troubleshooter dxdiag
Disk Cleanup Utility cleanmgr
Disk Defragment dfrg.msc
Disk Management diskmgmt.msc
Display Properties desk.cpl
Dr. Watson System  Utility drwtsn32
Driver Verifier Utility verifier
Event Viewer eventvwr.msc
Files and Settings Transfer migwiz
File Signature Verification sigverif
Findfast findfast.cpl
Game Controllers joy.cpl
Indexing Service ciadv.msc
Internet Properties inetcpl.cpl
Keyboard Properties control keyboard
Local Security Settings    secpol.msc
Local Users and Groups lusrmgr.msc
Logs Out Of Windows logoff
Malicious Software Removal Tool mrt
Microsoft Syncronization Tool mobsync
Mouse Properties main.cpl
Network Connections ncpa.cpl
Network Setup Wizard netsetup.cpl
Nview Desktop Manager nvtuicpl.cpl
Object Packager packager
ODBC Data Source Administrator odbccp32.cpl
On Screen Keyboard osk
Password Properties password.cpl
Performance Monitor perfmon.msc
Power Configuration powercfg.cpl
Printers and Faxes control printers
Printers Folder printers
Regional Settings intl.cpl
Registry Editor regedit
Registry Editor regedit32
Remote Desktop mstsc
Scanners and Cameras sticpl.cpl
Scheduled Tasks control schedtasks
Security Center wscui.cpl
Services services.msc
Shared Folders smgmt.msc
Sounds and Audio mmsys.cpl
SQL Client Configuration cliconfg
System Configuration Editor sysedit
System Configuration Utility msconfig
System Information msinfo32
System Properties sysdm.cpl
Task Manager taskmgr
Windows Explorer explorer
Windows Firewall firewall.cpl
Windows Update Launches wupdmgr
Windows Version winver
   

Workstation Tools

Free and open source software for workstation troubleshooting and repair

Clonezilla:  The Free and Open Source Software for Disk Imaging and Cloning. (Similar to Symantec "GHOST")

Clonezilla live is suitable for single machine backup and restore. While Clonezilla SE is for massive deployment, it can clone many (40 plus!) computers simultaneously.

Check it out at http://www.clonezilla.org/

SystemRescueCd: 
is a Linux system rescue disk available as a bootable CD-ROM or USB stick for administrating or repairing your system and data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the partitions of the hard disk.

Check it out at http://www.sysresccd.org/