Here’s a list of 10 hacks that will make your sysadmin life easier. Have a look at these and see how many work wonders for you.
1. Use a text editor that automatically saves the previous version
Whether you use PSPad, Notepad++, or any other product, using an editor that automatically saves a backup of any file you edit can save the day. Whether your edit goes wrong, or you just need to fall back, having that automatically created backup makes it easy to undo any mistakes.
2. Use Dropbox to store all your frequently needed command-line utilities
Everyone knows that Dropbox is a killer app. I install it on every system I use, and make sure that if I don’t sync everything, like on a server, I at least sync my command line tools folder, where I store all the utilities that I depend upon, like PStools, Windows’ ports of dig, whois, tcping and more.
3. Sync your browser shortcuts across systems
Most browsers today offer the ability to synchronize your favorites across different systems. You have to log into an account, but then all your bookmarks will sync across systems, ensuring you have ready access to anything you have bookmarked, no matter which of your systems you were using when you found it, and which system you are on now that you need it.
4. Use OneNote for everything!
OneNote is one of the most useful applications to ever come out of Redmond, which says a lot! But it’s also one of the least used applications when it comes to features and capabilities. Sure, everyone knows you can open a notebook and create pages, and even ‘print’ to it, but did you know you can sync Notebooks across systems, share Notebooks with others, take screenshots and paste them directly into a Notebook, send email directly to your OneNote, and more? I use it for blogging, and my team uses it for a running Wiki and changelog, and since it works on Windows machines and every mobile phone platform, it’s easy to have what you need wherever you are. Oh, and, it’s free!
5. The RSAT tools so you never have to kick someone off their RDP session
Far too often I see admins trying to remote into a server in order to perform some administrative task, only to find all the sessions on the first five or six servers they try are taken by other admins. Then they either have to call around to get someone to log off, or kick someone off. Of course, if they had just installed the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) they could run every admin console from their desktop and never have to log onto a server.
6. Use netsh trace to take packet captures without having to install anything
I also see admins needing to get network captures frequently, without a tool with which to capture. They end up installing Wireshark on a server, which ticks off the security team and takes forever to get approved. There’s no need for that when the operating system has built-in packet capture capabilities with Netsh. See http://technet.microsoft.com/library/dd878517(WS.10).aspxfor some quick tips to get you started.
7. Use wget to get things you can’t save with a browser
There’s always something on a website you want to grab a copy of, but can’t. It might be a Flash video or some other widget, but there’s no easy way to right-click and save a copy as for many of those things. But with wget and the source of the website, grabbing a part of a website is quick and easy.
8. Use WIN+# to launch programs from the keyboard
Of all the keyboard shortcuts built into Windows, the most useful are also the least well known. Look at the icons on your taskbar. They are the ones you launch most often. Count left to right from the Start button. Win+1 will launch the first application, Win+2 will launch the second, etc. Rearrange the order of icons and the # key to launch automatically updates. You will be a keyboard wizard in no time using that quick trick!
9. Use TCPing with a speakerphone
Have you ever found yourself trying to run down cables in a mess of criss-crossed spaghetti wiring? Have you ever had to run back and forth between a workstation and a switch just to see if you just killed a domain controller or found the right cable? Use TCPing with “-b 1” at your workstation to ping the box you’re after, call your cellphone from your desk and put it on speaker, mute your cellphone and head into the datacenter. Pull a cable, and if you hear beeping, you got the right one. No beep? Plug it back in quick before anyone notices and try again!
10. Use a transcript with PowerShell
PowerShell is awesome, but it can also be arcane, especially when you need to do something only infrequently. Use “start-transcript filename.txt –append” in your profile to keep a running transcript of everything you do. That way, you have a record to refer back to, and proof that it wasn’t you who rebooted that server. In which case, remember, it is just a text file, and PSPad can do wonders with search and replace.
These 10 tips only scratch the surface. What are you favourite sysadmin hacks? Leave a comment below and let us know the tips and tricks that make you a sysadmin ninja!