The Top 20 Tools for Tech Support

Ask any plumber, carpenter, handy-man, or mechanic for assistance, and each and every one of them will show up with a tool kit full of the most critical tools they need to address the majority of situations they will encounter. It’s no different for the IT Admin. There’s a tool for every task, and having a quick collection of go-to tools close at hand will help you overcome most issues quickly and efficiently. We’ve compiled a list of our Top 20 Tools for Tech Support to help you start your own collection. We try to use multitaskers when we can, but we’ll take a unitasker when it is the right thing to use.

1.  Microsoft Exchange Server Error Code Tool:

Originally built for Exchange server, this is a great tool to have on any system you might use when looking at error logs.

2.  The Telnet.exe Client:

Telnet.exe used to be included in the base operating system, but now you have to opt-in to use it. You can use Server Manager to add the feature, or check the link above for a quick cmd-line way to add it. Once you have it, you can telnet to 25 to test SMTP functions, or to 110/143 for client functions, or see the version of SSH in use on 22, or the banner of the FTP server on 21, or simply to see if you can connect to any other TCP port.

3.  The Netstat.exe cmd-line tool

You can use Netstat to diagnose issues from layer two through layer 4, evaluate per protocol statistics, or even McGyver up a simple TCP based sniffer to help diagnose connectivity issues. Open a cmd prompt, run netstat –ano 1 | findstr 80 and then launch your webbrowser to get a feel for how to use this tool when no other sniffer is at hand.

4.  The DNS Tool Dig:

Nichols Fong ported the dig tool from Unix to Windows, and it is a great cmd-line way to check A, MX, TXT, PTR, and other DNS records without having to use a website.

5.  The DNS Tool Whois:

Included in the download of dig is a whois command, which can help you identify the responsible party for a domain in case you have problems sending to, or receiving from, or just want to query the authoritative nameservers for that domain.

6.  OpenSSL:

The OpenSSL tools are great when you need to troubleshoot certificates, or convert them between Microsoft and other standard formats (like when you want to use a cert from your Exchange server with a new loadbalancer or SSL accelerator).

7.  The iPerf tools suite:

Need to test bandwidth and network performance between servers? The iPerf tools include client and server, and can run sustained tests to find network issues.

8.  TCPView:

Especially useful when dealing with intermittent network issues, TCPView lets you see all the network connections into and outside a machine.

9.  Sigcheck:

This tool can validate signatures of core files, but can also report on specific versions in case you are troubleshooting a patch issue.

10.  PortQueryUI:

This classic tool is still invaluable when trying to troubleshoot connectivity between servers when a firewall is in between them. There’s a cmd-line version too, but here the GUI is definitely the way to go.

11.  Wireshark:

Simply the best protocol analyzer around, and the price can’t be beaten.

12.  LogParser and the LogParser Studio

Download the Log Parser 2.2 tool from and then the Log Parser Studio from . Yes, that page is in Russian. I don’t understand why, but it’s the legitimate download page for this tool.

13.  Resource Monitor

You don’t have to go to PerfMon to get a snapshot of what’s hammering your server’s resources. Launch Task Manager, go to the Performance Tab and hit that little button at the bottom called Resource Monitor. Yeah, check that out! You can see CPU, RAM, Disk, and Network and breakdowns on what is using which and how much. It’s much faster than PerfMon, tells you more than Task Manager by itself, and can help you figure out what’s chewing up your server.

14.  A good text editor

With all the logs, outputs from command line tools like PowerShell queries, and text dumps that troubleshooting can create, having something better than Notepad is critical. Look for a text editor that can open multiple files, present them in a tabbed layout, and can do difference comparisons (diffs) between files. My personal fave is PSPAD, which you can download from .

15.  ADUC with the Attribute Editor Tab

Never underestimate the ability for an AD admin or helpdesk user to mess up a user’s. Use the version of ADUC that comes with Windows Server 2008 or the RSAT tools, launch Active Directory Users and Computers, enable Advanced View, and check out the Attribute Editor Tab. It’s much easier to use than ADSIEDIT and gives you all the same power and visibility.

16.  What Is My IP Address

Don’t guess, know what ip.addr you are sourcing from when accessing Internet resources, and also whether or not you are going through a proxy with this great website. It also has a collection of other useful tools.

17.  Is It Up?

Here’s a great website for checking to see if another website is down, from a number of different locations throughout the world. This can confirm whether the Internet is broken, or if it is just you.

18.  Network Pulse

This site monitors and reports on the major Tier 1 peering points on the Internet so you can see if there are any global issues that might be impacting routing or latency.

19.  The PSTools collection

Available for download, or running “live” from the website, Microsoft’s PSTools are an invaluable collection of tools for diagnosing running processes, hung systems, permissions issues, and more.


Think of this as PING for TCP sockets, and you start to get a feel for what it can do, especially when some overzealous firewall admin has violated the RFCs by blocking ICMP echo. TCPING includes audible alerts, so you can start a continuous TCPING and hear when a service either starts or stops responding, which is very useful when bouncing multiple servers and you want to know when something changes.

Bonus Tool: Dropbox

Not only can Dropbox be an invaluable tool for data storage and backups, there are times when it’s a lifesaver for transferring logfiles between systems. I keep all the above command line tools in my Dropbox folder which I add to my path so every cmd-line tool is always at the ready of every computer I use.