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The Basic IT Toolkit

Published: 09/18/2009

IT shops are about one fire after the next, and if you're in IT and can honestly say otherwise, then you're the rare exception. Helpdesk tickets, unscheduled Exchange outages, someone in marketing testing out a new "P2P screensaver," and the self-important guy with the "C" in his title from the executive suite calling down for immediate assistance because his Internet is broken and it's preventing a sales meeting, thus "impacting the bottom line!"

And since you can't access his machine remotely, you have to make a house call. Time to grab your fix-it gear.

It always amazed me when I worked in IT when co-workers would run to users' cubes, twiddle with their machines, find the cause of the problem, then run back to the MDF to grab a driver CD, cable, or something else equally trivial. Early in my career, I decided I wasn't going through that inefficiency. I wanted to assign a ticket to myself, read the problem description, and make the cube visit (if necessary) and fix the problem on the spot. Done. Ticket closed.

It's never that simple, obviously, but when you have laptop connectivity issues, the last thing you want is an impatient user tapping her heels behind you with that, "Are we there yet?" look on her face. Look, lady, I'm not Santa Clause. You need to stop spending your day composing joke e-mails with that Comic Sans font and get to work.

Every organization should have some basics down. For example, all IT-owned hardware should be properly inventoried and documented. Sometimes this is a pipe-dream, but usually the department at least knows what kind of hardware is commonly assigned. Therefore, a USB flash drive with all the drivers, common corporate-approved software installers, and other administrative utilities should be handy in your pocket. Preferably, the flash drive should also have a physical write-protect switch just in case the user's machine has a malicious process in memory that wants to get its dirty hands on your portable file system. I've used specific model drives from Imation and RIDATA for this purpose.

While every IT shop has different needs, here are some of the basic tools that I find myself reaching for.

The entire Sysinternals suite

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Resource Kit utilities

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Unix utilities (Win32 ports)

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Beyond Ring 0

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Windows Service Packs

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Some loose ends...

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