What are the best computer science programs

The 25 best software tools for IT professionals

Part 1: "The 25 Best Software Tools for IT Professionals"
Photo: Fotolia / Mark Oleksiy
As an admin you are always on the lookout for tools that do everyday tasks quickly, easily and, if possible, free of charge. The Admin Essentials are a tool kit that covers all areas.
As an admin you are always looking for tools with which everyday tasks can be done quickly, easily and as free as possible. The Admin-Essentials are the Swiss knife for administrators that covers all areas.
You can use the tools to create images, edit the boot menu of a Windows PC or analyze the event display. Graphic user interfaces make it easier for you to work with Robocopy, Smartmontools and Powershell.
In an emergency, you can rescue data with a live system such as the System Rescue CD. And the tool packages Sysinternals Suite and NirLauncher make the Admin Essentials an all-round carefree package for every system administrator.
In the following we will introduce you to all 25 tools of the Admin Essentials in detail.
Part 2: "Manage & edit admin databases"

Manage & edit Adminer databases

Adminer manages all types of databases and consists of a single PHP file.
  • Adminer: The slim program makes phpMyAdmin superfluous when it comes to editing databases.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
Every admin has to do with databases. The standard tool to manage and edit databases via the browser is called phpMyAdmin. For some purposes, however, phpMyAdmin is much too extensive. Adminer is a wonderfully slim tool that is very easy to use and not only knows MySQL, but also SQLite, PostgreSQL, MS SQL, Oracle, MongoDB and others.
Adminer does not require any complicated configuration and runs without much preparation. The special thing about it: Adminer consists of a single file. This means that the program can be installed quickly and operated easily.

The installation is very quick

To install, put the “adminer-4.1.0.php” file in any directory on the web server - that's it. When the PHP file is opened in the browser for the first time, Adminer asks for the user name and the associated password and - if it is not a local database server - for the name of the server and the name of the database. This information can be saved for future registrations.
Database tables open after a click on the table name. Adminer then shows the structure of the table. With "Select data" you can display individual data records and with "Change" you can edit them.
With a click on "SQL Query", SQL professionals get to an input window for SQL commands. With "Export" selected database tables or even complete databases can be exported in the formats CSV, TSV and SQL. If desired, this can also be gzip-compressed.
In terms of security, however, Adminer has nothing to offer except for the registration. Here the admin himself has to be active, for example with a suitable ".htaccess" file. But if you don't juggle complex SQL databases on a daily basis, you will be well served with Adminer.
3rd part: "Clonezilla - backing up copies of entire hard drives"

Clonezilla - back up copies of entire hard drives

Clonezilla creates images of hard drives. In this way, the damage can be quickly repaired in the event of data loss.
When a hard drive quits service, it is not only annoying, it also costs a lot of time. A replacement panel can be installed quickly, but restoring the original state requires countless installations and facilities. With a hard drive image, you can continue working after an hour as if nothing had happened.
  • Clonezilla: The program backs up hard disks and partitions in the form of images or 1: 1 copies.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
Clonezilla makes exact 1: 1 copies of hard drives. The image contains all partitions, files and the operating system. The software works with the typical Windows FAT and NTFS partitions, but also backs up Linux partitions with EXT2, EXT3, ReiserFS, XFS and JFS file systems.

Start Clonezilla from CD

After booting the live system and selecting the language and keyboard layout, the user interface starts. Here you have the choice between a backup in image files (device-image) and the cloning of data carriers or partitions (device-device). Then choose a data backup assistant. The assistant for "beginners" sets all standard options automatically, while in the assistant for "experts" all Clonezilla options are available.
On request, Clonezilla can also send the images over the network, for example to an NFS or Samba server.
4th part: "EasyBCD - edit the boot menu of the Windows PC"

EasyBCD - edit the boot menu of the Windows PC

EasyBCD is a boot manager with which the boot menu can be edited much more easily than with standard tools.
  • EasyBCD: This allows boot menus to be edited much more smoothly than with the Windows own program bcdedit.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
Since Windows 7, the boot menu is no longer stored in the “boot.ini” text file, but in a binary file. Windows 7 only offers the command line tool bcdedit for editing, which is cumbersome to use. Even simple tasks like adding or removing an entry in the boot menu are not trivial with bcdedit. That costs time and nerves. It's faster and easier with EasyBCD.
Using the “Edit Start Menu” button, operating systems can be removed from the boot menu or the default settings can be changed with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Boot other operating systems

It is just as easy to insert a new operating system. The button "Add new entry" will take you there. EasyBCD supports booting from VHDs. It can also handle Linux, BSD and Mac OS X. If Grub or Lilo has been installed, EasyBCD can recognize and integrate the bootloader. The integrated BIOS extender enables PCs to be started over the network, even if their BIOS does not support this at all. The option to save all boot loader settings in a file is also useful.
Part 5: "Event Sentry Light - Monitoring Critical Events"

Event Sentry Light - Monitor critical events

The program monitors protocols and log files and sounds an alarm in the event of critical events.
The operating system supplies event logs so that you can quickly notice that the hard drive on the file server is full or that services are supported. However, these are of little use if they cannot be properly analyzed and evaluated. Event Sentry Light can help here.
  • Monitor logs and log files: As soon as something appears suspicious, Event Sentry Light alerts the admin.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
Event Sentry Light is a tool for system monitoring and log management and is a powerful and feature-rich extension of the Windows 7 and 8 event display. It records and analyzes Windows system events.
Actions can also be defined for certain events, such as sending an email. To use this function, activate the "Enable Email Alerts" option during installation and enter the details of the SMTP server.

More monitoring options

The CPU and memory consumption can be monitored with the Performance Monitoring module. The software monitoring records which programs are installed or uninstalled and, if desired, sounds an alarm when a program enters the autostart.
The Disk Space Monitor kicks in when the free space falls below a specified percentage.
The program is available in two versions, a free light version and a purchase version. A license costs $ 85. The light version is sufficient for most administrative tasks. You can find out which functions are not available on the manufacturer's website.
Part 6: "Filezilla - Secure file transfers via FTP & SFTP"

Filezilla - Secure file transfers via FTP & SFTP

The FTP client has all the necessary functions for safe and convenient file transfers.
  • Filezilla: In addition to FTP, the FTP client also supports the encrypted variants FTP over SSL / TLS and SFTP.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
A good FTP client is part of the basic equipment of an administrator. Data can be exchanged quickly between several computers via FTP. Frequently used FTP servers can be saved in a kind of address book so that in future one click is all it takes to establish a connection.
Filezilla convinces with its ability to exhaust the bandwidth through multiple simultaneous threads, a keepalive system and timeout detection. Of course, the program will immediately resume interrupted uploads or downloads as soon as the connection is restored. Firewall and proxy support are also included.
The File Transfer Protocol FTP transfers files between two computers over the Internet. com! explains the command and data channel of the protocol, the passive and the ASCII mode.

Encrypted data transfers

Filezilla does not neglect security either and supports encrypted FTP over SSL / TLS and SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol). IPv6 is no more a problem than handling files larger than 4 GB. For use on USB sticks or external hard drives, Filezilla Portable is also a portable variant of the FTP client. Filezilla also runs on Linux, BSD and Mac OS X.
7th part: "GImageX - mount Windows image files"

GImageX - mount Windows image files

GImageX is a graphical user interface for ImageX for integrating WIM files.
Microsoft uses the archive format WIM - that stands for Windows Imaging Format Archive - for the two files "boot.wim" and "install.wim" on the setup DVD. The files contain installation files for the operating system.
  • GUI for ImageX: Windows image files can be created and managed in next to no time.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
GImageX integrates WIM files as a folder on the local hard drive. The tool puts a graphical user interface over the ImageX program. This is contained in the Windows ADK and manages system images there. However, ImageX is a command line tool with innumerable options and parameters, in the jungle of which you can quickly lose track.
With the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, Microsoft itself offers a graphical user interface for the ADK. But that would mean shooting sparrows with cannons. It's faster and easier with GImageX. It can be used, for example, to create reference installations, delete or add files and mount WIM files as a drive.

Simply mount the WIM file

To mount a WIM file, switch to the "Mount" tab, click on "Browse ..." in the "Mount Point" line and select the appropriate folder. Set the WIM file under “Source”. Put a tick in front of "Read and Write" and finally click on "Mount". GImageX integrates the WIM file into the Windows file system. The process takes a few minutes.
GImageX is portable, so no installation is required. The ZIP archive contains a 32-bit and a 64-bit version. With the COM component, which is also included, the basic functions can be integrated into VBScript, for example. The current Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) can be downloaded from the GImageX website.
8th part: "GParted Live - manipulate partitions via boot CD"

GParted Live - manipulate partitions via boot CD

The live CD GParted checks, enlarges, reduces, deletes and copies partitions.
  • GParted: The live CD is the classic when it comes to resizing partitions or creating new partitions.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
For complex partitioning tasks, admins need a powerful partitioning tool such as the GParted Live boot CD. It is based on Debian and uses Fluxbox as its desktop environment. After booting the computer from the Live CD, the GParted start screen appears.

The main GParted startup options

The recommended setting is "Don't touch keymaps" and when asked about the preferred language 10, what corresponds to German. After a final 0, the graphical user interface and the partitioning tool GParted start. This allows any changes to be made to partitions. The partitioner first saves the individual work steps in a task list. Only a click on the "Apply" button actually makes the changes.
If a partition is defective and Windows no longer recognizes it, the data can possibly be saved with GParted.
Everything is a file: the operating system, the programs and of course our data - everything is stored in files. Reason enough to know about filesystems.
The program supports numerous file systems like EXT2, EXT3, EXT4, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS, HFS and Reiser. GParted can also shrink partitions with file systems such as FAT32 and NTFS, so that there is space on the hard drive for additional partitions.
The live CD contains the text editor nano, the test tool testdisk, a terminal and the file manager Midnight Commander.
9th part: "GSmartControl - health check for hard disks"

GSmartControl - health check for hard drives

The graphical user interface for the Smartmontools shows status data and failure risks for hard drives.
  • SMART: The technology monitors all important parameters of hard drives and SSDs.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
SMART stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology and is an industry standard built into hard drives and SSDs. This is a kind of health check and enables the permanent monitoring of important parameters and thus the early detection of impending defects.
The quasi-standard for reading out the SMART data are the Smartmontools. They are quite precise, but only work on the command line and throw out data that is difficult to interpret. GSmartControl has a graphical user interface for this. In this way, the values ​​of the hard drives can be conveniently recorded and evaluated.
The technology in a hard drive can hardly be surpassed in terms of sophistication: An air cushion lets the read head float, while vertical recording increases the storage density.

Complete package for hard drive checks

In order to use GSmartControl, you do not have to install the Smartmontools first. They are included in the program. After starting you will see an overview of all hard drives and SSDs. A double click is sufficient for a detailed evaluation of the state of health.
  • Impending failure: This hard drive shows some critical values ​​- a defect is likely soon.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
The "Identity" tab provides information on basic data such as model and serial number, firmware version, sector size and ATA standard.
The program lists the actual SMART data in the “Attributes” category. If you move the mouse pointer over an entry, you will get a detailed explanation of what the respective parameter means. Critical values ​​are highlighted in red.
Further tests can be carried out with GSmartControl. You can find them in the "Perform Tests" tab. The “short self-test” takes about two minutes and carries out a series of test routines. If the result is not “Completed without error”, then the hard disk may be defective.
10th part: "Rufus - Live CDs on the USB stick"

Rufus - Live CDs on the USB stick

The tool installs any Linux distribution or Windows bootable on a USB stick.
The Rufus open source tool can be used to quickly and easily create bootable USB sticks for reinstalling operating systems. As of version 3.5, Windows can now even be downloaded directly as an ISO file within the program. The new release is currently still in the beta phase, but the preliminary version is already available for download on the manufacturer's website.
In order to initiate the loading of an operating system in Rufus, a sufficiently large USB stick must first be connected to the PC. Then select the "Download" item in the drop-down menu. The dialog for downloading Windows then begins.
Rufus supports the direct download of Windows 10 and Windows 8 in all common versions and editions - unfortunately without the Enterprise version. A variety of available builds are available to choose from, especially for Windows 10. In addition to the current build 1809 (October update), older versions such as 1703 (Creators Update) or even 10240 (Threshold 1) can be loaded as ISO.
After downloading the approximately 4.7 GB ISO file, Rufus can start creating an installation medium if required.

Alternative: Windows 10 Media Creation Tool

The media creation tool offered by Microsoft is also capable of downloading Windows 10 ISOs and creating bootable installation media. In contrast to Rufus, however, the selection of available Windows builds is limited to the currently supported versions. If you need older Windows 10 versions for test purposes, you will get nothing here.
11th part: "Mailstore - archive emails in a legally secure manner"

Mailstore - archive emails in a legally compliant manner

Mailstore archives emails from different sources in a central database and enables you to search them quickly.
The well-known e-mail archiving program MailStore Server promises, among other things, the revision-proof and, for the DACH area, legally secure storage of all business e-mails according to the latest status.
This is important because since January 1, 2017, the GoBD published by the Ministry of Finance in 2014 has finally been in effect for German companies, the “Principles for the proper management and storage of books, records and documents in electronic form as well as for data access”. E-mails that have the character of a receipt or a business letter must therefore be stored like other financial documents for up to ten years. The same applies to tax-relevant email attachments such as invoices.
  • MailStore Server: Lean, user-friendly solution for email archiving.
An important legal issue in email archiving concerns the handling of private messages. Insofar as the company allows sending and receiving of private emails and these are also saved, problems with data protection threaten. Archive access can be blocked in MailStore with a compliance setting. If this setting is active, MailStore admins no longer have the option of browsing or exporting the archives of other MailStore users. In addition, a recovery key protects the archive from being put into operation, for example in the form of a backup, on other systems. And all admin actions are recorded in an audit log so that changes to relevant settings can be traced.

Email archiving for SMEs

According to the manufacturer, MailStore Server is basically suitable for companies with five to 500 employees. A license is required for each user, which includes several mail accounts. A free Home Edition is available for private use.
Windows version 7 SP1 or higher is required to run MailStore Server. The program does not have any special hardware requirements. It is easy to install and, in addition to important e-mail systems such as Exchange, supports any IMAP and POP3 servers and services. E-mail clients such as Outlook or Thunderbird are also supported, and MailStore also allows the integration of PST, EML and other archive formats.
A clear plus point of the program is the relief of the mail server. The automatic, rule-based deletion of older mails after archiving means that the e-mail volume on the server remains permanently low.
The e-mail archive can be accessed either via browser, mobile web access, an IMAP server integrated into the program or conveniently via an Outlook add-in.
Part 12: "Netdrive - using the file server as a local drive"

Netdrive - use the file server as a local drive

Netdrive integrates remote storage such as a NAS or an FTP server as a local drive in Windows.
  • Netdrive: The free version is sufficient to integrate remote storage as a local drive.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
Regardless of whether FTP, WebDAV, cloud storage or NAS, Netdrive turns it into a local drive. Files can be transferred using drag and drop and documents, images or other media can be opened, viewed and edited as usual with a double click.
If you want to address an online storage medium such as a local drive via its own drive letter, then on-board resources are not sufficient. Netdrive retrofits this function.

Network drives instead of FTP clients

To create a new connection with your own drive letter, all you have to do is enter the connection data and select the desired drive letter.
Once added, these network drives are retained and make the use of a WebDAV or FTP client superfluous.
To encrypt the connections, set the option “Use HTTPS” under “Advanced” and select a suitable port.
What FTP did in the past, WebDAV can do much better today: Use data on the Internet as if it were on your PC.
The program can be started automatically with Windows in the “Options” with “Automatically run NetDrive when I log on to Windows”.
Data can also be transferred to a remote server via the command line with a simple copy command.
Part 13: "NirLauncher - Portable Tool Suite for Admins"

NirLauncher - Portable tool suite for admins

The suite contains 184 useful portable programs that make life easier for admins.
The tools of the programmer Nir Sofer have long since ceased to be an insider tip among IT professionals. With so many programs, it's not that easy to keep track of things and to find the right tool.
  • NirLauncher: The package contains 184 portable admin tools - sorted into twelve categories.
    Source:
    com! professional / screenshot
In NirLauncher, all 184 programs are accessible via a uniform user interface, divided into twelve categories. In order to find a specific application quickly, the program list can also be sorted by criteria such as name or update date with a click of the mouse.
The "Network Monitoring Tools" are of particular interest to admins. Programs such as CurrPorts, which shows open ports, and sniffers for HTTP and WLAN can be found here. NetworkTrafficView analyzes the traffic in the network.
The “System Utilities” category is also interesting. It contains programs such as BlueScreenView, which provides valuable information after a crash, and USB Deview, which logs which USB sticks have been plugged into a computer.