15 incredibly useful (and free) Microsoft tools for IT pros

We've dug through the jungle that is Microsoft Downloads and found 15 of the best free tools you've probably never heard of.

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7. Disk2VHD

Yet another Sysinternals tool that I couldn't leave out: Disk2VHD (also available via WSCC or directly from here) clones your physical system partitions into a virtual hard disk file (VHD) for use in Windows Virtual PC or to boot from natively (VHD boot is only supported in Windows 7 Enterprise in Ultimate, though). This is fantastic for evaluating software or for moving over to a new system: you can basically save your entire Windows OS, including all programs, settings and data, move to a system and still boot up your old Windows inside a virtual environment –- just in case you forgot something! Beware: Disk2Vhd doesn't support partitions larger than 127 GB and it also clones your entire partition record (including its partition signature), so you might run into issues if you're trying to mount the cloned ".vhd" file with the system you created it in the first place.

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8. Joulemeter

Is your laptop battery dying way too soon? Does your desktop suck up way more power than it actually should? Joulemeter might just be the right tool for you. This MS Research invention monitors total power usage and helps you calibrate your laptop's battery. Furthermore, it's capable of actually monitoring power usage of each process running: Go to "Power Usage", enter the name of one of your running applications ("itunes.exe", for example) and hit "Start" to measure its overall impact on power usage. This is great for the battery runtime obsessed. By avoiding such power-hungry executables, you'll squeeze the very last bit out of your laptop's battery life and even save some Watts on your desktop.

9. Microsoft Image Composite Editor

Microsoft ICE helps you stitch photos -– and even videos -– together and create nice little panoramas and sideshows. ICE supports the usual pictures formats (JPG, PNG, GIF, TIF…) and video file types (WMV, AVI, MP4…) and makes them "one".

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