20 free Microsoft tools that you should know about, but probably don't

Tips and tricks direct from TechEd Europe

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In one of the last sessions on day 1 of TechEd Europe, Microsoft presented us with a list of 20 free tools that we apparently didn't know existed. Let's jump right in.

1. Microsoft Assessment & Planning (MAP) Toolkit: Will search all your machines across the network and identify their roles and status. It allows you to perform inventory of not just PCs but also active databases and servers. MAP will give you a quick overview of your entire network over a cetain time.

2. Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT): Like MAP, this toolkit goes out and scans your network for applications and checks if they're compatible. ACT's main purpose tough is to create "shims" that will fix compatibilty problems. Its "Compatibility Administrator" allows you to set dozens of default shims that will help solve typical compatibility problems. For example, it allows you to even simulate Windows 95 environmental files for REALLY old applications.

3. Application Compatibility List: Not really a tool, but a massive list of programs that do and don't work for Windows 7.

4. Internet Explorer 9 Compatibility List: Helps you identify problems with websites.

5. Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012: Allows you to catalog operating systems, applications and even drivers in a local deployment share and deploy these for the PCs in your fleet. Propably one of the most powerful free tools that admins are using to test deployment of Windows.

6. Windows 8 Client Hyper-V: As we revealed early in the beta stage last year, Hyper-V is now part of the Windows 8 client. Great for developers testing and coding under new versions of Windows.

7. Quirks Mode for IE: Just hit F12 on a website that's not compatible with IE9 or 10 and select a different version of IE. A good example of where this is helpful: www.3doorsdown.com.

8. Windows Deployment Service: In combination with MDT 2012, this server feature helps you deploy and manage the operating system packages that you created.

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