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

Tips and tricks direct from TechEd Europe

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9. Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK): One of the critical factors for companies to standardize Internet Explorer (i.e., default icons).

10. Windows To Go: While not a free product (but part of the enterprise license of Windows 8) allows you to put a full-version of Windows 8 and several core tools on a bootable USB stick. The stick will be treated as a PC in your environment (group policies, etc.).

11. Microsoft Security Compliance Manager: Allows you to quickly manage group policies on your PCs, data centers and in the private cloud.

12. Internet Explorer Blocker: Allows admins to prevent the automatic delivery of IE9.

13. Problem Steps Recorder (PSR): One of your staff members tells you "X, Y and Z doesn't work!" You need more details! Ask them to launch PSR (Start menu) and hit "Start record." This recorder will save all the steps in screenshot form into a handy MHTML file which the user can then send you.

14. Troubleshooting Tools: Did you know that Windows 7 and 8 include their own little "Fix It" troubleshooting packs? These include a veriety of scripts that will try to fix comon issues with audio, networking or driver. You'll find them under Control Panel when you enter "Troubleshoot"!

15. Resource Monitor: Another little hidden gem in Windows 7 and 8 is the "Resource Monitor". According to Microsoft, Resource Monitor (just look for it in your Start menu or Metro Start screen in Windows 8) allows you to keep an eye on the entire performance spectrum of your PC.

16. BitLocker-To-Go: BTG was built into Windows 7 and allows you to encrypt local drives and also removable mass storage devices.

17. IPAM Server: A feature of Windows Server 2012 that helps you discover and manage the IP address space in your network.

18. XBootMgr: Allows you to track down what is slowing down your boot (Part of the Windows Performance Toolkit). The new version includes a "Windows Performance Recorder" that helps you identify what is making an application respond slowly.

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