Build your own manufacturing IT tool kit

Plumbers have their tool boxes, carpenters have their tool belts, and even Batman has his utility belt. Manufacturing IT professionals also need a tool kit to diagnose and solve common system problems. USB drives cost less than $20 and are perfect for creating your own personal manufacturing IT tool kit.

05/01/2007


Plumbers have their tool boxes, carpenters have their tool belts, and even Batman has his utility belt. Manufacturing IT professionals also need a tool kit to diagnose and solve common system problems. USB drives cost less than $20 and are perfect for creating your own personal manufacturing IT tool kit. You can run many tools directly from the USB drive and not modify or compromise the system you are working on.

A good tool kit should contain diagnostic tools, and www.sysinternals.com , now part of Microsoft, is a good place to pick up some of the best free tools to help you diagnose problems on Windows servers. Most of the tools do not require installation, so they do not change the configuration or affect the validation of the tested system.

Process Explorer is one of the first of the Sysinternals tools to use to diagnose a problem. It is a comprehensive version of the Windows Task Manager and provides a complete view of all applications, processes, DLLs, and TCP/IP connections. It also includes a comprehensive history function to help trap transient problems.

Process Monitor is a Windows event monitor also from Sysinternals. When a problem happens too quickly to see, use Process Monitor to capture the events before, during, and after a failure to help diagnose it.

Sometimes problems show up at system startup. Autorun Analyzer from Sysinternals displays everything that is scheduled to happen during system startup, including the list of all executables, drivers, and services to be loaded. A version runs under the command line in Windows safe boot mode if you cannot load the full Windows O/S. Don’t be surprised by the number of things that run during startup. Fortunately, you can save the list of auto run elements to a text file when the system is working and use it for comparison if the system fails.

A good free tool for finding available wireless networks is Netstumbler from www.netstumbler.com . It can display a histogram of signal strength and is useful for identifying the annoying times when wireless signals are temporarily lost.

Every tool kit should have a root kit checker and RootKitRevealer is a good free one. It will flag many suspect files from legitimate applications, so it is important to have a list of what is supposed to be running on your system.

A Sysinternals tool that may help speed up your computer is Page Defrag , which will defragment the system pagefile, hibernation file, and configuration files at reboot. It can provide a significant performance improvement for disks that have become defragmented without the time delay for a full disk defragmentation.

Your tool kit can also be used for general cleanup and for the maintenance of systems. Treesize from www.jam-software.com/freeware provides a list of disk directories, sorted by size, and can be used to find unneeded files and to free up disk space.

Ad-Aware Personnel from www.lavasoftusa.com will quickly check for and remove spyware that may have infected your system. Secure Delete , also from Sysinternals, can be used to overwrite deleted data and files securely, removing any traces of previously stored information. Secure Delete is an important tool to use when cleaning disks prior to decommissioning or reuse.

Finally, my toolkit has a copy of Browzar from www.browzar.com . It is a simple memory-only Web browser that can be used to bypass any IE problems without leaving any traces on the target system’s disk.

Don’t stop with these tools. There are hundreds of others that can help you troubleshoot problems. By putting them on a small USB drive, you have the manufacturing IT equivalent of Batman’s utility belt.


Author Information

Dennis Brandl is president of BR&L Consulting in Cary, NC, dbrandl@brconsulting.com .




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