Over my years of enthusiastic work in IT, I've discovered great software. Some I sought out. Some I stumbled upon. Some is well-known. Some was not and, unfortunately, still is not well-known.
This list is intended to be everything that I searched for but never found - a fairly comprehensive list of software that is surprisingly great and invaluable.
I'm always on the lookout for new, great software so if you have any recommendations then I'd love to hear them!
- Due to the sheer scope of this, it's unlikely that this post will be up to my usual standards (somewhat formal, consistent structure, thoroughly-researched, screenshots, etc) and some of the information is simply to the best of my recollection.
- The bullet points are generally what I use the software for, not an exhuastive list of features.
- I've omitted truly obvious software such as Google Maps because that would be a waste of everyone's time.
So, without further ado...
In my experience, applications that download video / audio have always been slow to adapt to change and, therefore, unreliable but, somehow, 4K Video Downloader has been solid over years.
Don't let the name fool you, this 4K Video Downloader does a lot more than it gives itself credit for:
- Download from YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, Flickr, Facebook, and DailyMotion.
- Download as video files in formats MP4, MKV, or FLV; qualities 240p to 4K to 3D; and with subtitles.
- Download as audio files in formats MP3, M4A, or OGG.
- Download entire playlists (in the paid version).
It's free; available on Windows, macOS, and Linux; and updated regularly. What more could you ask for?
Put simply, 5nine Manager allows you to quickly and easily connect to any Microsoft Hyper-V Server remotely using non-Active Directory authentication and fully manage it.
That may not sound like much but, as any sysadmin who has worked in this scenario should be able to tell you, it can be a godsend and certainly was for me.
The 30-day trial of the paid version allows you to do so for an unlimited number of servers but the free version allows you to do so for 1 server at a time.
7-Zip is a free (even for commercial use) GUI and CLI application that offers impressive compression performance and speeds with an equally impressive number of supported archive formats.
Freely available for iOS, Android, and, via a Google Chrome extension, even Windows, macOS, and Linux, Authy is a great alternative to Google Authenticator for app-based TFA, primarily because it gives you the option of exporting / backing-up and importing / restoring configuration which saves a lot of time when changing devices.
Ever wish that you could stream or mirror video and audio from iPhone or iPad to Windows, Mac, or Xbox One exactly as you can to Apple TV but with additional features such as recording? Well, I think you know where I'm going with this...
Unfortunately, it's not free but it's not expensive either.
In my eyes, the successor to Angry IP Scanner.
On startup, it automatically detects the computer's subnets and adds them as IP ranges for scanning.
On execution, it scans all given IP ranges and, for each online IP address / host:
- Gets its MAC address.
- Determines the manufacturer.
- Reverse resolves its hostname (if any).
- Detects any available services (HTTP, etc).
You can then copy all or individual pieces of information and start network operations (ping, traceroute, RDP, WoL, etc).
To top it all of, it's free.
Have you ever modified or restored file(s) from backup and wished that you could correct the date and time stamp? Well, AC can do all of that plus more (simulate changes; bulk change read-only, hidden, and system properties; etc) for free!
I'm hardly an audiophile and definitely not an audio engineer but any changes that I've ever needed to make to an audio file (convert from FLAC to 320 KbPS MP3, add fades, splice tracks, etc) has been easily handled by Audacity, especially when you add additional libraries (LAME for MP3, FFmpeg, etc).
Of course, it's free.
Oh, man. Where to start.
AHK can do pretty much anything but, personally, I have used it to:
- Automatically close Windows' file extension rename warning prompt.
- Paste using CTRL + V into Command Prompt on Windows 7.
- Paste into quotation marks.
- Expand strings into frequently-used email addresses.
- Insert frequently-used characters.
- Insert current date and time in ISO 8601 (AKA the correct) format.
- Open Command Prompt and start a constant ping to google.co.uk.
- Correct frequently misspelled words.
- Correct grammar of foreign words.
Yes, it's free.
Free or paid-for, Bitdefender is generally rated the best antivirus year after year:
Oh, NirSoft. What sysadmin doesn't respect you?
Need to analysis one or many BSoD crash minidump file(s) regardless of where it exists? This free app will do well by you.
I'll admit that this is an odd entry but it is awesome.
I'm very glad that this simple system exists because:
- Spoofing is becoming more and more commonplace.
- SPF only protects against spoofing at the SMTP / 5321.MailFrom / envelope-from / Envelope-Sender level whereas DMARC uses SPF to protect against the aforementioned level and at the MIME / 5322.From / header-from / Display-From / header.d level.
- Domain name email usage discovery is difficult, especially for badly organised systems.
Simply publish the DNS TXT RR, wait for and analyse the reports, determine legitiimate domain name email usage, and reconfigure DMARC's DNS TXT RR to quarantine or reject unauthorized email.
Even though Dropbox is very well known, I couldn't exclude it from this list because it's just so awesome. Nothing else comes close.
Dropbox is great because it:
- Is reliable across all platforms (web, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, etc) and has been for years.
- Integrates well with Microsoft Office, even online.
- Automatically uploads new photos from smartphones.
- Has no limitations.
- Has great support.
- Is easily expandable.
Dropbox continues to get ever greater with new features such as Smart Sync.
Its versions range from free and Pro (limited by the amount of storage you get) to Business, the latter of which offers the sort of features you'd expect from an enterprise-level service: remote wiping, auditing, central management, SSO, etc.
In my experience, this is the best app for data recovery because:
- It recovered everything from a 2 TB RAW partition.
- It recovered enough from a pawn shop-bought HDD to identify the previous owner's name, address, favourite locations, personal "preferences", etc.
- It seemed to recover more information than Kroll Ontrack were able to from a VHD file that was screwed by ransomware from outside of the VM.
Unfortunately, it's not free but that's not much of a consideration in these cases.
Successor to Media Browser (get it?).
Do you have a large media library (video, music, images, TV, etc) that you wish you could host centrally and access anywhere using any device (web, iOS, Android, Windows, Xbox One, etc) on any network connection? Emby will do well by you.
Probably the best free hypervisor for hosting standalone (non-replicated) VMs.
- Install on an SD card or USB flash drive. This makes it easier to upgrade in the future without messing with the datastore. Although, if you do a fresh install, rather than an upgrade, you'll need to manually re-add the datastore so don't panic.
- Create small, thick-provisioned virtual HDDs and expand when necessary as it's a bitch to decrease the size when it's been in use.
- If you need to create snapshots then make sure you delete them ASAP or you're looking at degraded performance and extended downtime (speaking from experience).
Ever had the following happen to you?
- Connect a vSphere Client to an ESXi host.
- Create or modify version 10+ VM.
- Receive warning saying that the vSphere Client can only be used to modify version 8 features and advice to use the vSphere Web Client.
- Find out that vSphere Web Client is only available for VMware vCenter which is paid-for, unlike ESXi which is free.
I did. Many times. I got so sick of it that I was determined to find a proper solution. After a while of going around in circles, I discovered this.
Simply install via SSH (IIRC, ESXi didn't even need to be rebooted) and there you have it: a web-based, appless, fully-featured, simple alternative to the vSphere Client.
EWSEditor allows you to connect to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 SP1 to 2016 and view and modify an impressive range of mailbox attributes.
Yes, it's free.
Every now and again, we've all needed to create a temporary / fake user account. Fake Name Generator facilitates this to impressive extents including, most importantly, providing a functional email account.
FalconFour is the boot disc to end all boot discs:
- Hieron's BootCD
- EaseUS Partition Master
- Offline NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 Password Changer
- Seagate Disc Wizard (Acronis TrueImage
And many more!
Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated for a very long time and DaRT doesn't work in version 4.61 but it's still very useful.
A simple, intuitive Google Chrome extension for Google Maps that calculates the given journey's cost in fuel according to the defined fuel cost and MPG.
FFmpeg is an open-source, cross-platform suite of tools to play and modify media files and is so good that it's been adopted by many media systems (Audacity, Emby, Shotcut, etc).
As it's CLI-based, there's a bit of a learning curve but the sheer power and flexibility is worth it.
Without a doubt, the best searching app that I've ever encountered:
- Search in multiple folders
- Exclude multiple folders
- Search using wildcards or regex
- Search within files using handlers
- Search case sensitive or insensitive
- Search using date filters
- Search using size filters
The free version has been more than sufficient for me.
Just like I like all of my apps: free, portable, lightweight, and fast.
This app allows you to calculate and compare common (HAVAL, MD2, MD5, SHA-1, SHA-256, SHA-364, and SHA-512) checksums / hashs for files.
A great screenshotting utility for web browsers:
- Capture selection, visible part, or entire web page.
- Capture to image file, PDF file, clipboard, or printer.
- Custom file naming scheme.
FreeFileSync is the best file and folder syncing app that I've ever encountered:
- Ultra-fast comparisons
- Multiple source and destination folders
- Support for system and user environmental variables
- Support for drive labels in place of drive letters
- Compare using timestamp, checksum / hash, or size
- Filter on path (including wildcards), time span, and size
- Multiple sync modes: Two-way, mirror, update, and custom
- Option to ignore defined timeshift
- Option for deleted file handling
- Detection of moved files
- Full log of actions
Tip: Comes bundles with adware which prompts for installation on Windows desktop but, oddly, not Windows Server.
A truly excellent screenshotting app:
- Capture entire screen, window, manual selection (with magnifier), or last region.
- Capture using keyboard shortcuts or System Tray icon.
- Capture to file, clipboard, printer, Microsoft Office, imgur, Paint, etc.
- Custom file naming scheme with variables.
- Option for OCR (via MODI, provided by Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2007) which works surprisingly well.
- Option to neutralise Aero transparency.
Very useful for a network administrator:
- Convert CIDR notations to IP ranges.
- Convert IP ranges to CIDR notations.
- Sort list of IP addresses.
- Convert IP addresses to decimal, hexadecimal, and binary.
Determine all available information about a public IP address:
- Registered AS number
- Registered organisation name and address
- Reverse DNS
- DNS PTR RR (aka hostname)
- Name servers
- Time zone
Good tool for intuitively working with virtual disc files:
- Create ISO file from files.
- Create ISO or CUE files from physical disc.
- Burn physical disc using ISO, BIN, NRG, IMG, or DMG files.
- Extract files from ISO, BIN, NRG, IMG, DMG, CDI, MDF, GI, PDI, B5I, or B6I files.
- Convert files from ISO, BIN, NRG, IMG, DMG, CDI, MDF, GI, PDI, B5I, or B6I to ISO or BIN.
Pronounced "Key-piri-nha", not "Key-pirahna" as I did for a while. In my eyes, a true successor to Launchy.
A bit tedious to install and configure but, once it's up-and-running, absolutely indispensable:
- Very fast.
- Very reliable (unlike Launchy).
- Very quick to learn from you.
- Built-in indexing of web browser bookmarks (unlike Launchy).
- Good-looking (unlike Launchy).
- Massive productivity boost due to instant access to commonly used links (desktop shortcuts, RDP files, etc).
My personal installation and configuration guide:
- Extract ZIP file to folder "C:\Program Files\Keypirinha".
- Delete folder "C:\Program Files\Keypirinha\portable".
- Create file "Keypirinha.lnk" pointing to file "C:\Program Files\Keypirinha\keypirinha.exe"
- Copy file "Keypirinha.lnk" to folders:
- "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Keypirinha".
- "C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup"
- Open Keypirinha
Alt-select the system tray icon, select "Configure Application", and submit the following configuration:
max_results = 10
hotkey_run = Alt+Space"
Alt-select the system tray icon, select "Configure Package", select "Apps", and submit the following configuration:
One of or perhaps the best way of integrating AD DS and AAD / Office 365:
- Supports setup using TFA-enabled administrator accounts.
- Properly sets sync type in the Office 365 OAC.
- Detailed logging to Windows Event Viewer.
- Multiple options for authentication: sync passwords from AD DS to AAD, sync passwords from AAD to AD DS, or pass-through (refer to AD DS' DCs à la AD FS).
- Multiple filter options.
- Automatically creates service accounts.
- Ensure that all AD DS and AAD / Office 365 user accounts' UPNs, primary email addresses, and proxy email addresses match or the Office 365 user accounts' attributes will be set to default and you'll be in for some pain.
- Never untick the container "<AD DS DNS domain name>/Configuration". An Office 365 senior support engineer advised that this contained the configuration used by AADC and, quote, "I don't know why they made that option available".
- Sync is paused by the configuration wizard is open so don't leave it open.
Probably the best free hypervisor for hosting replicated VMs.
- Highly compatible with hardware (particularly onboard RAID controllers) as it's Windows-based.
- Can install Windows apps.
- Replication is free.
- Runs in Core mode so you'll need to be familiar with PowerShell (really, it's not that hard) or use Hyper-V Manager or 5nine Manager.
- Up until 2016, remote management must be authenticated via AD DS.
A fork of Media Player Classic.
For years, I was a fan of VLC Player but MPC-HC blows it out of the water when it comes to performance, particularly over the network.
MXToolbox offers many ever-expanding, network-related queries:
- Generic DNS RRs (MX, A, TXT, PTR, etc)
- Blacklist / reputation.
- Trace route
- HTTPS check
- Port scan
Granted, most of this can basically be acquired using Command Prompt but can be more useful to use a linkable web site.
A utility for providing surprisingly in-depth reports on a web site. Provides information on:
Another NirSoft great.
Tool for modifying Microsoft Outlook's AutoComplete cache:
- Works with the NK2 files of Microsoft Outlook 2010 and older and the DAT files of Microsoft Outlook 2013 and newer.
- Option to modify entries.
- Option to export selected records directly to the default folder "Contacts" of the default email account in the default mail profile.
Renowned networking suite but great for quickly "pinging on a port" (I know it doesn't work that way) or determining the technology behind a port.
The Non-Sucking Service Manager (NSSM) allows you to create Windows services for applications that don't have them natively.
Tip: The Windows services use NSSM's EXE file so ensure that you store it in a safe place otherwise they will stop working.
IIRC, Notepad++ can be a bit daunting but once you get past that it is amazing and has never let me down:
- Extensive searching:
- Find (and replace) in current or all opened files.
- Match whole word only.
- Match case.
- Wrap around.
- Extended (newline, carriage return, tab, etc)
- Up or down.
- Find in search results.
- Handles very large files very well.
- Highlighting of identical selections.
- Reformat date and time stamp.
- Convert security certificate thumbprint to hash.
- Convert MAC address from ARP to standard.
- Remove XML from events.
- Automatic, periodic saving.
- Portable version.
For years, I searched for a decent screen capture app and OBS is it.
It isn't particularly intuitive and it has a bit of a learning curve but it is efficient, high-quality, and uses standard formats.
Tip: To crop the capture, alt-select the source, select "Filters", and add filter "Crop/Pad".
This web app was designed to offer a solution to those who need to issue a password but don't want (1) to do so over an unencrypted SMTP connection and (2) the password to reside forevermore in the recipient's mailbox. Submitted passwords are encrypted and deleted after the chosen criteria.
Great app for understanding how other software works:
- Show / hide registry, file system, network, process, and profiling activity.
- Filter on operation, path, process name or ID, date and time, user, etc.
This app was greatly effective when I needed to determine the undocumented location of different preferences in Microsoft Outlook.
A small, efficient, and portable app for network administrators SSH-, telnet-, and serial-ing into devices.
This app is effectively an Explorer extension but it is surprisingly useful:
- Middle-click to open and close from anywhere!
- Drive letter displayed on icon.
- Detection and remediation of identical folder names.
- Preview of files (TXT, PNG, MP4, etc) on hover.
- Preview of folder and subfolder contents.
- Double-click on whitespace to move up a folder level.
A free data recovery app. Not as effective as EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard but it can't hurt to effectively get a second opinion for free.
For years I wanted to learn Regular Expressions (AKA regex and regexp but the latter sounds stupid) but found it too daunting.
I discovered RegExr and, what with the instant feedback, in-depth reference, cheatsheet, and community templates, I learned it in a few weeks to the point where I could play Regex crosswords (yes, of course they're a thing) without reference.
Tip: Newlines / carriage returns are platform-dependant so, for example, you'll have to use "\n" on RegExr and "\r\n" on Windows.
Simply invaluable for sysadmins who are constantly remotely logging into servers, web interfaces, etc.
The free version is surprisingly capable but the paid-for version if even more surprisingly capable.
A surprisingly powerful bulk-rename utility:
- Support for files and folders .
- Instant feedback.
- Reorder or toggle rules.
- Natural order sorting.
- Conflict resolution.
- Meta tag support.
- Regex support.
Honestly, I would struggle to exhaustively list all features of this app but, suffice to say, it's flexible.
This Google Chrome extension offers the feature of being able to save the current page as an Internet shortcut file on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Personally, I've always used Internet shortcut files for a multitude of reasons:
- To passively share links to content with people via shared folders.
- To supersede the temporary use of pinned tabs and bookmarks.
- As portable links.
- To accompany resources (installers with links to the websites, projects with links to assets, etc)
I've always found them so awkward to create. Hence, this extension.
Shameless plug: This was developed by me. One day I'll return to its development.
As with OBS, I spent years searching for a decent video editing app and I think I've found it with Shotcut. Even better, it's open source.
There's a bit of a learning curve but, all things considered, it's surprisingly powerful.
As far as I'm aware, this is the only free IPSec VPN app which, in and of itself, makes it invaluable.
Personally, I've only ever tested this against 2 Cyberoam UTMs and had a 50 % success rate but that may very well be a problem with the Cyberoam, the configuration, etc.
Almost everyone knows about Ookla's Speedtest.net but this is just better:
- Detection of jitter.
- Detection of bufferbloat.
- Detection of packet loss.
- Detection of likely-supported services (VoIP, gaming, streaming, etc).
- Calculation of MOS (Mean Opinion Score) based on packet loss, jitter, and latency.
- Explanation of all metrics.
- Graphs for all metrics.
- Minimum, maximum, average, and total values for all metrics.
I only wish you could link or decently print the results but Logan Abbott, CEO of Sourceforge, said he's adding these features to the roadmap.
Maybe not the best system information aggregation app but it has always been sufficient and reliable in my experience.
Apart from in-depth system information, it also offers the option of importing and exporting snapshots, exporting to XML, exporting to TXT, and printing.
As far as I'm aware, Tag&Rename is the hands-down best app for managing audio metadata:
- Manage multiple files in different folders.
- Rename files based on metadata tags.
- Modify metadata tags (including album artwork).
- Write metadata tags from file name.
- Preview before writing changes.
Widely considered the successor to AdBlock and AdBlock Plus, both of which seemed to have sucumbed to greed and abandon their mission.
This app has saved me so much time I don't think it's even quantifiable.
Basically, this app allows you to reassign a user profile to a different user account. This may not sound like much but it is invaluable when moving to, between, or from user accounts and/or domains because almost everything is identical to the way that it was.
- The process can seem to get stuck on ACLs for large user profiles but just bear with it.
- Credential Manager may get cleared.
I do wish it was a bit more intuitive, though.
A great and effective tool for email administrators.
With this, you can test a public IP address against a published or unpublished SPF record and get a full log of all tests and a overview result.
For a long time, I was a VMware Workstation fan but, after reinstalling Windows on my PC, I thought I'd give Oracle's VirtualBox a go and, to be honest, I see no reason to go back. It just works, possibly even better.
Tip: To change a VM's resolution, execute host command ""C:\Program Files\Oracle\VirtualBox\VBoxManage.exe" controlvm "<VM name>" setvideomodehint <width> <height> 32"
A fantastic security tool:
- Scan files or URLs with 55 antiviruses.
- Search by hash.
- Get permalinks to results.
- Record of all seen file names.
- Sometimes, detailed behavioural information (files accessed, network connections established, etc).
- Community ratings and comments.
A great tool for... storage administrators? Sysadmins? Anyway:
- Scan all drives, a specific drive, or a specific folder.
- See results by file tree, graph / heatmap, and file extension.
- Interactive graph / heatmap.
- User-defined cleanups.
Tip: Run as administrator to scan other users' and system areas.
I wish it had an export feature.
A renowned, unparalled (as far as I'm aware) tool for network administrators.
Personally, I have yet to overcome the steep learning curve but it has a reputation for a reason.
A tool that allows you to create a multiboot USB flash drive.
My personal configuration:
- Windows 10 64-bit installer using distribution "Multiple Windows Vista/7/8/10 Installers -bootmgr".
- FalconFour using distribution "Falcon 4 Boot CD".
- HDD Regenerator using distribution "Try Unlisted ISO (GRUB from RAM)".
- Acronis True Image 2016 using distribution "Try Unlisted ISO (GRUB from RAM)".
Tips: For distribution "Try Unlisted ISO (GRUB from RAM)", ensure that there are no spaces in the ISO file's name.
Note: Only the beta is reported to work on UEFI and BIOS.