Useful Windows Softwares for System Administrators

I am super excited to announce that I am leaving Windows forever to follow my love for a Unix based operating system. For last 8+ years, I have been using Win XP/7/8 as my primary OS for work (obviously). Now, I have got myself a Macbook Pro and will live my rest of live with OS X :)

It is definitely not that I don't like Windows, but I strongly feel it is good for desktop machines and not for servers. I know this is debatable, and different people will have different views on this, but this is my personal opinion - no pun intended.

Before ditching Windows, I would like to list down few softwares which made my life as a Sys Admin easy and yet efficient.

Xshell (Shareware)

I have been loyal to this masterpiece since 2008 for SSH-ing to Unix servers. Before you move ahead, let me tell you that this is not just another alternative to Putty. Here, I am listing out few qualities of Xshell which makes it stand apart from the crowd.

  • Tabbed Interface
  • Save Sessions (hostnames, IP and passwords)
  • Run automatic commands as per prompt (like expect utility)
  • Logins thru Gateway or Jump servers. Like you need to login to server B, for which you first must login to server A.
  • No need for WinSCP, one button click for opening a SCP GUI
  • Automatic X11 Forwarding

  • I am damn sure, sometime or the other you must have pulled your hairs in order to make 'X11 Forwarding' work with softwares like Xming and Cygwin. I have never had any problems with Xshell.

    Putty (Freeware)

    Yes, I did installed putty too along with Xshell. The main reason for this was to utlilze the binaries accompanies with putty like pscp, psftp, and plink in Windows batch scripts. Additionally, there is also puttygen which I need for logging to AWS EC2 Linux servers.

    SnagIT (Shareware)

    Want to post right message thru screenshots ? SnagIT can do wonders for your SOPs, documents, guides, etc. Additionally, it also doubles up as a decent screen recorder which does not insanely eats up your disk space like other softwares out there.

    Windows grep (Freeware)

    I used this software extensively to look in heaps of txt or log files in Windows. Sometimes it is important look for a keyword in multiple files, this does the job perfectly.

    Textpad (Freeware)

    This is another editor of windows, which is fast and easy to use. I have been friendly to it since more than 10 years now. There could be other alternatives to it, but I was glued to it because of its feature to save multiple files together in a 'Workspace'. This becomes a blessing when you have to open tons of text files daily for work, and that too in tabs.

    Password Safe (Freeware)

    Another opensource gem built for Windows platform. I can't even think of migrating it to another software since I have hundreds of passwords saved in it. And this is one of the main reasons, I have created a Windows virtual machine on my Mac.

    Sublime Text (Freeware)

    If you're like me who loves to write codes, scripts and automate stuff, the chances are rare that you will get a better alternative. Just give it a try, and you will fall in love with it.

    VMware Workstation (Shareware)

    If you are a Sys Admin and do not feel the need to run VMs, think again :). Sys Admin's life is not a walk in a park. You've be sure of what you are doing, and sometimes fancy demands of customers push you to try out which you have never done before. I run lots of VMs to learn, practice and enjoy Unix, Windows and even Mac OS X. Yes, you can run OS X on VMware Workstation is not straight forward but not too difficult either. I will try to write a post for that too sometime soon.

    There are numerous alternatives to VMware Workstation to run VMs on Windows. Oracle VirtualBox, Microsoft Virtual PC, Parallels Workstation, etc. are few alternatives. I have tried all of these but found VMware Workstation the most reliable of the lot.

    mRemoteNG (Freeware)

    Well, this is an optional one but again increases one's productivity and connections to multiple Windows and Unix servers in one Window are pretty tidy with this software. I just hate to clutter my desktop with multiple putty and RDP windows. I used it solely to make connections to Windows Servers.

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