There is no shortage of free Windows server administrative tools available to System Administrators. Whether you need a tool to help configure, manage, troubleshoot or secure Windows servers and domains, there’s a free tool that can help.
However, because of the seemingly endless array of these tools, finding the right one for your purposes can be overwhelming. So here’s our list of free Windows server administrative tools to help you oversee your Windows-based network.
Best Free Network Monitoring Tool: Wireshark
Wireshark is a popular network traffic monitoring tool. It’s great for diagnosing network issues to speed up troubleshooting and works with the majority of known monitoring protocols. This tool offers a clear and logical graphical user interface (GUI) based on the popular open source GUI toolkit, GTK.
While Wireshark is a great tool for Windows systems, it can also be used for cross-platform administration. It’s supported by Linux, Solaris, Mac OS, FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD.
Best Free Remote Server Administration Tool: RSAT
Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) give IT administrators the ability to remotely manage roles and features on Windows Servers. This tool can also be used to remotely manage Windows Active Directory. With RSAT, there’s no need for a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), which can be time-consuming to set up and may open up network connections to security risks. RSAT has become an even more valuable tool given the recent boom in remote work ecosystems.
The RSAT package includes:
- A server Manager
- The Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in
- Windows PowerShell cmdlets
- Command-line tools
Best Free Performance Monitoring Tool: Best Practices Analyzer
The Windows Best Practices Analyzer is a natively integrated Windows Server tool. It ensures that Active Directory (AD) is following Microsoft’s Best Practices standard by analyzing key settings and other AD components. The tool can help you identify ways to increase the security and performance of your AD. For each setting or component scanned, it displays a status and description. The Best Practices Analyzer can also be used to monitor the health of Hyper-V.
Best Free Backup and Disaster Recovery Tool: Clonezilla
Every organization should be prepared for when disaster strikes to prevent the permanent loss of precious data. Clonezilla is a free tool for cloning disks and individual hard disk partitions. It makes for a fast and reliable backup and disaster recovery tool.
There are two versions of Clonezilla:
- Clonezilla Live: This version is solely for single machine backup and restoration.
- Clonezilla SE: This is the server edition of Clonezilla, designed for large deployments. It has the ability to install an OS and software applications on one machine, then take a snapshot, which it uses to deploy on other machines in the network. This version can also backup other machines connected to the network.
Clonezilla supports a wide variety of file systems, including:
- ext2, ext3, and ext4
- Reiserfs and reiser4
- XFS, JFS, JFS, VMFS and HFS +
Best Free Editor Tool: PowerShell ISE
The Microsoft Windows PowerShell ISE is a GUI-based application and interactive environment built on the .NET Framework. It is the default editor for Windows PowerShell commands. It allows System Admins to run various PowerShell commands in real-time. PowerShell ISE was built to automate a number of administrative responsibilities related to managing applications running on a network.
There are also Script Browser and Script Analyzer add-ons available for PowerShell ISE. The Script Browser automatically searches for and identifies appropriate command scripts for specific tasks using the TechNet database. This saves Admins a lot of time and effort manually searching through libraries of scripts. The Script Analyzer can then evaluate scripts and suggest changes to improve their effectiveness.
Best Suite of Free Server Administration Tools: ManageEngine Desktop Central
ManageEngine Desktop Central is an entire suite of free Windows administrative tools used to effectively manage endpoints from a central point. It’s not open source or a native Windows tool as the other solutions on this list but is offered by the software vendor, ManageEngine. Desktop Central is available in four editions. But the free edition is still a powerful tool.
ManageEngine’s Windows Server administrative suite includes a variety of tools for Windows for different administration and management tasks:
- Remote Task Manager Tool
- Wake on LAN
- Software Inventory Tool
- Remote Command Prompt Tool
- GPO Update, Shutdown/Restart Tool
- Join/Unjoin Computer Tool
- Currently Logged On User
- Hard Disk Space Detector Tool
- Local Users/Groups List Tool
- Network Share Browser Tool
- Laptop Battery Power Monitor Tool
The newest addition is the Remote Desktop Connection tool, which may now be one of the suite’s most valuable due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the boom in remote employees. This tool is able to take control of remote Windows computers so Admins can troubleshoot issues on individual machines from any location.