Monday, November 19, 2012

Fix Corrupt or Blank Windows 7 System Tray Icons

I see this a lot where I work and while I haven't yet been able to track down the source of the problem, the fix is as follows:

  1. Open Regedit via Start-->Search
  2. Open Task Manager via CTRL-ALT-DEL
  3. Find Explorer.exe in the list and end the Process
  4. Go back to Regedit
  6. Click Edit-->Find
  7. Search for IconStreams
    1. Or navigate directly to HKEY_CURRENTUSER\SOFTWARE\CLASSES\Local Settings\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\TrayNotify\
  8. Delete IconStreams
  9. Search or navigate to PastIconStreams
  10. Delete this key as well
  11. Hit CTRL-ALT-DEL
  12. Start Task Manager
  13. Click File-->Run
  14. Type, Explorer.exe 
  15. The issue should be resolved.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Awesome Tool! TiddlyWiki

Can't remember anything? need to have information organized. Need to have it searchable? Don't have the time to make and host a whole wiki yourself? Welcome to TiddlyWiki.

Tiddlywiki is perhaps the easiest to set up wiki available. You don't need a server. You don't need to setup a SQL database. You need to download 2 files, be able to run JavaScript and open the HTML file. It works on Linux, OS X and Windows as well as multiple browsers. I had mine set up and running in about 2 minutes flat and now I use it every day. What was the fix for that random problem? What's the login for that site? What's my long distance code? TiddlyWiki knows and it's even encrypted and stored on my a network drive that only I can access.

I would highly recommend everyone check this out.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Awesome Tool! Remote Desktop Connection Manager

I was flabbergasted recently after talking with a number of peers in the industry that that they are still opening up the old trusty Remote Desktop client for remoting into servers. Some are going to the start menu or have custom made shortcuts to servers but all of them are doing things incredibly inefficiently and wasting their precious time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How To Configure Disk Space Alerts on Server 2008

Some of us may not have access to enterprise level third party tools like What's Up Gold that will do server monitoring. Luckily, Microsoft has built in some tools to handle this for you.

The general premise is to set up a new data collector set with the Reliability and Performance Monitor that will kick off an automated email via a scheduled task letting you know the disk space on your server is nearly full.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How to SysPrep a Windows 7 PC: In Plain English (Part 1)

How to SysPrep a Windows 7 PCOver a year ago I was charged with deploying Windows 7 to our organization in stages. I quickly found that sysprepping had changed dramatically from Windows XP and there wasn't a clear and concise place to find step by step instructions on how to go about creating and sysprepping Windows 7. This step by step guide is intended for Technicians and Veterans alike that just need a clear no-nonsense set of instructions on how to get their task accomplished.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Powershell: Get service tag or serial number

In case a machine name gets changed accidentally or perhaps your users have admin rights and decide to rename their computer the below powershell script will return you the true serial number or service tag. This is also useful in case the physical sticker or tag on the laptop or desktop has been rubbed off or is illegible.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

MCTS, Windows 7 Configuration : Passed!

The first step in, I'm sure, a long line of certifications to come is now complete. I passed my Windows 7, Configuration (70-680) exam with flying colors.

It was a good experience, overall, even if I have gripes about how your knowledge is tested. I now have a wider array of tools at my disposal for problem solving issues and coming up with solutions. There's actually a wide variety of tools Microsoft supplies which you can use to fix one problem in a few different ways.  It's nice having that knowledge and the skills to apply it.

Next up for me is the Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator MCTS which will give me my first MCITP as an Enterprise Desktop Administrator. While perhaps not as prestigious as the MCITP in Server Administration this is a good first step, I feel, and should serve me well in future certs as well as professional endeavors.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Use PSExec to Remotely Audit machines

This may be less applicable to some than most of my posts but I was able to pull this off today on short notice and thought it deserved sharing. I was requested to audit an entire departments Windows computers with the assumption that we would need to run the Audit executable manually on every users machine. This seemed like a good opportunity to script something.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Deploy a Safe Senders List to Outlook Clients via Group Policy

It makes sense for the environment I manage to try and do as much as I can for our users in order to cut down on support calls.  Scan to email from our Xerox machines, automated system related messages re: password resets and more can all get sent into the junk folder. Specifying a safe sender lists for Outlook can cut down on these potential issues rearing their ugly head and group policy is the best mechanism for deploying the setting.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Powershell: What AD accounts are set to never expire?

Here's a quick Powershell script that just came in handy for me recently. I was trying to find what users on our domain were given an exception to our password expiration policy and were set to never have their password expire.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Explorer Freezing and Crashing in Windows 7

I've come across this over 10 times now over the last year or so supporting about 400+ users. I'm not sure of the root cause but the behavior you will generally see is Explorer stop responding, Windows tries to find a solution in vain, and then explorer just restarts. This will occur every time you Right-Click on an explorer object such as

  • The Computer option in the Start Menu
  • The Taskbar
  • Any File or folder

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Disable Windows 7 Backup Monitoring via the Action Center using Group Policy

Windows 7 has a pretty well done Backup and Restore feature that allows users to backup their data manually or on a set schedule. This feature and it's status feed back into the Action Center which will prompt you to do your backups if they haven't been setup or performed in some time. While I agree with the sentiment a large majority of users I support do not use the feature and instead prefer simple intermittent copying and pasting onto an external drive or cloud backups via Dropbox.

The Action Center caused a good amount of support calls as its repeated messages that "something was wrong" made users think that something needed to be fixed. Something did need to be fixed: we needed to turn off monitoring of of Backup and Restore on every users machine. Thank goodness for Group Policy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

General Network/Internet Connection Troubleshooting

Network and internet connectivity is a reoccurring problem that comes into our Helpdesk. It quickly become apparent that our techs needed a quick checklist of things they can try to restore connectivity. This list is kind of a shotgun approach to troubleshooting the issue but when time is of the essence compromises must be made. The user doesn't necessarily care why they lost connectivity; they just want it fixed - so be prepared to leave your detective skills unused in these scenarios.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Powershell Script: Currently locked out accounts

The Microsoft certification training I'm doing now is just scratching the surface of what is possible with powershell but it was so intriguing I couldn't not do more research into what's possible with it. Even for those of us that don't have the time to essentially learn a whole new programming language can get quick benefits from learning a small amount.

Locked out active directory accounts are a constant problem (that I will discuss in a later post) where I work. But from a users  perspective they could be having a problem with "getting to the internet", "wifi", "email", or even "printing". All these services we provide hinge on their active directory account being in good working order.

So instead of manually searching for a users account these days I just use a powershell script to check if ANY accounts on the domain are locked out. At this point I just keep a powershell window open and hit Up Arrow and Enter to execute the script again.

Open up notepad or your text editor of choice and type the following:

Search-ADAccount -LockedOut | FT Name, ObjectClass, UserPrincipalName

Save this text file as lockedout.ps1

Now just open powershell and run your script!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quick Tip: Offer Remote Assistance on a network with ease

Everyone frequently has users that are difficult to walk through procedures over the phone or email. Remote Desktop is great for fixing a problem on your own and if the issue isn't profile specific but it won't let you screen share with the user. There are a bunch of 3rd party apps you can purchase for the purpose of remote assistance but i find Microsoft's Remote Assistance tool works just fine. Unfortunately, just launching the application from your start menu doesn't give you any kind of enterprise friendly options. All I want is offer remote assistance to a user on the network with minimal user interaction. There's no need to further complicate a less technical users problems with troubleshooting the remote assistance!

Luckily, Microsoft has some command line switches for Remote Assistance and in this case you can use the string below. I personally just create a new shortcut so there's no need to type it in anymore.

%windir%\system32\msra.exe /offerRA

This will bring up a new window where you can just enter the users computer name or IP address. All the user will have to do will be click Yes on two different pop-ups on their screen and you're good to go!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Automate Windows Vista/7/8 Wifi Profile Importing using NETSH

If you work in an enterprise environment that provides wireless you may find it necessary to constantly be configuring WiFi profiles for your users as they aren't able to do it themselves. With more advanced security features you can  implement with 802.1x for instance you may find that simply trying to connect to the WiFi network and entering in your credentials won't work - you need more manual configuration.

Well screw that! Let's make a batch file and do this in 2 clicks!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

AutoHotKey is your Friend: Auto Insert your Signature Anywhere

At my current place of employment we have a wonderful ticket system that we can't seem to get away from that really doesn't ever work the way we want. For every new feature they add something else breaks. Though, I've never had the pleasure of working with a ticketing system I did like. At any rate, we respond to users through the ticketing system which sends them a horribly formatted email and sends it from the default Helpdesk account.

So great, now people don't even know its me writing back to them. I like to have the personal touch even when I claim misanthropy constantly to coworkers.

At any rate, AutoHotKey to the rescue! If i can't send from my own email address I can at least sign my name auto-magically.

Grab AutoHotKey and just edit in some code into the default script:

::sig::Yourname {enter} Your Title {enter} Phone{enter}etc
Make sure this is all one one line.

Walla! Never type your signature again. Honestly, I even use this in Outlook now for regular emails.

AHK can, as you might expect, do a heck of a lot more. Check out for some more ideas.



Welcome to my little corner of the internet. I will mostly be using this blog a place to share tips and tricks I've learned or used regarding Windows server and desktop administration as well as general Helpdesk tools and processes that I utilize.

Check back soon as content should be coming shortly.