Archive for the ‘Admin Tools and Tips’ Category

How to Make the Most Out of Windows 10 in 2018

Windows 10 has more than made up for the fiasco that Windows 8 proved to be. Microsoft has gone for overkill with Windows 10 and is continuing to roll out patches, add-ons, and upgrades that make the OS more secure, user-friendly, and powerful. If you’ve already been using Windows 10 for some time, you’d understand how it’s been designed to make all settings and configurations accessible even to the beginner user. Why not make use of some of the coolest Windows 10 features, tricks, and best practices to be more productive than ever in 2018? Here’s a guide that will help you do so.

Windows 10 and the Cloud

Microsoft has been able to marry the Windows 10 OS with the cloud. Users can link their Microsoft accounts and Office 365 accounts with Windows 10, and use the same cloud service credentials to log in. Files and settings, then, are automatically synced as per the users’ cloud environments. The result – consistent user experience across Microsoft platforms. Also, it’s possible to have more than one cloud linked accounts to use a single Windows 10 device, using the Settings app. Of course, local and domain accounts are supported.

For small and medium-sized businesses, Mobile Device Management policies can be used to manage users logging in with their Microsoft work accounts. Because of the prominent cloud linkage, businesses can explore quite a few log in mechanisms.

Awesome Apps from Windows Store

Too many users of Windows 10 are yet to truly adopt the amazing Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps. The benefits offered by these apps are somewhat lesser known. Now’s the time to switch to these apps, because:

  • They touch friendly and work amazingly well on touch-enabled devices.
  • They load perfectly on different screen sizes and work across resolutions.
  • They are automatically updated, which means you always get the latest version of the software to work with.
  • They come from trusted sources, so you’re in-app data always remains fully secured.
  • These apps consume very less power.

These apps are so good that third-party services such as Slack and Trello have made their desktop apps available via the Windows App store. Windows Store for Business is a tremendous functionality for businesses that want to set up customized app stores for business users.

Safer, Quicker, more Reliable Browsing Through Edge

Microsoft’s Edge browser is potent enough to take care of all your web browsing needs. The key to making the most of Windows 10 is to use native applications as much as possible. Microsoft Edge is one of these native applications. The browser has stripped all unnecessary code, delivering a super quick, super secure, and super intuitive web browsing experience to users. Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortana also uses the Edge browser as its default web browser. Then, you can install browser add-ons from Windows Store. Edge web notes let you annotate web pages in the browser and save them to OneNote.

Built-In Basic Defenses Against Ransomware

Ransomware attacks proved to be the biggest troublemakers for businesses throughout 2017. Windows 10 was caught in the middle of the Wanna Cry ransomware attack in 2017. However, the reality is that this OS is inherently secured against malware attacks. For starters, the Controlled Folder Access functionality of Windows Defender Security Center makes sure that unfriendly applications are not able to make any unauthorized changes to folders. Also, default Desktop, Documents, Movies, and Pictures folders are protected by default. You can protect any folder similarly. Also, it’s possible to whitelist applications to enable access to folders. Plus, Microsoft releases security patches frequently, which keep your OS secure against the latest cyber threats. This makes Windows 10 a highly rewarding and secure OS experience for business as well as personal users.

Deep Integration Between Your Phone and PC

Microsoft has done a terrific job in terms of integrating mobile phone and Windows 10 OS. Here are some ways in which this integration helps people become more productive.

  • The Phone section in the Settings app lets users push files from phone to PC.
  • Edge browser and Launcher apps also accomplish the same functionality.
  • See and reply to text messages from your PC.
  • Use your phone device to sign in to Windows 10 instead of typing the password.

Another super cool feature – Windows 10 lets you lock your computer without pressing Windows + L keys. You can connect your PC to your phone Bluetooth and tweak the settings under the following path.

In Control Panel, go to Hardware and Sound > select Devices and Printers, and activate Dynamic Lock in Settings > Account > Sign-in options.

Selective Backup Of Files on Desktop

Windows 10 makes it super easy for you to work with your files stored on OneDrive cloud storage. That’s with the OneDrive Files on Demand tool. This tool gives you a desktop folder where you’ll see all your cloud-stored files. The files you see inside are mere placeholders. You can specify as to which one of them you really want to access on a desktop.

More Useful Features

Apart from what we’ve discussed, there are other useful features that make the Windows 10 experience breezy and enjoyable for everyone.

  • The File Explorer, for instance, offers a Microsoft Office-inspired ribbon on the top, where the most frequently accessed folder options (which were earlier buried in menus) can be found.
  • You can pin important folders and network locations in the Quick Access box on the top left of the File Explorer.
  • Most often used fodders are made available from the Quick Access box based on your usage.
  • The Action Center is a great way to access important notifications and Skype messages, apart from reminders from Cortana.


Concluding Remarks

Microsoft has not left any stone unturned in making sure that Windows 10 proves to be a highly enjoyable, productivity-enhancing, and intuitive user experience for all kinds of users – whether personal or professional.



Author: Rahul Sharma

What Every Admin Must Know About Windows 10

Windows administration isn’t easy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Thankfully, there are native tools to assist administrators in getting stuff done. Then, there are plugins and tools to do what you believe is not done best using Windows built-in functions. Windows admin, however, extends far beyond basic checks such as managing multiple user accounts with their specific privileges, running disk defragmentation, clearing out caches, and keeping the system safe from viruses. To be truly an expert, you need to be aware of all the system admin tools Windows 10 offers. Here’s a guide to help you out.

Task Scheduler

Windows uses Task Scheduler internally to manage the execution of tasks that need to be run only occasionally, or at very specific times. Of course, admins can use Task Scheduler to take control of time-specific tasks. Another useful application that Task Scheduler can be used for is to find potential malware running in the background. Cleaning auto-start locations is a basic activity, and malware have become adept at hiding their startup locations. Checking Task Scheduler helps admins identify potential malware and weed them out of the system.

Event Viewer

Windows 10 Event Viewer is all a system admin needs to get complete visibility of what’s going on inside the computer. Event Viewer provides all the insight you need to troubleshoot an issue. You can type ‘event’ into the search box, and then open Event Viewer to load it. The window has three panes – the leftmost houses log types and views, the middle pane houses logs, and the right pane shows a list of action items. The five types of events listed in the left pane are:

  • Application events – These are related to programs.
  • Security events – Events related to security audit.
  • Setup events – These are domain control events.
  • Forwarded events – Events forwarded via networks devices.
  • System events – Windows system file events.

Mostly, you will need to depend on Event Viewer to get basic info about a problematic process, and then conduct deeper research on how to solve it.

Disk Management

Windows 10 Disk Management is the most upgraded version of the well-known disk management utility included in all previous Windows versions. This tool is invaluable for system admins to manage hard disk partitioning without rebooting the Windows system. Also, this tool helps you create, delete, and format disk partitions. You can change drive paths, set partitions as active, extend or shrink partitions, and initialize a new disk before using it.
With the disk management utility, you can convert empty dynamic disks to basic disks. Also, system admins can convert empty MBR disks to GPT disks. If you wish to, for instance, change the device letter for your USB drive, you can make then show us as U: here, instead of the default letter. Also, for issues such as a drive not working, Disk Management is the first point of check for a system admin.

Resource Monitor

For a deep dive into the processes going on in a computer and to understand where the resources are being consumed, trust Resource Monitor. It’s easier to use than PerfMon, and has more insights than Task Manager; hence, it’s a useful resource for a system admin. Trust Resource Monitor to help you understand resource consumption when you run applications or test different configuration settings. Also, for troubleshooting Windows performance issues, Resource Monitor becomes a key source of insight.
On the right side of the Resource Monitor Memory tab, you will see graphs for Used Physical Memory, Hard Faults, and Commit Charge. Check the Processes table on the Memory tab for a list of currently running processes, with their memory usage broken down for you. As long as you know what to look for, you can trust Resource Monitor to put together the info you need so you can debug all Windows performance issues.

Shared PC Modes

Windows 10 offers a pretty useful shared PC mode. This makes it easy for administrators to manage unique requirements such as use of a computer for customer access, as a reception or help desk computer, or as a kiosk computer. In scenarios where multiple users need to work on the same computer to perform vastly different tasks, shared PC modes emerges as a good option. In the shared PC mode, a Windows 10 computer is aimed at being maintenance and management free, making sure system admins have enough time and mind space to perform activities that add more value.

User Experience Virtualization (UE-V)

Complementing the shared PC concept is the User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) feature. It allows system admins to set a computer up for customized usage by individual users who don’t wish to use a roaming user profile. With User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), it’s possible to use different settings for Microsoft Store appearance, background picture, accent colors, font sizes, languages, and language for different users. In User Experience Virtualization (UE-V), the custom settings info is stored in a centrally managed network file, and when users log in, their corresponding settings are activated.

AAD Joined Machines

Bring your own device (BYOD) is an enterprise reality. Also, it’s common for enterprises to seek contractor services, and have several employees working from their personal computers from their homes. When so many computers that don’t exist on the enterprise domain are used to perform routine work, the system admin job becomes rather cumbersome. However, Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory (AAD) can help admins manage and secure systems that can’t be joined to the domain. This also makes remote support easier for employees.

Concluding Remarks: The world of system administration for Windows computers is expansive, and the tools we have covered in this guide are certainly not all comprehensive. However, being comfortable in using these tools can help admins perform most of the routine responsibilities they’re likely to face in an enterprise setup.

Auhtor: Rahul Sharma


Top 10 Predictions in Content Collaboration for 2018

Collaboration within the workplace is not a new concept. However, it has become increasingly crucial in this mobile world as we become more connected across the globe. The proliferation of cloud computing has given rise to a new set of content collaboration tools such as Dropbox, FileCloud, Box. These tools enable employees to effectively collaborate, subsequently leading to a more skilled, engaged and educated workforce. Content collaboration solutions allow employees within the organization to easily share information with each other, and effectively work together on projects irrespective of geographic location via a combination of networking capabilities, software solutions, and well-established collaborative processes. Content collaboration platforms are the evolution of Enterprise File Sharing and Sync (EFSS).
… You can read the full article at VMBlog.

Free Virtual Appliances You’re Bound to Be Excited About

Check out the list below to learn more about the eight best free virtual appliances that you can use in a high-production environment. These tools are not only time-savings, but they enable you to learn the ins and outs of certain systems and software, including virtualization, fairly quickly. Some of these virtual appliances have supported and paid versions, if you’re interested.

1. Bitnami MEAN Stack

This virtual appliance uses Apache, PHP, Git, and RockMongo, a PHP-based admin tool. The appliance comes with a quick start guide that shows you how to use MEAN stack through examples. There’s a sample project included, as well, so you have a better idea what to do. To work with this stack, however, you need to have sufficient experience with either Angular or Node.js. If you’re a beginner and lack knowledge on these development platforms, communities provide tutorials and sample codes to ease you in. However, before you can access the system, you must put on a show of command-line magic. The documentation covers all the steps, however, so you can get everything working without breaking a sweat.

2. Elastic ELK Stack
An entire industry has grown out of searching and indexing log files. Companies have created entire ranges of solutions and products aimed at mining log data, which is also known as operational intelligence. One such company is Elastic, which has combined its trio of open source engines – Kibana, Elastisearch, and Logstash – into a powerful, one-stop shop for all your analyzing, indexing, and parsing requirements. Known as the Elastic ELK Stack, this virtual appliance can visualize all the details present in log files.
All the data processing activities are handled by the Logstash tool, which is also responsible for feeding Elatisearch search engine. Logstash needs to be configured to process certain log files. However, it’s better if you test the system first by manually creating log entries. This will provide you with an understanding of how search engine configuration works and the filters you need to apply. Kibana assists with the visualization aspect.

3. Bitnami WordPress VM

WordPress (WP) is the most popular blogging platform at the moment. One of the main reasons it’s so popular is the extensive range of themes and add-ons you can find for this platform. WordPress supports numerous users and named blogs, but its customization capabilities is where this tool shines. WordPress is included with the Ubuntu-based Bitnami WordPress VM with MySQL, Apache, and PHP. The appliance has the latest version of WordPress, and you can post on the blog site without delay. Basically, this virtual appliance has everything you need to start a WP.

4. Bitnami Roller Stack
Java-based blogging platform, Roller, has been around for several years and comes jam-packed with great features, including LDAP and OpenID for authentication. Bitnami offers version 5.1.2 of Roller in the form of a virtual appliance. However, this iteration of Roller is not a pure one, but comes with the Apache web server, Apache Tomcat, and MySQL. You can use Roller to host either a single blog or multiple blogs, depending upon the disk space and server resources. Creating new blogs using the admin page of Roller takes only a few minutes, and this appliance feature five separate themes and the capacity to customize layouts and appearance with the aid of Apache Velocity templates.

5. TurnKey File Server

Based on the TurnKey Core distribution with some modifications, the TurnKey File Server helps provide file storages within a virtual appliance. Once you boot the appliance, you must change the root password and perform security updates to the OS. Upon completion, all future interactions will take place with the web browser.

6. TurnKey Observium
The TurnKey Core OS of the Observium combines network and system monitoring with performance trending, allowing you to track any known metric. You will receive charts, statistics, and graphs for managed switches and will even get to see RAM, CPU, storage, temperature, swap, and event log status for servers.

7. OpenVPN Access Server
The most popular open source VPN server and client application, OpenVPN is found in different commercial routers and the popular open source router firmware DD-WRT. The OpenVPN virtual appliance enables you to support multiple VPN connections at the same time. Deploying the OpenVPN Access Server is easy, and you will have no trouble in managing it. You get a simple and clean management interface that fulfills all your VPN needs.

8. Opsview Core Virtual Appliance

This virtual appliance is exactly what you require if you want your IT infrastructure to provide full visibility. The integrated GUI allows you to configure the tool quickly. It is possible to integrate Opsview with Nagios plugins, so the feature set can be expanded. This appliance is best used for monitoring application perform, networking monitoring, and Linux, Windows, UNIX server monitoring in mid-sized environments.

Author: Rahul Sharma


The Top 10 Open Source Tools for Windows

There are several amazing tools from Microsoft available at your disposal if you’re interested in improving your server-side experience. But sometimes, it pays to go straight to the source, or the open source, in this case. You will find plenty of open source tools that exceed the capabilities of what Microsoft offers to support Windows SharePoint, SQL, Server, and Exchange. The best part? They can all be accessed for free. So, without further ado, let’s check out the ten best open source tools for your Windows OS-based systems below:

The MailArchiva server is used for email archiving, compliance server, and email discovery. This open source tool lets you archive any mails passing through popular mail servers. This means auditors and employees will find it easy to scour through millions of emails. Available in ISP, cloud, and on premise options, MailArchiva’s updated interface is eye-catching.


This is the most popular Open Source Backup and Archiving software in the world. AMANDA (Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archiver) lets System Admins set up a single backup server to support Windows servers and desktops over the network to a wide range of media, such as disks, optical media, or tape drives. This tool makes use of native archival tools to back up a wide range of servers and workstations running different versions of Microsoft Windows OS.


A Windows-based network protocol analyzer, WireShark presents interesting opportunities for developers and enthusiasts. WireShark allows you to control traffic flow and deal with irregular HTTP requests. The returned data set might appear complex at the start, but filters can be enabled to show you only what you require. You receive detailed data on the target port, the source port, and the source and target ports. You can even check the packet data and gain information about the physical network controller in charge of processing. WebShark allows you to understand how content used on different applications and websites is transmitted via open channels with no authentication. You can even use those channels to your advantage. WireShark allows you to ensure the correct applications gain access to the correct resources. The software does not occupy a lot of space, nor does it consume a lot of resources. It runs smoothly in the background alongside other processes.

Process Hacker

This feature-packed tool allows you to monitor and hack ongoing computer processes. The interface is clean and well-designed and offers a wealth of information on any process, including what memory it consumes. These details can be copied and edited. It exceeds regular Windows functions by allowing you to locate and kill hidden processes. Though available only on 32-bit systems, it helps uncover spyware, viruses, and undocumented Windows processes.

This is a Windows open source tool that can defrag paging files, system files, and registry hives. This tool is updated regularly to make sure it performs at peak condition. This tool is supported by any operating system after Windows NT 4.0, including the newest Windows 10. UltraDefrag is a must-have tool for any Windows environment.
If you are on the lookout for a quick, lightweight X Window manager, without library dependencies, BlackBox is your answer. This tool, built using C++, contains original code. Lots of screen estate means you’re able to add many devices and tools from other environments. BlackBox has no flashy features – it manages Windows. It’s that simple! Still, the flexible nature of this tool allows you to expand the default functionality via numerous third-party tools. You will not find a taskbar in Blackbox; instead, you can clean up the desktop using multiple desktops and Windows shading.

Exchange Server RBAC Manager

The RBAC (Role Based Access Control) permissions model is used by Exchange Server to handle various permissions for Exchange administrative functions. You use RBAC not just for applying a least-privilege approach to Exchange administrative permissions, but also for granting permission to end users to do tasks like managing their personal distribution groups. This tool overcomes the lack of a GUI tool, so you can work with the new role-based administration in Exchange. Regardless of your knowledge on PowerShell, admins can use this open source tool to connect.

OCS Inventory
Do you wish to locate all the devices connected to your network? Are you having a tough time keeping track of all the hardware and software you’ve got installed on your systems? Then OCS Inventory NG (Next Generation) is the perfect open source tool for you. To operate it, however, you must install the OCS Client Inventory agent in your computers. You can then compile all the data into a repository for easy visualization and search functions.

Core Configurator 2.0 for Server Core

Core Configurator 2.0 is a powerful tool for server administrators, who wish to configure the Windows Server installations quickly. This design of this tool allows for the configuring of important Windows parameters, like update policy, licensing, and networking features, in a single interface. The Core Configurator 2.0 may be used for changing the server roles and features or the firewall rules via the same interface. Advanced users also have the power to adjust the ISCSI settings, so they can easily add or remove system components, including drivers and programs. This tool proves most useful when you’re required to configure numerous servers within a limited period.

AutoSPInstaller for SharePoint
If you’ve ever used SharePoint, you’re aware of how the naming of the SQL databases is in a total state of disarray after the installation. This results in large GUID database titles that do not remain consistent. This is where AutoSPInstaller comes into the picture. This open source tool uses a combination of scripts to install SharePoint, which ensures the database names stay clear. This tool can also be used for validating any service account and password, creating managed accounts, forming a new server farm or joining an existing farm’s server, applying latest updates, and creating specified web applications.
Open source software for Windows is more effective than you think. This group of tools continues to fuel a boom in the enterprise technology development industry.


Author Rahul Sharma


Step-by-Step Guide to Reducing Windows 10 On-Disk Footprint

It is true that Windows 10 has a relatively small footprint when compared to the older versions of Windows. Even so, if what you have is a Windows laptop or tablet with a low amount of storage, even a small amount of savings matters.

Consider the fact that a fresh install for Windows 10 takes up storage space of about 15 GB. Most of this 15 GB is composed of reserved and system files, whereas a space of 1 GB is taken up by the default games and apps that come pre-shipped with Windows 10. While that may not seem like a lot, when using a low-end laptop with 32 GB or 64 GB memory, this represents a significant amount of storage space for the OS.

Windows 10’s footprint can be reduced by various means, including disabling hibernation, uninstalling the default apps and adjusting the virtual memory settings. All of these settings can be used for the previous versions of Windows, apart from uninstalling the apps that come installed by default with Windows 10.

win10 v


How to uninstall the default apps that come with Windows 10

The apps that come installed with Windows 10 do not really take up much space. However, even this storage adds up and causes the Start menu to clutter up. The apps that are not needed can be uninstalled. These are the steps to uninstall the default apps.

  1. Open Settings from the Start Menu
  2. Click on System
  3. Now click on storage and subsequently, select the C drive
  4. Now choose and click the option for Apps and Features
  5. Now click on any app and then click the Uninstall button to have the app uninstalled
  6. Some of the apps, such as Mail and Calendar, Xbox, Groove Music, and Maps cannot be uninstalled from here. These have to be uninstalled using PowerShell commands.

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Turn Off Hibernation
What happens during hibernation is that Windows saves the current state of your computer in terms of the executing programs and open documents to the storage drive so that you can resume the work when you switch on the computer. If you do not use hibernation mode, the mode can be disabled and the hiberfil.sys file can be deleted. This can be quite useful because the hiberfil.sys file takes up several gigs of storage space.

  • The first step is to open a command prompt in Administrator Mode by doing a right-click on the Start button in Windows and subsequently choosing the option for the Command prompt.
  • If the User Account Control raises a question on whether the Command prompt should be opened, click Yes.
  • Type in the command powercfg with the specifiers as -h and off.

These steps ensure that the hiberfil.sys file on your computer is deleted. It will also remove your option used to put your system into hibernation. You still have the ability to place your computer in sleep mode, which gives you the ability to save the state of your computer into memory instead of on the hard drive. This maintains your computer in a power-on state but which is, however, low power.

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Change the Size of Virtual Memory

The basic concept of virtual memory is that if your computer has physical memory that is insufficient to execute an operation or run a program, Windows will execute data moves temporarily to a paging file present on the hard disk from RAM memory. These are the necessary steps.

  1. Open the Control Panel by searching for the item on the Start menu
  2. Click on System and Security
  3. Then click on System
  4. Now, click on Advanced System Settings from the left menu
  5. Go into the Advanced tab and click on the button called Settings from within the Performance section
  6. Now, go into the Advanced tab and click on the Change button from within the Virtual memory section
  7. Now, uncheck the box next to the option for “Automatically manage paging file size for all drives”
  8. Select the option for Custom size. Then enter the maximum and initial sizes that you desire to be limits for the file’s growth. Now hit Set, followed by OK to finish.

As an alternative, you may select the option for “no paging file” or instead leave it to the system to manage file size. For reasons related to performance, you should always use a paging file.
These steps can help you free up to a few gigabytes of space on your hard drive by limiting the amount of space that is taken up by Windows on your computer.

win10 3


Unlike previous versions, Windows 10 does not require or use a recovery image. Simply by eliminating the system’s recovery image, users can get up to 4 GB of storage back. The way Windows 10 is implemented, the OS uses the files present in the system already. To be more specific, the files can be found in the winsxs subfolder inside the Windows folder.
Having said that, there is indeed one more additional component in the form of a compression mechanism known as Compact OS. The way this tool works is that it takes the Windows 10 files and places them into a hidden container where they are actually compressed. This helps to reduce the amount of space required. This method is an exact replacement for WIMBoot, which came in as a part of Windows 8.1. Compact OS is a lot easier to both configure and deploy. This is how to run Compact OS:

  • Given the fact that Compact OS is a command line-based tool, you are required to invoke the Start Menu, do a search for Command Prompt, do a right click and invoke the option for Run as Administrator.
  • Then, type COMPACT.EXE with the CompactOS always option and hit Enter.

This tool will start the operation of the process, which will take between 10 and 20 minutes. What is even better is that we do not even need to restart the computer.

Author: Rahul Sharma



7 most talked about Hyper-V features in Windows Server 2016

Microsoft has put a lot of effort into reshaping Windows for the modern cloud environment. These changes have affected the Hyper-V hypervisor as well. Launched in 2008, Hyper-V underwent many significant improvements over the years with every new iteration of Windows Server, and now that the 2016 edition has launched, it’s time to take a look at the best additions that are in store for its users.

1. Nested Virtualization

According to Jeffrey Snover, the architect of Windows Server, the aim was to transform Windows into a “cloud OS”. And no cloud innovation is complete without virtualization. However, virtualization is old news. It doesn’t really fit the bill when we’re discussing ‘new’ features. On the other hand, nested virtualization does fit as a new feature!

So what exactly is nested virtualization? Well, for starters, it enables you to run Hyper-V as a child virtual machine (VM). This allows it to function as a host server as well. In the end, you’ll end up with one Hyper-V server running atop another Hyper-V server. Training, testing, development – the application of two layers of virtualization occurring at the same time are endless.

Windows 2016 Hyper v Nested virtualization

Nested virtualization will play a major role in test environments. Many organizations struggle to find a way for their workforce to train properly in the latest virtualization technologies. IT professionals can now nest Hyper-V to simulate whole virtualized environments, minus the huge cost of dedicated equipment.

Another essential area where nested virtualization is going to shine is containers. You can think of these containers as a sort of mini virtual machine that focuses only on applications. Rather than virtualize the entire OS, the container offers an isolated environment where the application can easily reside. They do not have to worry about the overhead of a VM.

2. Priority Changes to VM Memory and Virtual Network Adapters

Users have always wanted the choice of adding or removing adapters, and Microsoft seems to finally have listened. Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V no longer has you restarting or switching off Gen 2 VMs to add or remove the adapter. You also get a chance to adjust the memory even when the dynamic memory hasn’t been correctly enabled. This feature is applicable for both Gen 1 as well as Gen 2 VMs.

3. Discrete Device Assignment (DDA)

Windows 2016 Hyper v Storage Server

This new feature available in Hyper-V is great for users who want some of their PC’s Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) Express devices to pass directly through to the virtual machine. Since the VM is able to get direct access to the PCI device, performance gets enhanced considerably. The virtualization stack is also bypassed.

4. PowerShell Direct

Windows 2016 Hyper v Powershell

This feature is indispensable for any user who wants to manage a virtual machine running Windows Server 2016 remotely. You need to issue PowerShell commands using the VMBus, but you no longer have to worry about the remote-management settings or the network configuration of the VM or host.

Remote PowerShell is an amazing scripting and automation tool, but it’s often difficult to set up and maintain. Some users feel that the firewall configurations, the domain security policies, and the lack of shared network settings hurt the performance of the Hyper-V and prevent it from communicating with the VMs running on it. PowerShell Direct is the ideal solution for these kinds of problems. It ensures the same automation and scripting experience as remote PowerShell but with the added benefit of a zero configuration experience that is achievable only with VMConnect.

5. Checkpoints for Production VM

This feature was earlier called snapshot, and involves checkpoints in Hyper-V taking a snapshot of the virtual machine’s current state. This is extremely useful when it comes to test or developer restorations. However, earlier snapshots didn’t factor the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) into the equation, and thus fell short of being a great backup utility during production. However, the new checkpoints include VSS, which means they can be run in production. VSS in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V is useful for creating a data-consistent version of the virtual machine to use in case of backup. There is no longer any need to take a snapshot of the existing VM memory state. Though the production checkpoints are chosen by default, it is possible to change them easily using either PowerShell or Hyper-V manager.

6. Shielded Virtual Machines and Virtual TPM

Windows 2016 Hyper v VM

The virtual Trusted Platform Module (TPM) enables you to encrypt your virtual machine using the BitLocker technology from Microsoft Corp. Think of it as encrypting the physical drive of your personal computer using physical TPM – the basic principle behind the two is the same! On the other hand, shielded virtual machines run in fabrics and remain encrypted through BitLocker. In this case, a virtual TPM is necessary. The VM shares the ability of the TPM to stop any malicious access to your machine.

7. Host Resources Protection

Virtual machines are often quite unreliable and don’t play well with others. However, this feature prevents the VM from using anything other than the resources that have been allotted to it. VMs are monitored for additional activity and if any VM is detected, it is going to be penalized by being assigned fewer resources, so as not to affect the performance of the other VMs.

This is a good thing as infected virtual machines often run at 100 percent CPU load without warning, and cause problems in the neighboring virtual machines or even the Hyper-V host. You will have to keep in mind that this feature needs to be applied to the host rather than on the individual VMs. Moreover, the default setting disables it. You can enable host resource protection on the host with the help of the Windows PowerShell Set-VMProcessor command.

These are the seven most crucial new features that you’ll find in Hyper-V for Windows Server 2016. They improve your performance and make the whole system efficient.

Author: Rahul Sharma


10 Windows Group Policy Settings – Must Get Them Right

If you are responsible for ensuring Windows 10 security in your organization, here are some of the lesser-known group security policy settings you need to be aware of. Ensure you get them right, always.

1. Use Kerberos and NTLMv2 instead of NTLMv1 and LM protocols

Kerberos and NTLMv2 authentication protocols are much more secure than the legacy NTLMv1 and LM (LAN Manager) authentication protocols. Keep your Windows patched up, and use the latest protocols to stay safe.
ntml keberos

2. Change the Admin Account Name

Guess what’s the default name for the administrator account for Windows 10? Yes – Admin. So, when you’re making attempts to prevent communication of other users’ account names, why let yours be such a publically known fact. Change the administrator account name, and you’ll be leaps ahead of amateur hackers who bank on being able to access machines with the basic default security settings.

3. Guest Account – Strict NO

A guest account is a pretty spacious crack in the security wall of your Windows 10 system because it enables violators to identify and access a whole lot of information you’d otherwise not want to go out. The best solution – don’t enable guest accounts (which don’t require a password). By default, the guest account is turned off, which is a sigh of relief.

4. Leverage Fine-Grained Password Policies

On Windows, anything less than 12 characters is a risky password, that’s what the world has agreed to over the years. For elevated user accounts, make it at least 15 characters. With a 15 character password, you can be as much as totally sure that the password won’t be hacked through bots.
However, with group policy settings, the minimum password length you can enforce is only 14 characters. Here, Fine-Grained Password Policies come to the fore. From Windows Server 2012 onwards, the Fine-Grained Password settings are accessible via GUI, and hence, more conveniently usable.
Fine-Grained Password policies can be used to specify more than one password policy in a single domain. Different users on a domain can be governed by different account lockout and password lockout policies. Make it a point to apply the strictest settings to privileged accounts. Consider applying special password policies for accounts that have passwords in sync with other sources of data.

5. Password Expiration

The job of anybody on an organizational system and data security team is to strike a balance between security best practices and user experience with access and passwords. If you are able to implement the ‘minimum 15 character password’ rule, you can consider extending the default password expiration duration from the default 42 days. Something around 90 days is a safe option for 15 character passwords. Anything lower, and you need to go strict on the password expiration; we suggest you keep it set to default 42 for 13 and 14 character password setting.

6. Don’t store LM password hash strings on disk

Did you know – LM password hash strings are stored on the disk. Also, hackers can access these strings, and construct the plaintext passwords from them. Imagine the kind of security threat this can translate into for your Windows 10. As a safeguard, disable the storage of LM password hashes on the disk.

7. Use Event Logs for Immediate Recognition of Security Breaches

It’s surprising how even seasoned Windows system administrators forget or ignore using this super beneficial option. Not only do event logs enable swift identification of security breaches, but they also help you to channel your actions towards resolving the root cause of the violation. Microsoft Security Compliance Manager recommends a set of settings relevant for event logs to help you keep your Windows OS setup safe. Also, make it a point to use audit subcategories, and not the legacy category settings.

8. Wi-Fi Settings You Need to be Careful With

Windows 10 pulls off some surprises in terms of Wi-Fi settings. Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Manage Wi-Fi Settings. Here, we recommend that you switch off access to public hotspots since they are a known method used by hackers to attack Windows systems. Also, keep network sharing disabled, so that there are no inadvertent events such as a user sharing network access with social media friends.

9. User Account Control

User Account Control is among the most noteworthy protection tools in Windows, especially for users with web access. However, it’s commonplace for users to turn off the UAC, mostly because of the compatibility problem messages that they keep on being pestered with. Whereas Windows 10 eliminates these compatibility issues, you can also consciously use Microsoft’s free application compatibility utility to overcome compatibility issues. By default, User Account Control is enabled in Windows 10; make sure you don’t turn it off. Without UAC, you’re as good as using a primitive operating system.

10. Restrict Sharing of Account Information with Apps

Windows 10 gives you a pretty useful setting that you can use to restrict users from allowing applications to access their account details such as user name and profile picture. Some applications can even access domain information, which makes them a headache for Windows 10 security teams. Go to Computer Configuration. In the Administrative Templates option, you will see System > User Profiles. This is where you can restrict the sharing of account details with applications, keeping firmer control over what’s communicated to external apps.

A bonus tip – Remember the days when anybody could query the Security Identifiers for important users, groups, and security objects to unveil a lot of important information about Windows? Well, Windows 10 comes with SID enumeration turned off by default. Also, anonymous access to an ‘everyone’ group is, by default, disabled. It’s a conscious step from Microsoft to foil hacking attempts made by hackers who know of this known issue with legacy systems. So, if you plan to play around with this setting, do so after acknowledging the risks.

Author: Rahul Sharma

10 indispensable PowerShell security scripts for Windows administrators

Out of numerous Windows admin tools, PowerShell is one of the most valuable tools. It offers scripting language flexibility and command line speed, making it incredibly effective to automate important security chores. Using PowerShell, Windows administrators gain the ability to automate various tasks, like managing users, deploying patches, and rotating logs. Using PowerShell isn’t difficult, once you get the hang of it. In fact, you can use it for both security-based jobs and certain Windows administration tasks. Do you want to monitor attack activities or need to manage your certificates? PowerShell has you covered.
Due to the versatility of PowerShell, it’s not unusual for someone to create a PowerShell module or script that focuses on security. Windows admins enjoy access to a wide range of scripts from the community, capable of handling security tasks of varying magnitudes. This covers everything from network forensics to penetration testing, certificate management to event logging. Below we’ll take a look at how the endless potential of PowerShell security scripts proves indispensable to Windows admins, and discuss the 10 best ones among them.


1. List $Profile

The actual user connected to the machine is dubbed “user.” On the other hand, “host” is used for the host application that connects to the PowerShell engine. Thus, a single host can have different profiles, and each one of them has an associated file stored in a specific location. For easy maintenance and security, a single file can be used for managing multiple profiles. All the user needs to do is add conditions to this file to prevent a non-supported command from being executed by the “host.” There are lots of people who’d be more comfortable separating the profiles into individual files. This would free them from the burden of having to maintain a PS1 that is extremely complex.


2. Add-PSSnapIn

Windows PowerShell security script allows for the creation of custom profiles. These profiles support snap-ins and modules. Though this slows down the start-up time of the PowerShell console, it bodes well for the security of your system.
PowerShell profiles assist with system administration, but being just a PS1 file, it remains exposed to the risk of malicious code. Even when the default location is in a user’s directory and the file remains protected from access by all users, it can be changed to execute commands without your knowledge. To prevent this from happening, you can do two things – either you can make use of NTFS permissions to set limits on modifying permissions for these files, especially for the admin account or you can sign the file digitally and then configure PowerShell in a way that it employs a more restrictive strategy for execution. The recent PowerShell versions add an extra layer of security by helping users set up their choice of strategic security.


3. Get-ExecutionPolicy

Suppose you are working on a server that is entirely unknown to you. In this case, you first need to know what sort of execution policy is currently being used before you try to run some script. Finding out this information is easy when you use the command Get-ExecutionPolicy.


4. Get-EventLog

powershell 1
PowerShell may actually be used to parse the event logs present in your system. Though there are several ways to go about this process, the best one for this particular command is just to offer the –Log switch accompanied by the log file name. For example, you can use commands like Get–EventLog –Log “Application” to view the Application log. You then need to filter the output and understand whether your system is safe or not.


5. Get-Service

When you give this command, it offers up a list of every service that is currently installed on your system. If you think that a particular service is worth checking out for security, then it’s possible to append the “–Name” switch as well as the service name. You’re allowed to use wildcards. Once you’re done, you’ll be shown the state of the service by Windows.


6. Get-Process

Unlike the Get-Service command in PowerShell, which displays a list of the different system services at your discretion, Get-Process command, if used capably, can display a whole list of each and every process that the system currently runs.


7. Stop-Process

It is not uncommon for a particular process to lag or freeze up from time to time. This is often a nuisance and causes a lot of problems. To prevent this, use the Get-Process command so that you have the process ID or name of the program that didn’t respond. You can then terminate this problematic process using the Stop-Process command. A process can be terminated based on its process ID or name. However, you should understand that the process ID changes from one session to another.


8. Digital Signature

The TimeStampServer command helps you verify whether a particular PowerShell script was signed at a certain time. The majority of certificates remain valid for a period of one year. Once the date of expiration comes closer, the usage of this parameter doesn’t allow the code itself to expire. You are then able to use it as long as it hasn’t been modified. If a modification has been conducted, then you’ll have to sign it again using a valid certificate.


9. Set-Execution Policy

set execution policy
You are capable of creating and executing PowerShell scripts as you want. However, Microsoft no longer supports scripting by default. This has been done to prevent any malicious code from getting executed in a PowerShell setting. This command can then be used to control the security level of the PowerShell scripts. There are four different layers of security, ranging from Unrestricted to Restricted, Remote Signed to All Signed. This kind of flexibility is much-need in a PowerShell security script, and you can set them with the help of the Set-Execution Policy command along with the policy name.


10. Set-AuthenticodeSignature

While trying to configure a group policy object, you must sign your profile with this particular certificate. Otherwise, the security of your Windows system will be seriously undermined.
In a PowerShell environment, it is extremely important for Windows admins to secure their system via scripts, but you shouldn’t let that turn into a restriction. Thus, prior to deploying your policy, you must have a test plan in place that will ensure no problem from the signed scripts. The PowerShell security scripts listed above are indispensable since they’ll keep the system well-protected and efficient.


Author: Rahul Sharma




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What’s new with Microsoft Windows Server 2016?


Developed and launched by Microsoft under the Windows NT family of OS, Windows Server 2016 works best with Windows 10 version and above. New and upgraded version of the previous Server 2012, the 2016 version has introduced many innovations and changes that only add on to the functionality of your system. Let us discuss some of the major changes in the Windows Server 2016.

Nano Server

Nano server is an installation option offered by Windows Server 2016 allows you to use the full serve GUI (graphic user interface). The Nano Server even offers a disk footprint of about 400 to 500 MB that saves a lot on disk space (a 92% reduction in the installation footprint when compared to previous versions.). You also get an extensive range of web hosting services that help you manage the workload faster. All your Nano Server workload such as Hyper-V, IIS, failover clustering etc. now run as separate containers similar to that of the Docker method discussed later.


The Hyper-V feature earlier was just confined to adding virtual hardware and adjusting the RAM to a virtual system. However, the new and improved Hyper-V server offered by the SERVER 2016 has some additional features such as compatible and connected stand-by option, discreet device assignment and intelligent encryption support that offer a more comprehensive and robust support program. The Hyper-V also provides some solid host resource protection for the OS where you can add “hot add” virtual hardware, i.e. the VMs can be configured while they’re running online. Add an extra NIC or network interface card for adding an extra virtual network on your virtual computer and you’re set.

Windows Defender

The new and upgraded Windows Server 2016 features a built in anti-malware that is enabled by default unlike the previous versions where the user had to install and configure the program manually. This creates a powerful pre-installed defence system in your network that looks out for any kind of suspicious malware or threat. The Windows Defender feature of the Windows Server 2016 version is better equipped in dealing with malicious threats and viruses than any of its predecessors. This defender can run without the support of the GUI, you can even install it using the Wizard setup file.

Data Deduplication 

Sick of cleaning your hard drive getting rid of the duplicate files and other junk?! Well, the Data Deduplication feature of the Windows Server 2016 helps you with that. Using the Data Deduplication service you can control the creation of duplicate blocks thereby increasing your device’s overall storage capacity. With this feature you can also compress files faster reducing the storage capacity utilization by a 2:1 ratio. Other than that you can also boost the download speed, reduce bandwidth usage and even ensure faster data transfer if you combine the data deduplication service with Branch Cache.

Storage Services

The major storage based facilities provided by the upgraded version of the Windows Server are Central Storage QoS policies (quality of service), Storage Replicas, and Storage Space Direct features. The Storage Space Direct program introduced by Windows Server 2016 allows you to clean up the system better, removing all the unnecessary files and extend your disk space. The Storage Replica on the other hand allows a more synchronous and block-level replication of data between servers. Although it cannot multitask, the program only replicates snippets of information that can be altered with during the transfer. And the QoS helps you formulate the storage management policies better.


The Active Directory Federation System ensures better security of your Windows Server 2016 by adopting a claims (token) based system for scrutinizing the identity of any device. You can now configure ADFS settings to include users who aren’t using this program as well. For instance, non-AD directories such as the X.500 complaint and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) from the SQL database can be authenticated by a simple ADFS configuration. This OpenID connection enables you to expand your network and allow a greater influx of information from various sources.


Containers are pretty common in the LINUX/UNIX interface and now, Microsoft is planning on using this technology. Currently the Windows team is working on the Docker development of their new Server 2016 and have introduced quite efficient Docker based containers in the system. Containers basically help you manage your work load better- you can now isolate your projects and reduce their dependence by storing them in separate compartments. There are two kinds of containers namely, windows server container and Hyper-V containers. While the Windows Server container is for smaller security or storage issues of minor projects, the Hyper-V program enables high end compartmentalization that is better suited for major projects.

iSCSI Target Server

The iSCSI Target Server is another Server 2016 program that uses the Internet SCSI standard for blocking storage facilities to other servers or apps that are sharing the same network connection with you. This update has only enhanced the functionality of the earlier 2012 version- you now get a consistent continuous storage that was earlier only available to high tech SAN devices. Thanks to iSCSI feature you can now deploy as many diskless devices as you want! This target server also offers high end continuous support in testing stage of apps that are yet to be launched in the SAN devices.

Windows PowerShell Direct 5.0

While in the earlier versions you had the Hyper-V perform the general Windows PowerShell services and administers the VMs, now you get to communicate directly with the hosts without having to bother with any of the extra coding and data transfer. You can just create and invoke a new VM name parameter to run the operation. PowerShell also doesn’t require any networking or firewall configurations. The Windows PowerShell 5.0 also includes a lot of additional security benefits that would only enhance the overall functionality of your device.

The bottom line

Windows Server 2016 is a smartly engineered program that offers the best visuals, computing facilities and security

Author: Rahul Sharma