To think people were worried that Sysinternals would stop developing its great freeware applications after Microsoft...
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acquired them. The pace of development for new projects might have slowed, but my suspicions that they've been planning some terrific new tools have been confirmed.
To this end, we now have Active Directory Explorer 1.0, courtesy of Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell, the original founders of Sysinternals. Active Directory Explorer is exactly what it sounds like: a tool for exploring an Active Directory database, reading values, searching for objects, making changes, bookmarking commonly-referred-to locations and more.
By default Active Director Explorer will attempt to connect to whatever is the default domain for the current running user account. It might take a few seconds for the program to load up everything, so be patient. Likewise, if you expand an item that has a lot of children (say, the schema for your domain), the program will not give you immediate feedback. In such cases, the icon for the item you're expanding will have an hourglass superimposed on it.
Connections to different domains can be saved and re-used, although passwords aren't cached (for the sake of security). While you're exploring, the full path of whichever part of Active Directory you're currently exploring is always listed at the top of the window and can be selected and copied out for easy reference. Searches can be saved and re-used for later as well.
One powerful function is the ability to save snapshots of an Active Directory database into a file, so they can be browsed offline. Multiple snapshots can be compared to see what's changed, including permissions settings.
Note: You cannot merge the contents of a snapshot back into Active Directory, but this probably wouldn't be a good idea under any circumstances. If you're worried about the strain imposed on the domain controller (or your network) by taking a snapshot of the entire Active Directory repository, you can modulate the program's scanning speed to keep down the impact of the scan.
Perhaps best of all, the program requires no installation. It will run from most anywhere, so it can be included on your favorite tool CD or Flash drive.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.
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