Tools of the Trade

In a column largely devoted to the questions of NT network management, I figure it’s about time I explained how to get some answers. Many people, including some fairly proficient NT types, don’t know it, but there are some pretty handy network management utilities built into Windows NT.

From the simple to the sublime, here are the most useful.

If you’re trying to figure out why a remote system isn’t responding to PING tests, particularly when its reported as "not reachable," replace PING with TRACERT in the command line. An essential diagnostic tool in any routed IP network, TRACERT will, as you probably guessed, trace the IP route between your computer and the failing machine, giving you a good idea where the circuit might be down.

Everyone knows that the IPCONFIG command line utility can be used to get information about a machine’s TCP/IP network configuration, but did you know IPCONFIG can be used to obtain data about the other NT computers in a network? Insert IPCONFIG /ALL > %SYSTEMDRIVE% \IPCONFIG.TXT into your domain’s logon script, and you’ll pipe a full IPCONFIG report for each of the NT machines every time users log on, into a simple text file on their system drives. Later, you can open the file \\<machine-name>\C$\IPCONFIG.TXT to inspect a machine’s IPCONFIG output. You’ll need to be a domain administrator to read this file.

Have you ever needed to translate an IP protocol address into its corresponding NT machine name? The NBTSTAT utility can do this for you. Type NBTSTAT –A <ip-address> in an NT command line, and it will tell you the specified machine’s various NETBIOS names and its MAC address. If you know the machine’s name, but not its IP address, NBTSTAT –a will get it, plus its MAC and other NETBIOS names. And incase you didn't notice above, yes, the NBTSTAT command line is case-sensitive.

If you need to obtain TCP/IP name and address information from a local DNS server, get to know the NSLOOKUP command-line utility. Type NSLOOKUP followed by either a machine name or IP address. Like NBTSTAT, this handy utility will translate between them. Then, try running NSLOOKUP in its interactive mode by typing NSLOOKUP in the command line. When the utility prompts you with an angle bracket, type "ls," where is a local DNS domain name. You’ll see a list of DNS names and corresponding IP addresses fly by. Pipe that out to a file, then you can print it or process it with subsequent NT commands.

Then there is the new NETSH utility in Windows 2000. This utility can inspect and change almost all of a Windows 2000 computer’s network parameters, for TCP/IP, as well as for other protocols, such as IPX and AppleTalk. A discussion of NETSH is beyond the scope of this column, but with some searching for NETSH articles on Microsoft’s Web site and a little practice, you’ll learn how to use this tool as well.

Don’t be afraid. Start by trying out these commands slowly, and referring to their online NT help documentation, which is generally pretty good. You’ll be surprised at how quickly these no-cost tools can help you resolve problems in your NT network. --Al Cini is a senior consultant with Computer Methods Corp. (Marlton, N.J.) specializing in systems and network integration. Contact him at