Product Reviews

Domain Interrogation

DirectoryTroubleshooter can help you become one with AD.

What did the Zen Buddhist say to the hot-dog vendor?

“Make me one with everything.”

It seems that whenever the folks at NetPro come out with a new product, they get you one step closer to truly being “one” with Active Directory.

NetPro’s latest product, DirectoryTroubleshooter, lets you easily target AD and run hundreds of troubleshooting tests. These tests can query AD and return a plethora of “nuts and bolts” information, such as the status of registry entries in the DNS server, as well as what services a particular domain controller claims to own—such as PDC Emulator or KDC.

As it turns out, you can perform most of these tests for free with the tools in the Windows 2000 Resource Kit and Support Tools. The basic tools-such as Repadmin, replmon, and ADdiag-can all, theoretically, answer your thorniest AD questions. And NetPro is happy to tell you this. So why does it want you to buy this software? Because, in general, the command-line tools answer the question: “How is a specific server today?” instead of, “How is my entire AD today?” Even if you do handcraft the Microsoft command-line utilities into well-oiled batch files, can you keep them updated when things change in your environment? Also, can everyone using the batch files at your company decipher the potentially esoteric output?

That’s where DirectoryTroubleshooter comes in. Point the software toward a single DC, and you’re off—interrogating your entire domain. There’s an intuitive interface, which allows the administrator to drill down into various AD categories in a left-hand pane. Once at the destination, the available tests for the selected focus are available in a right-hand pane (see Figure). This helps immensely if you think you know where the trouble is but aren’t sure which test to run. DirectoryTroubleshooter only shows you the tests that are applicable for the segment of AD you’re trying to troubleshoot.

Run all the applicable tests, however, and you’re deluged with both helpful (and not-so-helpful) information. While DirectoryTroubleshooter points out “oddities” in AD, it also lists everything that’s working just fine. The upshot is that DirectoryTroubleshooter simply returns way too much information. Sometimes the items are things that actually need fixing; however, most reported items aren’t all that interesting or in need of attention. This program would be well served with an, “Only show me stuff that’s broken” filtering option.

NetPro Directory Troubleshooter
NetPro’s DirectoryTroubleshooter lets you designate how to test the health of your Active Directory domain. (Click image to view larger version.)

The help file is excellent in determining what a specific DirectoryTroubleshooter test accomplishes and even goes the extra mile and cross-references what you would need to type into the command-line to get the same output from Microsoft Resource Kit or Support Tools.

Sure, you could script the Microsoft command-line tools and update each batch file whenever you make a domain controller change, move a server, or remove a DNS zone—or you could use DirectoryTroubleshooter and have the information at your fingertips. Similar to the Microsoft command-line tools, DirectoryTroubleshooter doesn’t actually fix anything. It might, however, bring you closer to the source and closer to being one with your network.

About the Author

Jeremy Moskowitz, a Group Policy MVP, is the Chief Propeller-Head for Moskowitz, Inc. and GPanswers.com. He is one of less than a dozen Microsoft MVPs in Group Policy. Since becoming one of the world's first MCSEs, he has performed Active Directory and Group Policy planning and implementations for some of the nation’s largest organizations. His latest books are Group Policy Fundamentals, Security, and Troubleshooting and Creating the Secure Managed Desktop: Group Policy, SoftGrid, and Microsoft Deployment and Management Tools.


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