Ask just about any Windows administrator about a favorite tool and many of them drop a list of free ones they can't do without.
Some of these free tools and updates come from the Microsoft Download Center, such as the desktop management ones featured in this article.
The popularity of these downloads changes as new tools become available and new products are released, so be sure to check the download center for the latest links to the most popular free desktop management utilities.
Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor 1.0
When it was released: 12/20/2007
What it does: Helps you figure out which PCs are and are not ready for a Vista upgrade and offers tips on deciding which version of Vista fits your PC needs.
Where to get it: Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor 1.0
System requirements: Supports Windows XP Service Pack 2 and requires a minimum of .NET Framework 1.1 and MSXML 4.0.
Windows Installer 4.5 Redistributable
When it was released: 6/2/2008
What it does: Updates whatever Windows Installer version you have to version 4.5. Version 4.5 is a minor update to version 4.0 and has new features, such as multiple package transaction and an embedded UI handler. There are also fixes, such as a SeBackupPrivilege that was missing in 4.0 that prevented any custom action that needed this user right, and a tweak that stops new components shared by other products from being uninstalled when an update was uninstalled.
Where to get it: Windows Installer 4.5 Redistributable
System requirements: Supports Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows XP Service Pack 3, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows Vista, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, and Windows Server 2008 in X86, X64 and IA64 versions.
When it was released: 8/15/2008
What it does: Copies, moves, renames and deletes files between folders and computers.
Where to get it: SyncToy v2.0
System requirements: Supports Windows XP and Vista. Requires .NET Framework v2.0, 1 GHz Intel P3 processor or equivalent, 256 MB RAM, 512 MB RAM recommended and 20 MB free disk space.
Codec Installation Package for Windows Media Player 7.1 or later
When it was released: 12/13/2004
What it does: Designed for network administrators deploying the latest Windows Media audio and video codecs for computers running Windows Media Player 7.1. It can be used as an alternative to automatically downloading Windows Media Codecs or to correct problems experienced with previously downloaded codecs.
Where to get it: Codec Installation Package for Windows Media Player 7.1 or later
System requirements: Supports Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows XP Professional Edition and Windows XP Home Edition.
When it was released: 6/14/2004
What it does: This command line tool let's you view and collect security information about files, registry keys and services, such as owner and permission access control list (ACL), and move this information from user to user, from group to group and from domain to domain.
Where to get it: SubInACL
System requirements: Supports Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP.
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