The Windows operating system contains several useful network commands, but there are 11 built-in networking tools that Windows network administrators should be familiar with.
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I'm assuming that the ping command is probably the most familiar and most widely used of the utilities discussed in this article, but that doesn't make it any less essential.
Ping is used to test a network host's ability to communicate with another. Simply enter the Ping command, followed by the name or IP address of the destination host. Assuming that there are no network problems or firewalls preventing the ping from completing, the remote host will respond to the ping with four packets. Receiving these packets confirms that a valid and functional network path exists between the two hosts.
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If you are having problems with network communications, network statistics can sometimes help to pinpoint the root cause of the problem. That's where the properly called NetStat command comes into play. This command has several different functions, but the most useful of these is to display network summary information for the device. To see this kind of summary information, just type NetStat -e.
The ARP command corresponds to the address resolution protocol. While network communications are easy to think of in terms of IP addressing, packet delivery ultimately depends on the MAC (Media Access Control) address of the device's network adapter. This is where the Address Resolution Protocol comes into play. Your job is to map IP addresses to MAC addresses.
Windows devices maintain an ARP cache, which contains the results of recent ARP queries. You can view the contents of this cache using the ARP -A command. If you are having trouble communicating with a specific host, you can append the remote host's IP address to the ARP -A command.
As I'm sure you probably know, computers running a Windows operating system are given a computer name. There is often a domain name or workgroup name that is also assigned to the computer. The computer name is sometimes called the NetBIOS name.
Windows uses several different methods to map NetBIOS names to IP addresses, such as broadcast, LMHost search, or even the almost extinct method of querying a WINS server.
Obviously, NetBIOS over TCP / IP can occasionally break. The NbtStat command can help you diagnose and correct these problems. The NbtStat -n command, for example, shows the NetBIOS names that are in use by a device. The NbtStat -r command shows how many NetBIOS names the device has been able to resolve recently.
The NbtStat command discussed earlier can provide the host name that has been assigned to a Windows device, if you know which option to use with the command. However, if you are just looking for a quick and easy way to verify a computer's name, try using the Hostname command. Typing Hostname at the command prompt returns the name of the local computer.
Functionally, Tracert works in a similar way to Ping. The main difference is that Tracert sends a series of ICMP echo requests and the TTL of the request increases by 1 each time. This allows the utility to display the routers through which packets are passing through to be identified. When possible, Windows displays the duration and the IP address or fully qualified domain name for each hop.
One utility that I use constantly is IPConfig. In its simplest form, the IPConfig command will display basic configuration information for the device's IP address. Just type IPConfig at the Windows command prompt and you will see the IP address, subnet mask and default gateway that the device is currently using.
If you want to see more detailed information, type IPConfig / all. Doing so causes Windows to display a much more detailed IP address configuration. This is also the command you will need to use to see which DNS server the Windows device is configured to use.
The IPConfig command can do much more than just display IP address configuration information. It also contains options that can help you troubleshoot DNS and DHCP issues. For example, entering the IPConfig / FlushDNS command removes the contents of the DNS resolver cache from the computer.
NSLookup is a great utility for diagnosing DNS name resolution problems. Just enter the NSLookup command and Windows will display the name and IP address of the device's default DNS server. From there, you can enter hostnames in an effort to verify that the DNS server is capable of resolving the specified hostname.
IP networks use routing tables to route packets from one subnet to another. The Windows route utility allows you to view the device's routing tables. To do this, just type Print route.
The interesting thing about the Route command is that it not only shows the routing table, but also allows you to make changes. Network commands such as route add, route delete and route change allow you to make changes to the routing table as needed. The changes made can be persistent or non-persistent, depending on whether you use the -P option.
Previously, I talked about the Ping utility and the Tracert utility, and the similarities between them. As you may have guessed, the PathPing tool is a utility that combines the best aspects of Tracert and Ping.
Typing the PathPing command followed by a host name starts what looks like a somewhat standard Tracert process. However, after completing this process, the tool takes 300 seconds (five minutes) to collect statistics and then reports more detailed latency and packet loss statistics than those provided by Ping or Tracert.
Perhaps the most useful of the network utilities built into Windows is NetDiag. The NetDiag command is designed to run a battery of tests on the computer to help the technician find out why the computer is experiencing network problems.
One of the things I really like about this tool is that, although there are several optional options you can use, you don't have to use them unless you want to. Entering the NetDiag command alone will run all available tests.
In some cases, NetDiag can not only identify problems, but can also correct them. Obviously, NetDiag cannot automatically correct all problems found, but appending the / Fix parameter to the command will instruct NetDiag to attempt to correct the problem automatically.
The Windows operating system is filled with command line utilities. Many of these utilities are remnants of operating systems that were introduced decades ago. Still, the utilities I discussed in this article are just as useful today as they were when they were first introduced.
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