Windows Server

Unable to Compress in NTFS

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Recently when working with a very old, decrepit server that was running out of disk space I went to compress a folder of logs in NTFS and the compress box was greyed out and I was unable to compress it.



This is because in NTFS the compression attribute isn’t supported for volumes with cluster sizes larger than 4k — this happened to be sized at 64k thus the inability.


The way that I typically check this is by simply running “CHKDSK D:” replacing D: with your prospective drive letter. The output of this will display your cluster size in bytes (divide by 1024 to get the cluster size in kb)





Hope I’ve made your day a little bit easier!

PAL (Performance Analysis of Logs) Tool, you need to use this!

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We all have performance issues at one time or another, and the majority of what I hear admins doing is the age old “Turn it off and back on again” or some variation thereof depending on the situation.


This isn’t always the fix, so we move on to the logs — right? Well you should anyways. Depending on what OS you’re in you look at Task Manager, PerfMon, Resource Monitor, a third-party application or something at an abstracted level if the machine in question is virtualized. If you’re using built-in tools like a PerfMon capture or a Data Collection Set (DCS), they can be helpful but sometimes just hard to understand if you’re looking for something other than am I using too much RAM or CPU %. This is where PAL comes in, it does the analysis of the logs for you and writes them to an HTML page with easy(er) to read and understand output and statistics.

The PAL tool is a powerful tool that reads in a performance monitor counter log and analyzes it using known thresholds. It is written by Performance SME Clint Huffman who is a Premier Field Engineer for Microsoft.


  • Common built-in thresholds for many major Microsoft products such as IIS, MOSS, SQL, BizTalk, Exchange, and Active Directory.
  • An easy “click-next” GUI that makes running these reports extremely simple.
  • A GUI that allows you to edit, or create your own thresholds.
  • Creates an HTML with an optional XML report.
  • Analyzes performance counters for thresholds that vary based on the criteria entered by the user specifying the machines role and hardware specifications.

Let’s walk through a basic use of PAL.

First, you’re going to go to to download the PAL setup .zip file.


You’re then going to unzip the folder and run setup.exe, when you do you will most likely get this message.


Click yes, and it will take you to the download page of the .NET Chart Controls page where you can download and install them real quick.

Then Run setup.exe again and you should be good to go. Next, Next Next and it’s installed, now let’s run this!


Click next to, and it will take you to the “Counter Log” tab. On this page you select your .blg, .csv, or .tsv performance log files that you’ve created already. PAL comes with a sample log that I’ll be using for this demonstration. Note that if you don’t want to process the whole log you can select a date range to process.


If you click Next, you’ll be taken to the “Threshold File” tab. Here you can select which threshold you’d like to use. If you’re just looking at SQL, or Exchange, or whatever performance logs you’ve captured, you can select that here to include those specific thresholds. If you’re just looking at general system overall performance the “System Overview” file works, which is what we will be using here since that’s what the sample log file is based on.


If you know exactly what you’re looking for and want to make your own file, you’re able to do that as well! Choose a basic file and click “Edit” and you’ll be taken to a GUI that allows you to edit the threshold file in an environment that resembles PerfMon.



Click next and you’re taken to the “Questions” tab. Here you select the OS, PhysicalMemory and UserVa (which is only for 32-bit machine log files). The thresholds chosen on the previous screen are modified based on the information you put in here.


Click Next again and you’re taken to the “Output Options” tab. Here you have two options to modify if you wish. First is the Analysis Interval, that allows you to choose the interval in seconds that the log is split into. By default, it takes the total time span of the file and splits it 30 times. You can then choose to process every single counter in the log file if you want to be extremely detailed. Note that changing either of these can have a huge impact on the performance of the system that is running them and how long it will take to process.


Click next and you’re taken to the “File Ouptut” tab. Here you can select where your output goes. *Note* there will be an html document as well as a folder that holds the images in the html document, so if you’re sending the data to someone you will have to grab both pieces.


Click next and you’re taken to the Queue tab and the Execute tab. These shows what powershell code you’ve generated thus far in the process, if you have more than one file to process you can queue them up and run them all under the same instance of PAL. This is also where you choose how much CPU you’re going to delicate to the processing of the logs. I am going to tell you that this program pulls the ENTIRE log file into memory and processes it there. Keep that in mind when your working here, if you only have 4GB of RAM on your laptop and are running a 7GB SQL performance log — well…kiss your disk good bye because you’re going to be running 3GB of that out of page file. Also note that this is a VERY intensive process and if you give it all of your CPU cores it WILL use them as you will note in a screenshot I took below.



Click finish and it will kick off the process, as I said — take a look at that CPU!



Once it’s finished it will look like this. *Note* that the sample log I pulled here was 504Kb with only 787 instances and it still ran at 100% CPU for a little over 4 minutes. I have a dedicated VM in my development environment that I give 32GB RAM and 16 cores to eat through these and still sometimes with SQL it may take a few hours.


It then opens up the web page that it created, I’ve added a few snips of what it looks like here. It starts with a table of contents, and then lays out everything it just processed in nice tables and graphs.



You can download a full zip file of the web page, and the folder that contains the images below.

This tool has been extremely helpful to me, and I hope I’ve just made your day at least a little bit easier by sharing it with you!

Symantec Backup Completed with Exceptions oem13.inf

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I recently was given this error in a backup that was leveraging Symantec Backup Exec 2010 R2. I noticed that it wasn’t failing but was “Completing with Exceptions”. Upon investigation of the job log I found the errors above, and below.





Upon research I found that in this version of Backup Exec (13.0) against this version of Windows (2008 R2) the VSS looks for the two files when they are not there — then fails and says they were not included in the backup.

Fantastic. Easy fix. There are two ways you can do this. One, is that you go into “C:\Windows\INF\” and make a blank text file and name it oem13.inf and then again naming it oem14.inf. The operating system won’t ever utilize it, but it will calm the unwarranted errors in Backup Exec.

The other way to remedy this is to add two simple exceptions into the backup.





Launch the backup exec console, find your job in “Job Monitor” and edit the include/exclude under Source –> Selections. Add the path “C:\Windows\INF” and the file “OEM13.INF” then do this again for “OEM14.INF” like above.


All things considered, a very easy fix. I prefer the second option so that you’re not cluttering the critical areas of the file system.


Hope I’ve made your day a little easier!



5 free security tools for testing Windows

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One of the things you often find yourself thinking is, hmm…I should probably test my windows machines for security flaws, right? I’ve decided to share some very good tools for testing security from basic button clicking to advanced security testing.

As it relates to Windows-based computers, there are seven general types of security testing tools. These are:

  1. Port scanners
  2. Network/OS vulnerability scanners
  3. Application/database vulnerability scanners
  4. Password crackers
  5. File searching tools
  6. Network analyzers
  7. Exploit tools

All of these types of tools can and should be used when performing penetration tests, vulnerability assessments, and security audits on your Windows systems.

For the most part with security tools, you get what  you pay for. There are, however, a handful of free tools that are a solid choice.

Super Scan v3:  Very fast and easy to use port scanner that can find live systems, look for open ports and running services, grab banner information including software versions.




SoftPerfect Network Scanner:   Maps MAC addresses to IP addresses which can help you locate rogue wired and wireless systems.



– WebFingerPrint:   Windows enumeration tool that can ferret out patch levels, NetBIOS information, user information, and more.



Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer:  Checks your local machine to identify missing security updates and common security misconfigurations.




– Metasploit:  A great tool to exploit those Windows-based vulnerabilities that other tools find, for advanced users only.





As you build your compilation of security testing tools over time, you’ll find that there is no one best tool. Keep in mind that security tools are not the “easy button” for finding security vulnerabilities. That’s where Operating System, Application, Networking Knowledge, and most importantly, experience will come into play.


Where tools are required, you’ll see that the ones that are more specialized in finding specific types of vulnerabilities will provide you with the best results. It all comes down to personal preference and how comfortable you feel using each tool, but in the end your goal should be to find the greatest number of vulnerabilities, exerting the least amount of work, in the shortest amount of time. Get to know the tools on this list, use them consistently and you’ll be well on your way to a storm of work that you never thought you had before ;).

Do you even Kerberos?

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As IT Professionals we all know the word kerberos. We all know the protocol kerberos. We all know that it does…things. How much do most of us really know though? Let’s talk about that.

Here are a few facts you should probably know for IT water cooler-type talk.

  • Kerberos is a network authentication protocol that works on a client-server model  utilizing a trusted third-party certificate server and is an integral part of a Microsoft-product driven network ie. Active Directory.
  •  Kerberos is NOT a Microsoft proprietary protocol nor is it only used for Microsoft environments. It was developed by MIT in the 1980s.
  • If Kerberos stops working, us sysadmins would probably lose our jobs.

( Link will be provided at the bottom of this post for more detailed information about kerberos)

Here is the quick and dirty way to demystify how kerberos works as shown above.

  1.  Client needs to talk to server –> sends service ticket to KDC to authenticate him and encrypts the service ticket with his password.
  2.  Server receives service request from client and verifies credentials using its’ Active Directory. If authentication is successful, the server sends a ticket-granting ticket (TGT) back to the client encrypted with the KDCs’ password.
  3.  The client sends the TGT back to the KDC and requests that he have a ticket to open a kerberos authenticated session with the server. The KDC then validates the clients TGT, and creates a session key encrypted with the destination servers’ password.
  4. The client sends that session key to the server and the server decrypts it with his own password and verifies the authentication that the KDC gave the client.
  5.  A kerberos authenticated session is now initiated between the client and the server.

A very good troubleshooting tool that can be used for kerberos is called kerbtray.exe. It unfortunately has not been updated to run on anything newer than Server 2003, but it will still run ok (just ignore the errors). A link will be provided at the bottom of the post for the download location.

After running the program, it will populate itself to the system tray, where you right click it for information. You can do one of two things — List or Purge.


Clicking Purge here will purge all kerberos tickets so that new ones may be obtained. Clicking list will show the following.


Here you can see what tickets you have, when they were obtained, when they expire, what flags they have, and what encryption type they’re using. This tool can be very useful for troubleshooting — if nothing else, it’s just cool to see.


  Learn more about Kerberos:

  Download for KerbTray: