Active Directory (AD) is a powerful tool that absolutely any admin would be hard pressed to live without in the usual network environments common in businesses!
There's a lot to AD, though, and a large amount of time can quickly be eaten up having to fight with setting up permissions, adjusting small settings or making other small configurations that could be performed much easier, and faster, using a tool to streamline the process.
Naturally there are a huge range of tools available that offer a similarly huge range of functionality as far as AD management and AD monitoring goes.
Some of them perform simple tasks such as adding or removing users, groups, or OUs, changing accounts available on a computer, puling reports for last user login activity, querying AD, performing LDAP tasks, compiling DNS reports, adjusting policy for passwords or other environment preferences, resetting passwords and expiration management, configure and manage attached devices to the network, and so much more.
AD is a true powerhouse for management when it comes to handling and organizing a network environment and there's few situations where having it would not provide some benefit at least!
Even just for smaller environments using AD can save a lot of time and headache when configuring or adjusting systems, and it makes adding or adjusting users an absolute dream.
But with so much power and flexibility comes a lot of need for know how and a lot of room for things to go wrong.
That's why having a range of tools in your proverbial toolbox will help avoid those issues while still letting you take full example of all the muscle that AD has to offer!
Many of them are totally free or at least have a free trial so you can check out how they can make your AD managing life much easier.
SolarWinds has created a Large Toolset of more than 20 Tools for Network Admins and Engineers by releasing tons of Free tools for managing your Active Network and any miscellaneous tasks you are doing. Below is a List of Tools they offer and what they do.
Grab One today and have a good at it!
The SolarWinds Admin Bundle for Active Directory is great for Scanning active directory for Users and Computers, Removing Inactive Users/Computers within AD and Creating users via CSV file in BULK! This software also gives you the ability to see “Last Login Time” for users and has a great interface for viewing them too.
- A small suite of tools that add additional features to the default access control in AD
- Helps speed up routine access management tasks when on/offboarding users
- Easy to use and learn features
- Excellent LDAP management
- Is completely free – great for smaller environments
- Larger networks may require more features
ManageEngine offers a 30-day free trial of its ADAudit Plus system, which provides file integrity monitoring, user behavior analytics, and protection for Active Directory instances. There is also a Free Edition for the tool and if you decide not to buy after the trial period, your installation switches over to that. The free system collects logs but it won’t analyze them for you.
- A good log file collector from a large number of sources
- Active Directory change logs
- The full file protection system free for 30 days
- Free edition covers 25 workstations
- Monitors applications, such as databases
- Audit reports in the free edition will only operate on data collected during the full edition free trial:
Download and Information
The Free Active Directory Permissions Analyzer tools gives you the ability to view Permissions for a User/Group based for NTFS Files and Shared Folders. They present the permissions in a Hierarchical layout to make it easy to see which permissions are granted to the specified USER/GROUP. This a Great tool for Figuring out what permissions are granted where.
Download and Information
4. Softerra LDAP Administrator
This program is all about, as the name implies, LDAP. It's a powerful feature with a lot of depth and it's great that AD has the ability to work with it, but handling it can be a rather fickle process to say the least. The LDAP Administrator takes all the tricky syntax work out of dealing with LDAP and lets you simply do what needs to get done.
Download and Information: http://www.ldapadministrator.com/
5. Softerra Adaxes
Another program made by Softerra, this particular program gives you a wider range of access than would normally be available via AD.
The web-interface is slick and easy to use and helps keep workflow and provisioning nice and easy.
It also provides functionality to pull queries from across forests, a remarkably useful function at times.
- Designed for Microsoft 365, Active Directory and Exchange management
- Includes numerous templates, allowing new users to get started quickly
- Web-based interface allows easy serverless access for administrators
- Interface feels cluttered with too many toolbar menus at scale
Download and Information: http://www.adaxes.com/
6. ManageEngine ADManager Plus Free Edition
A sibling program to the ADAudit Plus, ADManager is a program more focused on performing management activities rather than just auditing permissions and security.
It can provide automation, delegation, reporting, bulk changes and simple workflow and numerous other configurations, all from a simple web-based interface.
Download and Information: https://www.manageengine.com/products/ad-manager/
7. Fortra's AutoMate Task Administrator
As the name implies this program is all about automation. A program by Fortra, AutoMate gives a strong graphical front end for performing a range of automation without a great deal of needed know-how as far as code goes. A huge range of functionality and automation is possible for even the code novice and it works beautifully with a range of systems and environments. Free trial available on website.
Download and Information: https://www.fortra.com/products/automate
8. XIA Automation Server
XIA Automation server performs tasks including provisioning users into Active Directory, along with Groups and Directories, create Email Accounts as well in exchange and setup your Active Directory structure if needed.
According to their website, this program has the ability to do all this from a .CSV File fully automated!
Features include what we've mentioned earlier along with managing folder and file share for Windows Accounts, Resetting active directory passwords from Mobile device (iphone and android) and you can create your own custom plugins.
Download and Information: http://www.centrel-solutions.com/xiaautomation
9. Netwrix Auditor for Active Directory
A simple program that presents a range of policy and group information in a straightforward and actionable format.
Alarms can be triggered, password inactivity can be tracked, compliance reports can be pulled.. an excellent option for general compliance checks!
Free Trial for 20 Days to give it a test drive.
Download and Information: http://www.netwrix.com/active_directory_auditing.html
10. MaxPowerSoft Active Directory Reports Lite
MaxPowerSoft AD Reports Lite is a great tool, especially given that the ‘Lite' free version is reasonably full featured, that provides simple and straightforward reporting on AD environments.
A few simple clicks can pull reports on almost any facet of your AD environment as well as provide filters and other options to break down the information into more manageable sized bites.
Download and Information: http://maxpowersoft.com/adreportslite.php
11. SysOpTools AD Query
Another program that performs queries, queries, and only queries! But that's not a bad thing at all, far from it.
It grabs all the data you could desire from a given user or computer and pulls it all into an excellently readable format.
Simple and quick!
Download and Information: http://www.sysoptools.com/ad-query/
12. Bulk Password Control
Don't let the name of this one fool you – it does far more than give you bulk control over passwords!
This program is an excellent GUI-driven program which provides a range of bulk capability; resets, force changes, generate new passwords, CSV export, enable/disable/lock accounts, move containers, and more.
Download and Information: http://www.wisesoft.co.uk/software/passwordcontrol/bulk_password_control.aspx
Microsoft Active Directory Tools
AD Replication Status Tool
Provisioning and creating accounts can be something of a hassle, and replication is an ongoing and ever present issue when dealing with AD, especially in large environments.
The AD Replication Status tool is simple but it provides feedback on any errors with replication so you can spend a lot less time digging around for what went wrong and just jump right to the fix!
- Simple tool – easy to use
- Helps sysadmin provision users and make bulk changes
- Ideal for speeding up onboarding
- Best suited for larger environments
Download and Information: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30005
Windows Power Shell
Most techs and admins are at least vaguely familiar with Power Shell, and it's certainly more than powerful in a general sense as much as with AD specifically.
Using Power Shell those who are more familiar with the class command prompt type interface, or perhaps even back from the DOS days, can navigate and handle AD as if it were just another mounted drive or directory.
- Included in all modern Windows Server environments
- Extensively documented
- Fast, lightweight CLI
- Not ideal for those looking for a GUI-based tool
- Can be slow for new users who don’t know the proper syntax
Download and Information: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb978526.aspx
A small and simple utility by Microsoft that gives some basic functions for account management.
Having to deal with users who locked themselves out or passwords with locked out credentials can really be a bit of a waste of time, and having a tool to quickly take care of it for you can really add up!
This program accesses lockout status and can easily unlock from a simple interface.
Download and Information: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=18465
Part of the same suite as LockoutStatus, and also by Microsoft, this tool is a little more robust and does a bit more by functioning as a DLL which can be added to add new fields to account properties while also providing some functions for checking Domain policies and view several password related statistics.
Download and Information: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=18465
Active Directory Explorer
Part of Microsoft's awesome suite of tools Sysinternals, the AD Explorer provides a handful of powerful functions.
As expected there's a viewer for perusing and viewing the layout and various parts of the overall AD environment, as well as functionality allowing you to right-click and modify attributes while viewing from the explorer interface.
The program can also take snapshots – they can't serve as backups but can still be helpful in the right situation.
Download and Information: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/adexplorer.aspx
Free Active Directory Tools FAQs
Our methodology for selecting Active Directory tools and software
We reviewed the network monitoring tools and software market and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:
- Ease of use
- Amount of server resources the tool uses
- How well it streamlines a sysadmin’s workflow
- A facility to analyze network performance over time
- Graphical interpretation of data, such as charts and graphs
- A free trial period, a demo, or a money-back guarantee for no-risk assessment
- A good price that reflects value for money when compared to the functions offered
How do I choose the right tool for managing Active Directory?
Choosing the right tool for managing Active Directory depends on the specific needs of your organization, including the size and complexity of your directory, the features and functionality you require, and your budget. It is important to carefully evaluate the different options and choose a tool that meets your specific requirements and provides a good value for your investment.