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What version of SQL Server do I have?

Working with so many versions of SQL a quick reference list is always helpful that shows the versions numbers and service packs.

  • A downloadable version of an Excel workbook that contains all the build versions together with their current support lifecycle stage for 2005 through the current version is available. Click to download this Excel file now. (File name: SQL Server Builds V3.xlsx)

This unofficial build chart lists all of the known Service Packs (SP), Cumulative Updates (CU), patches, hotfixes and other builds of MS SQL Server 2017, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2008 R2, 2008, 2005, 2000, 7.0, 6.5 and 6.0 that have been released.

Useful articles:

Quick summary:

All SQLServer service packs are cumulative, meaning that each new service pack contains all the fixes that are included with previous service packs and any new fixes.

RTM (no SP) SP1 SP2 SP3 SP4
 SQL Server 2017
     codename vNext
 SQL Server 2016 13.0.1601.5 13.0.4001.0
or 13.1.4001.0
 SQL Server 2014
12.0.2000.8 12.0.4100.1
or 12.1.4100.1
or 12.2.5000.0
 SQL Server 2012
     codename Denali
11.0.2100.60 11.0.3000.0
or 11.1.3000.0
or 11.2.5058.0
or 11.3.6020.0
or 11.4.7001.0
 SQL Server 2008 R2
     codename Kilimanjaro
10.50.1600.1 10.50.2500.0
or 10.51.2500.0
or 10.52.4000.0
or 10.53.6000.34
 SQL Server 2008
     codename Katmai
10.0.1600.22 10.0.2531.0
or 10.1.2531.0
or 10.2.4000.0
or 10.3.5500.0
or 10.4.6000.29
 SQL Server 2005
     codename Yukon
9.0.1399.06 9.0.2047 9.0.3042 9.0.4035 9.0.5000
 SQL Server 2000
     codename Shiloh
8.0.194 8.0.384 8.0.532 8.0.760 8.0.2039
 SQL Server 7.0
     codename Sphinx
7.0.623 7.0.699 7.0.842 7.0.961 7.0.1063

All SQLServer service packs are cumulative, meaning that each new service pack contains all the fixes that are included with previous service packs and any new fixes.

NSLookup still showing IP of demoted Domain Controller

So had an interesting issue today where a Domain Controller (DC) was demoted yet the IP of the demoted DC was still showing up when running nslookup internaldomain.local

Demoted DC: MWDC04 / IP:

I had done the metadata cleanup and tried many suggestions when googling the subject. To my surprise none of the solutions I found worked.

I had removed the IP address from the Primary DNS Server and saw entries for:

(same as parent folder) Host(A)
(same as parent folder) NameServer (NS)

I also looked under internaldomain.local > _msdcs and deleted entries from there.

After clearing the cache and waiting for replication, did a nslookup again and the IP was still there.

Well, there are some good and bad things about Microsoft DNS.

The BAD:

You cannot search DNS values in DNS Management. You are limited to searching just the names.


All DNS entries are stored in a flat file on the DNS Server “C:\WINDOWS\system32\dns\internaldomain.local.dns” (The default location). JACKPOT!

I opened it up in Notepad++, did a search for IP and DNS name of the demoted server(MWDC04- and started deleting matched entries. I was so surprised to find entries that were deeply buried under “domaindnszones” & “forestdnszones” and a few other subzones.

Cleared the cache again and waited for replication. Once replication completed I tried nslookup internaldomain.local and this time it didn’t list the demoted DC anymore.

I hope this saves others time, because finding a record in DNS might be like searching for a needle in a haystack!

ConfigMgr 2012 R2 – WSUS sync fails with HTTP 503 errors

Ran into this issue with ConfigMgr 2012 R2 where it was unable to synchronize Software Update Point with the WSUS server. A review of the component status messages for the SMS_WSUS_SYNC_MANAGER component on the primary site server reveals errors related to WSUS synchronization which are similar to the following:
Message ID: 6703 WSUS Synchronization failed. Message: The request failed with HTTP status 503: Service Unavailable. Source: Microsoft.UpdateServices.Administration.AdminProxy.CreateUpdateServer.
Got the following error when trying to open Update Services on the WSUS server

Error: Connection Error An error occurred trying to connect to the WSUS server. This error can happen for a number of reasons. Please contact your network administrator if the problem persists. Click the Reset Server Node to connect to the server again.

In addition to the above, attempts to access the URL for the WSUS Administration website (i.e., http://CMCASSERVER:8530) fails with the error:

HTTP Error 503. The service is unavailable

In this situation, the most likely cause is that the WsusPool Application Pool in IIS is in a stopped state, as shown below.

Also, the Private Memory Limit (KB) for the Application Pool is probably set to the default value of 1843200 KB.

If you encounter this problem, increase the Private Memory Limit to 4GB (4000000 KB) and restart the Application Pool. To increase the Private Memory Limit, select the WsusPool Application Pool and click Advanced Settings under Edit Application Pool. Then set the Private Memory Limit to 4GB (4000000 KB).

After the Application Pool has been restarted, monitor the SMS_WSUS_SYNC_MANAGER component status, wcm.log and wsyncmgr.log for failures. Please note that it may be necessary to increase the Private Memory Limit to 8GB (8000000 KB) or higher depending on the environment.

Now WSUS is back online!

Ways to Mitigate the Meltdown & Spectre Problem

To mitigate the flaws of the two large vulnerabilities vendors have been scrabbling to come out with updates to provide consumers with a fix.

If exploited, these vulnerabilities can give hackers unprecedented access to compromised systems and widespread liberty to steal a broad variety of confidential, sensitive data. Their severity, complexity and scope puts them among the most dangerous ever.

Namely, the vulnerabilities affect virtually all processors made by all big chip makers (Intel, AMD, Apple, etc.) dating back to 1995.

No Easy Fix as all of it is “Work in Progress”

There is a lot of confusion and compatibility issues that have been reported with the fixes that are coming out and vendors seem to be having a hard time working them out which is causing frustrations to a lot of consumers. I am listing the steps I have taken to mitigate the vulnerabilities.

The updates have been broken down by:

  • OS
    • Windows
    • macOS
    • Linux
  • Browser
  • Firmware
  • Cloud Platforms

Meltdown and Spectre Overview

Meltdown (rogue data cache load — CVE-2017-5754)

Meltdown is a CPU vulnerability that allows a user mode program to access privileged kernel-mode memory. It affects all out-of-order Intel processors released since 1995 with the exception of Itanium and pre-2013 Atoms. A list of vulnerable ARM processors and mitigations is listed here. No AMD processors are affected by Meltdown.

Of the two bugs, Meltdown is the easier one to fix, and can largely be addressed with operating system updates.

Spectre variant 1 (bounds check bypass — CVE-2017-5753) &Spectre variant 2 (branch target injection CVE-2017-5715)

Spectre isn’t so much a specific vulnerability as it’s a new class of attack. It’s enabled by the unintended side effects of speculative execution (something processors do to speed things up by predicting what instructions they’re about to recieve and executing them ahead of time).

There are two flavors of Spectre — variant 1 (bounds check bypass, CVE-2017-5753) and variant 2 (branch target injection, CVE-2017-5715). Both can potentially allow attackers to extract information from other running processes (ex: stealing login cookies from browsers).

Intel, ARM, and AMD processors are all reportedly affected by Spectre to some degree, and it poses significant patching problems. While operating system and browser updates have helped mitigate the risk of Spectre to some degree, experts agree the only true fix is a hardware update. As such, Spectre is likely to remain an issue for years to come.

Source: SANS / Rendition Infosec. See the full presentation here

It’s important to note that both vulnerabilities put information disclosure at risk. Neither are remote execution vulnerabilities — in other words, they don’t allow attackers to run malware.



Microsoft’s process for releasing Windows updates addressing Meltdown and Spectre has been a bumpy road, marred by high-profile incompatibility issues with third-party antivirus (AV) software and AMD processors. In some cases, delivery of the latest security update has been restricted or suspended.

More details and direct download links to the updates below:

  • Windows Server 2000, 2003 & Windows XP, Vista
    • Large enterprises may still be using systems that are over a decade old and they are still working! That said, there has been no official word from Microsoft on providing any security updates to older OS(s), because all of them have crossed their support lifecycle and are vulnerable.
    • Looking at industry trends looks like vendors are only going back 5 years for hardware microcode update and not supporting older generations processors.
    • Considering Microsoft did put out a security patch for Windows 2003 for WannaCry, it would be very surprising if they did not release a security update if there is an active exploit in the wild.

Microsoft has added capabilities to its free Windows Analytics service to help IT pros better track and manage their Meltdown and Spectre patching process. The new features include a dashboard that highlights the status of antivirus compatibility, Windows security updates, and firmware updates — all in one place for every Windows device you manage.


What the Windows updates address:

  • Spectre variant 1, bounds check bypass (CVE-2017-5753)
  • Meltdown, rogue data cache load (CVE-2017-5754)Windows patches for 32-bit systems (x86-based systems) do not provide Meltdown mitigations.
    Per Microsoft:
The existing 32 bit update packages listed in this advisory fully address CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715, but do not provide protections for CVE-2017-5754 at this time. Microsoft is continuing to work with affected chip manufacturers and investigate the best way to provide mitigations for x86 customers, which may be provided in a future update.

What they don’t address:

Known issues:

This has created a lot of confusion, especially since the response from AV vendors has varied, with some setting the registry key for their customers and others recommending users set it, themselves, manually. The situation only gets more complicated considering many organizations have more than one AV solution installed.

Update: Microsoft has clarified that Windows Defender Antivirus, System Center Endpoint Protection, and Microsoft Security Essentials are compatible with the update and do set the required registry key.

That means as long as you have one of these built-in Microsoft protections enabled the registry key should be set automatically — no further, manual action should be necessary.

Big caveat: If you are using third party software that Microsoft offically recognizes as AV, it is important to note that, by default, Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials will turn themselves off. That means the registry key won’t be added unless you or your AV actively do it.

If you are unsure, set the registry keys. You will at least be current on all Windows Updates. Even if you have an AV Provider you are just duplicating the effect.  Not fully protected until the microcode/firmware update from the chip provider is applied, but you are half way there.

All that said, here is a flow chart that can help you determine your situation:

Windows users who aren’t using a third party antivirus and don’t have Windows Defender or Microsoft Security Essentials enabled will need to set the registry key themselves, manually. To help, Bleeping Computer has put together a .reg file that automates that task here. Note: They also issue a warning to make absolutely sure you’re not running an AV that isn’t compatible with the update before using it.

If you are using an AV and haven’t received the Windows patch yet, you are advised to wait until your AV vendor either issues an update that sets the registry key for you or specifically recommends that you do so, yourself.

  • AMD compatibility issues: As first reported at the Verge, Microsoft has received numerous reports of PCs running AMD processors not booting after installing the latest Windows security update. After investigating, the company confirmed there were issues, and temporarily stopped delivering the update to AMD devices. Affected users needed to visit Microsoft’s support site for instructions on getting their machines back up and running.Update (1/18/18): Microsoft has announced it will resume rolling out patches for AMD devices running Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows 10, version 1709. Updates for four versions of Windows 10 — 1511, 1607, and 1703 — are still paused. As are updates for Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 Enterprise.
  • Group or MDM policy configuations may be disabling updates: According to Microsoft, if you have Group or MDM policy settings configured to disable preview builds, your machines may not be receiving updates (see what those settings are here). To fix that, Microsoft recommends temporarily changing Group/MDM policy settings to “Not Configured” and changing them back once the updates have been installed.
  • Performance impact: As with the other operating systems, patches addressing Meltdown and Spectre are expected to take a non-insignificant toll. In a blog post, Microsoft Executive VP Terry Myerson explains the impact of these fixes can vary depending on the version of Windows running and the age of the machine:
    • Windows 10 on 2016-era PCs with Skylake, Kabylake, or newer CPU: Single-digit slowdowns, which most users won’t notice.
    • Windows 10 on 2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU: Slowdown can be more significant. Some users may notice a decrease in performance.
    • Windows 8 or Windows 7 on 2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU: Most users will likely notice a decrease in system performance.
    • Windows Server (any CPU): Mitigations to isolate code within a Windows Server intance results in a more significant performance impact. According to Myerson, “This is why you want to be careful to evaluate the risk of untrusted code for each Windows Server instance, and balance the security versus performance tradeoff for your environment.”

Enabling protections for Windows Server

Microsoft has also advised Windows Server customers that they need to take the additional step of adding the following registry keys in order to enable patch protections.

Keep  in mind that the above registry key is also required.

To enable the fix:

To disable this fix:

Microsoft also notes that for Hyper-V hosts, live migration between patched and unpatched hosts may fail. The company also points to an alternative protection mechanism you can use on hosts that don’t have updated firmware yet.

Additional guidance from Microsoft:

Verifying new Windows protections are enabled:

To help confirm whether updates have been implemented correctly Microsoft has provided a PowerShell script that system administrators can run to test Meltdown and Spectre mitigations.

The following command will install the PowerShell module:

Note: There are a couple of requirements for running this command. First, you’ll need to be running PowerShell with admin privileges and may need to adjust execution policy. Also, the Install-Module command was introduced to PowerShell in version 5.0. Most Windows 7 machines will not have this version, due to the upgrades being optional and unrelated to security. Any machine with an outdated version of PowerShell can still run the Get-SpeculationControlSettings function below, however, as long as you can obtain the contents of the script and run it ad-hoc.

Once installed, the following command will run the test to check your system:

The output will look something like this:

Results for Spectre protections

The first grouping — “Speculation control settings for CVE-2017-5715 [branch target injection] — refer to protections in place for the Spectre vulneralbility. If the value for “Windows OS support for branch target injection mitigation is present” is “True” then the Windows Security update has been successfully installed.

The other red lines in that section simply confirm that more complete mitigation for Spectre requires firmware updates, which Intel says it’s in the process of rolling out. According to the company, updates for more than 90 percent of its processor products should be introduced by the end of next week.

Results for Meltdown protections

The second grouping — “Speculation control settings for CVE-2017-5754 [rogue data cache load] — refer to protections in place for the Meltdown vulneralbility. If you see the following results and no red lines then you’ve confirmed the Windows Security update has been successfully implemented and the machine is protected:

If you see any red lines in this section then that means the update has not been successfully applied. For more details on interpreting the PowerShell script output, Microsoft has a full results key here.

MacOS & iOS

Apple included mitigations to address Meltdown in its macOS 10.13.2 and iOS 11.2 updates released in December. It has since followed up with additional mitigations addressing Spectre with the just-issued macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 Supplemental Update and iOS 11.2.2 update.

What they address:

  • Meltdown (rogue data cache load — CVE-2017-5754)
  • Spectre variant 1 (bounds check bypass — CVE-2017-5753) to some degree
  • Spectre variant 2, (branch target injection — CVE-2017-5715) to some degree

What they dont’ address:

  • Spectre variants 1 and 2 — to some degree
    While Apple says its latest updates to macOS, iOS, and Safari help mitigate the risk of Spectre being exploited, the company acknowleges it will be continuing to develop and test further mitigations.

No reported compatibility or performance issues


After being left out of the loop, Linux developers are making significant progress on patches, even if they’re not particularly happy about being put in this position. The latest update of the stable Linux kernel (4.14.13) includes patches designed to mitigate Meltdown with Kernel Page Table Isolation (KPTI). More comprehensive patches (including fixes for ARM64 processors) will be available in 4.15, scheduled for release in two weeks.

Patches have also been added to the 4.4 and 4.9 stable kernel trees.

Canonical has released a second update for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Xenial users after the first caused boot issues. You can find the new update with Linux kernel image 4.4.0-109 here.

What they address:

  • Meltdown (rogue data cache load — CVE-2017-5754), though not currently for 32bit (x86) machines 
  • Spectre variant 1 (bounds check bypass — CVE-2017-5753) to some degree
  • Spectre variant 2, (branch target injection — CVE-2017-5715) to some degree

What they dont’ address:

  • Meltdown for 32bit (x86) machines
  • Spectre variants 1 and 2 — to some degree
    Patches have now been released that mitigate both variants of Spectre, but variant 2 mitigation also requires firmware/microcode updates to be in place. Because those updates are still being (re)developed and rolled out — keep in mind the latest recommendation from Intel was not to apply its firmware patches — variant 2 mitigation is currently incomplete.Work is underway to implement Retpoline, a workaround mitigation technique introduced by Google specifically for dealing with Spectre variant 2. The big advantage of Retpoline appears to be that it results in less of a performance impact than the microcode fixes, but, that said, it does have limitations.For one thing, Retpoline does not work on Intel Skylake processors. More importantly, it requires that code be recompiled in order to “immunize” it. While recompiling the kernel with Retpoline is one thing, updating every userspace application is anything but a quick fix. As this FAQ on the Ubuntu Wiki puts it, “until every piece of code on a system is rebuilt with retpoline the kernel must use microcode-based mitigations to protect userspace.” In other words, Retpoline isn’t a complete substitution for applying microcode updates — yet.

Known issues:

  • Patches haven’t been released for machines running ARM64 processors: They are expected to be supported with the release of 4.15 in a couple of weeks.
  • Patches bricking Ubuntu 16.04 computers: According to Bleeping Computer, boot issues have been reported by a large number of Ubuntu users running the Xenial 16.04 series after updating to kernel image 4.4.0-108. New updates with kernel image 4.4.0-109 have since been released which address the issue.
  • No Meltdown fix is currently available for 32bit (x86): Moving to a 64-bit kernel is the only currently recommended mitigation.
  • Spectre version 2 mitigations still reliant on firmware updates: As Intel and AMD continue to work through update difficulties mitigation remains incomplete.
  • Performance impact: Based on initial testing, performance penalties for the patches are expected to range from single to double digits, depending primarily on how much interaction applications/workloads have with the kernel. You can find more details in benchmark studies conducted by Phoronix and Red Hat.

Checking Linux for Spectre and Meltdown vulnerability:

A simple script has been developed to help determine whether Linux kernel installations are still vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre after applying patches. You can find it along with installation instructions here.


According to researchers, the most likely exploitation of Spectre appears to be web-based attacks using JavaScript (say in a malicious ad) to leak information, session keys, etc. cached in the browser. As such, Google, Mozilla, Apple, and Microsoft have all either issued or schedule new updates for their browsers to reduce that risk.

What browser updates address:

  • Spectre (CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715) to some extent

What browser updates dont’ address:

  • Meltdown (CVE-2017-5754)
    You’ll need to apply OS updates to mitigate Meltdown. 


Google Chrome users are advised to turn on site isolation, which can help prevent a site from stealing data from another site.

Google has officially released Chrome 64 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The update does include a patch to address Spectre, although Google did not provide technical details, stating simply “this release contains additional mitigations against speculative side-channel attack techniques.” In addition to those mitigations, the update also addresses other flaws (there are a total of 53 security fixes in all).


Mozilla has already issued Firefox version 57.0.4, which helps address Spectre by disabling or reducing Firefox’s internal timer functions and disabling the SharedArrayBuffer feature. Firefox users can take additional precaution by enabling site isolation, as well.


Apple has released Safari 11.0.2 to specifically mitigate the effects of Spectre.

IE and Edge

Microsoft has made changes to both Internet Explorer 11 and Microsoft Edge to mitigate Spectre. In addition to removing support for SharedArrayBuffer from Edge, it has made changes to reduce the precision of several time sources to make successful attacks more difficult.


OS and browser updates only partially mitigate Meltdown and Spectre. Organizations need to be prepared for UEFI firmware and BIOS updates, as well. When and whether updates will be pushed out will vary from vendor to vendor, adding another layer of complexity and uncertainty to patching. In some cases, admins may have to proactively check for updates from their PC makers periodically over the next few days or weeks.


Note: The saga surrounding Intel updates is long and ongoing. For the lastest news, skip down to “Known issues” and scroll to the bottom of the list.

UPDATE 1/12/18: Intel has released new Linux Processor microcode data files that can be used to add Meltdown and Spectre mitigations without having to perform a BIOS update.

Intel went on record promising firmware updates for 90 percent of affected processors made in the past five years on January 15. So far, it looks as though these microcode fixes apply to a specific list of processors provided here.

The microcode updates can be downloaded directly from Intel, and Bleeping Computer has provided instructions and a video example to help walk admins through the install process here. It should be noted that some issues have already been reported with the updates, specifically around unwanted reboots. While Intel initially confirmed machines with Broadwell and Haswell CPUs were experiencing that issue, later the company said machines running newer processors were affected, too (more details below).

Windows users need to wait until Microsoft finishes testing the microcode and releases an additional update.

Known issues:

  • Performance impact: Statements regarding the potential performance impact of those updates have been inconsistent, but the company has most recently said the patches are slowing processors down by six percent in certain situations. Intel has shared more details on performance impact based on specific workloads in a chart you can find here.
  • Older Broadwell and Haswell CPUs experiencing sudden reboots: Intel is already confirming the company has received reports of glitches resulting from the firmware update on systems running Intel Broadwell and Haswell CPUs.
  • Machines with newer CPUs also experiencing sudden reboots: Intel has since confirmed the firmware update is causing machines with Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Kaby Lake processors to suffer unwanted reboots, too. Intel now recommending customers NOT apply firmware update: The company has reportedly discovered the root cause of the Broadwell and Haswell boot issues, and is testing an updated patch. In the meantime, it is recommending customers stop deployment of the current patch to avoid reboots and other “unpredictable system behavior.” Recently Intel has issued a new microcode update for Skylake processors that addresses Spectre variant 2. Skylake system owners should expect firmware updates soon. Fixes for other chips remain in beta testing.
  • HP and Dell have removed latest BIOS updates until Intel issues new stable firmware: Following Intel’s advice, both companies have halted deployment of Intel’s buggy microcode.
  • Microsoft has issued an emergency out of band update (KB4078130) that disables Intel’s mitigation for Spectre variant 2: Microsoft justified the move by pointing to reports that Intel’s new microcode can cause higher than expected reboots which may result in data loss or corruption (confirmed in Intel’s Q4 2017 financial results statement).
  • UPDATE 2/21/18: Additional microcode updates addressing Spectre variant 2 available: Intel reports its microcode update for Skylake processors is stable, and additional updates for Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake are being rolled out, as well. Considering the problems experienced with the initial firmware updates, many experts are advising caution and careful testing before installing the new updates, however. According to Intel, fixes for Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Broadwell, and Haswell processors are still in beta. You can find the micocode patch update schedules for all Intel chips here.


AMD has officially acknowledged that its processors are vulnerable to both variants of Spectre, but not Meltdown. While the company says OS patches are enough to mitigate Spectre variant 1, it will be rolling out optional microcode updates this week, starting with fixes for Ryzen and EPYC processors.

Known issues:

  • Windows OS update compatibility issues: As first reported at the Verge, Microsoft has received numerous reports of PCs running AMD processors not booting after installing the latest Windows security update. After investigating, the company confirmed there are issues — specifically with AMD Opteron, Athlon, and AMD Turion X2 Ultra families — and temporarily stopped delivering the update to AMD devices. AMD says it is working with Microsoft to resolve the issue. In the meantime, affected users need to visit Microsoft’s support site for instructions on getting their machines back up and running.Microsoft has announced it will resume rolling out patches for AMD devices running Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, and Windows 10, version 1709. Updates for four versions of Windows 10 — 1511, 1607, and 1703 — are still paused. As are updates for Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 Enterprise.


According to IBM, firmware patches for POWER7+, POWER8, and POWER9 platforms are all currently available via FixCentral. The company says Power7 patches will be available February 7. In addition, it estimates IBM i operating system patches (also available via FixCentral) will finish rolling out on February 12, and AIX patches are available since January 26.


There is special worry about the cloud platforms that collectively host mission-critical workloads from millions of businesses, and data from hundreds of millions of consumers. First, the vulnerabilities can allow an attacker to bypass virtualized partitions, making it possible to steal data from all virtual machines on a single server. Second, there’s concern that in massive data center environments, the performance degradation from the patches would be exponentially replicated, leading to serious slowdowns of applications and web services.

  • As would be expected, cyber criminals have started to attempt to trick users into installing fake Spectre and Meltdown patches that are really malware, as Malwarebytes Labs recently warned.

What to do…What not to do?

Don’t Panic! The patches that have been issued so far by the OS vendors amount to mitigations and workarounds. The patches themselves are complex, and compatibility issues should be expected. For example, anti-virus software is deeply embedded in systems and kernels. A change in how kernel memory is stored will certainly affect anti-virus products.

Every company will have their own risks in terms of operational risk versus security risk. For that reason, I believe that it may be better for some organizations not to patch and instead use a different compensating control to mitigate exposure as much as possible.

Start and prepare for benchmark testing when patches come out to see how big of a performance impact it is going to make. Before you start, BACKUP, TEST YOUR BACKUP, and BACKUP AGAIN! 

There’s a greater sense of urgency with Spectre, because exploiting Meltdown requires having a foothold on the targeted system. Spectre opens up certain types of remote attack scenarios, which could result in compromising credentials and session keys, allowing hackers to bypass many security protections.

Reading other blogs it is apparent that applying patches to migtigate the risk may slow down the systems performance. This is not the case with everyone. It will vary for each business and type of operation.  For example, SQL is one of the most common type of database that are being used by businesses large and small. There is a significant I/O hit weather on-premise or in the Cloud. Read more about SQL Server performance with Spectre and Meltdown patches at SolidQ, but there are ways to address it.

For home users with newer Windows and Mac computers, the impact may be negligible. Systems with older processors are expected to see a bigger slowdown. Some servers could see a greater slowdown than PCs.

Over the next several months vendors will release and refine fixes. Only then can we be sure of the performance impact on various systems and configurations.

Keep in mind this is a Two-Part Solution

The specific solution for each system will vary by vendor and product. In most cases, two updates are needed to protect a system:

  • OS updates are coming fast from all major vendors.
  • Chipmaker microcode updates are being released as well. Most processors will need updates, but there are some exceptions.

Note that while Meltdown/Spectre can’t crash systems, some fixes can. Early problems have been reported with OS fixes in some scenarios. Also, some fixes require updates from app vendors, particularly antivirus solutions.

The Good News

There are no known exploits in the wild … yet! You still have time to get ahead of this thing.

Next Step

Secure your systems from Meltdown/Spectre vulnerabilities before sensitive data is exposed.

For even more info, Bleeping Computer has put together a good list of official advisories, notices, patches, and updates organized by vendor

Sources:  Microsoft | Intel | AMD | Barkly | Google | TheBleepingComputer | TheVerge

Going back to the basics….moving out of Amazon Drive!

As of June 8, 2017, it was announced that when when users try to sign up for Amazon Drive they will not be able to select an unlimited cloud storage option. Instead they can choose either 100 GB for $11.99 per year, or 1 TB for $59.99, with up to 30 TB available for an additional $59.99 per TB. (The prior pricing was unlimited everything for $59.99.) My data came up to about 5TB, which according to their new pricing structure would cost me $300+ (Data is always growing!!).

That is quite costly for just 5TB of storage when I can buy two 8TB drives and have it locally in a RAID configuration or a mirrored set. I shopped around with other popular cloud providers but each and every one of them have some sort of limitations. I decided to purchase two 8TB drives and maintain it locally. 

I found very little help on Google when searching for ways to move out of Amazon Drive with ease. I found a lot of cool little utilities but none were able to do a clean and consistent sync copy/move. It most cases the application would either hang, or incomplete the job.

I tried a lot of tools to get a synced local copy but the process seemed harder and harder. I tried a lot of freeware and shareware utilities as well as those offered by Amazon. I am just listing my personal experiences here so that I can save time for those whole have a similar situation.

Tools I tried:

Amazon Drive Desktop Sync

  •  Horrible transfer speeds +
  • Buggy Software
  • Startup & Resuming files would delay download significantly.

SymLink (MacOS/ Linux)

  • Somewhat works but metadata is lost.


  • Mounts the Amazon Cloud Drive and a Network Drive
  • Constant disconnects + too many app updates
  • Application hangs with large files
  • Service needed to be restarted multiple times to connect with Amazon

Cloudberry Explorer

  • Quirks around Admin Mode.
  • Ghostfiles (0kb) leftover.
  • Acts like an FTP Client but missing a lot features

rClone (Banned)


  • The Oneway transfer feature is nice but it was taking a long time between files
  • This might have worked if my filebase was a whole lot smaller but failed for larger jobs.


  • Similar to NetDrive but a whole lot stable, but would fail on larger files.


  • Horrible interface. Didn’t work most of time.

& a few more applications…. that didn’t work out!


Syncovery was the  winner in my case. This tools was the best in speed and got me an exact copy out from Amazon Cloud drive. It supports resuming! It is available on all platforms. It has a nice layout and can run as a scheduled job!

It took Syncovery literally 2 days to get all of my data downloaded. I was simply amazed at how efficient this tool was working. It maintained a consistent speed. Didn’t lose any metadeta. I ran a file check and all of them checked out 100%.

The trial version worked in my case and I am considering getting the Pro version. It excelled where all other failed. It wasn’t a resource hog and did the job in the first go! Thank you Syncovery!


Couple of lessons learned in getting success with all my data downloaded.

  1. Metadata is important especially when dealing with older files. Try not of lose it, as once it is lost there is no going back.
  2. Don’t copy to the same path as the original. Use an external drive and copy it there.
  3. If dealing with a lot of smaller files break them into chunks or batches to avoid application hang
  4. Apart from Syncovery, there were some utilities that might delete the files from Amazon and put them in Trash. Make sure you look there if you notice files missing file. It is most certainly there. I personally didn’t have this issue but some people have reported this with other utilities.
  5. Share your experiences to help out others.


I am in no way promoting a product from Syncovery, but based on my personal experience I found it to be the easiest to move the amount of data I had from Amazon down to my local server.  I am going to sway away from the public cloud space for a while at-least for my personal stuff. Based on the pricing, limitation of file size and types, and amount of data I have, I am still searching for good cloud store. I am evaluating ownCloud for now. If I ever goto a public cloud storage solution again, I am going to try my exit exercise/ strategy prior to bulk upload.

Another strategy people are recommending is hosting all the files in a VM on AWS/ Google/ Azure. My issue there is access cost. If my access is within the VM I am good, but any data I am pulling or accessing out of the VM – I am paying for it!

Get .Net Framework Version for the .DLL & .EXE files

Working with many app/dev teams it is hard to find which version of Dot Net  an application was designed or made in.

Now if your application server has multiple drives and depending on which drive the application resides it may be hard to find this information.

Let’s assume there are two drives C: and D:.

We will start with D: drive as it is easy.

Now the C: drive is a little more work. The above method wont work because C:  drive has system files and depending on your rights you may not have access to them.

You may get the following error:

But there is a way we can get this accomplished. Good old dos commands to the rescue! We are basically going to get a list of .exe and .dll files from the C: drive and then run the above code against it.

Lets capture the files:

Now we have the .EXE files stored in C_EXE_Paths.txt and we query it for .NET versions and save the output to DotNetFiles_C_EXE.txt

Similarly we have the .DLLfiles stored in C_DLL_Paths.txt and we query it for .NET versions and save the output to DotNetFiles_C_DLL.txt

You might get errors for files that do not meet criteria or fails to list .Net version.

This can be surpressed by using:

The output would be similar to:

Now you can import this in Excel and go crazy!  😉

Additionally, if you want to detect what version of .NETis installed on your server here is a cool utility (ASoft .NET Version Detector) to get you the info, as well as download links to the installer in case you need to download and install.

12 dig Command Examples for DNS

dig can we very useful in finding out DNS related issues.

To install dig for Window/ Linux/ MacOSX click here.

  1. A basic dig command – dig a domain nameIn the most basic of dig commands, you have a domain name like, and you want to find information about it, so you issue the following dig command:
    and get the following results:
    The dig command output has the following sections:

    Header: This displays the dig command version number, the global options used by the dig command, and few additional header information.

    QUESTION SECTION: This displays the question it asked the DNS. i.e This is your input. Since we said ‘dig’, and the default type dig command uses is A record, it indicates in this section that we asked for the A record of the website

    ANSWER SECTION: This displays the answer it receives from the DNS. i.e This is your output. This displays the A record of

    AUTHORITY SECTION: This displays the DNS name server that has the authority to respond to this query. Basically this displays available name servers of

    ADDITIONAL SECTION: This displays the ip address of the name servers listed in the AUTHORITY SECTION.

    Stats section at the bottom displays few dig command statistics including how much time it took to execute this query

  2. Display only the ANSWER Section of the dig command output
    For most part, all you need to look at is the “ANSWER SECTION” of the dig command. So, we can turn off all other sections as shown below.+nocomments – Turn off the comment lines
    +noauthority – Turn off the authority section
    +noadditional – Turn off the additional section
    +nostats – Turn off the stats section
    +noanswer – Turn off the answer section (Of course, you wouldn’t want to turn off the answer section)
    The following dig command displays only the ANSWER SECTION.
    Instead of disabling all the sections that we don’t want one by one, we can disable all sections using +noall (this turns off answer section also), and add the +answer which will show only the answer section.

    The above command can also be written in a short form as shown below, which displays only the ANSWER SECTION.

  3. dig a TCP/IP address I was trying to find the PTR record for the following IP address:
    but as you can see, I don’t get a PTR record in this dig output. To perform a DNS reverse look up using the ip-address you need to use something like the -x option, like this:
    As you can see, this does indeed return a PTR record.
  4. How to get IP address(es) for a domain:
    An easy way to get the IP address(es) corresponding to a domain name is to add the “+short” option to your dig command. As the name implies, this gives you the dig short output, and if you don’t specify any other command line options, that output is the IP address. Here’s what it looks like for :
  5. Get MX record for a domain:
    Another common dig command need is to find an “MX record” for a domain name. This is easily done with the “dig mx” command, like this:
    You can also use option -t to pass the query type (for example: MX) as shown below.
  6. Show the nameservers for your domain
    Here’s how to query for a list of nameservers for a given domain, again using the ‘short’ option to keep the output down:
    You can also use option -t to pass the query type (for example: NS) as shown below.
  7. Query specific nameservers with dig
    Or, if you prefer the shorter version of the output:
  8. View ALL DNS records types using dig -t ANY
    To view all the record types (A, MX, NS, etc.), use ANY as the record type as shown below.
    (or) Use -t ANY
  9. Traceroute Information
    If you like the traceroute command, you can do something similar with dig to follow DNS nameservers, like this, using the ‘+short’ option to keep the output manageable:
  10. Query multiple sites from dig command line:
  11. Specify Port Number
    By default the dig command queries port 53 which is the standard DNS port, however we can optionally specify an alternate port if required. This may be useful if an external name server is configured to use a non standard port for some reason. We specify the port to query with the -p option, followed by the port number. In the below example we perform a DNS query to port 5300.
    Note that the external name server must actually be listening for traffic on this port specified, and its firewall will also need to allow the traffic through otherwise the lookup will fail. In this example the connection times out, as is not configured to listen on the random port 5300 that I selected for this example.
  12.  User IPv4 or IPv6
    By default our dig queries are running over the IPv4 network, we can specify if we want to use the IPv4 transport with the -4 option, or alternatively we can specify to use the IPv6 transport with the -6 option.
    Short version:
    Hope this was able to explain how do use dig, or at least get you started. Do you ‘dig’ it ?

R.I.P. nslookup – Start using dig or host

I have been using nslookup for the longest time I can remember. Although, this may be an older topic to some, it may be a newer topic to most Windows users.

Dear Windows users,

nslookup has been deprecated.

The organization that maintains the code for nslookup, Internet Systems Consortium (ISC), has very clearly stated it in the most recent version of nslookup (included with BIND 9), the following message appears:

ISC is the organization behind the Berkeley Internet Name Daemon (BIND). BIND is the most widely used DNS server in the world. nslookup is distributed with BIND.

If you run OS X or any current version of Linux “dig/ host” already installed.


Dig (domain information groper) is a tool that is used for querying DNS servers for various DNS records, making it very useful for troubleshooting DNS problems.

For example, if we enter:

we got the following output:

There is a lot of information in the above output, but we can break each section down to get a better understanding of what we’re looking at. First, we are presented with the version and global options section:

This is followed by a section that gives us more in-depth technical information about the response, or answer:

Then we have a section that repeats our question back to us. This basically serves as a reminder of exactly what we told dig we want to look up:

The answer section is probably the section we’re most interested in. This section is where we find the IP addresses that correspond to where we pointed dig:

In our test case, we now know can see that resolves to

Finally, the last section shows us some more general statistics about the query. We have the amount of time the query takes, the address the query came from (our router IP), the time the query was placed, and the amount of data that was returned to us:

This example is a very basic example of a common lookup. More advanced lookups can be performed using dig, and therein lies its power. If we type in:


The host command is much like dig, but more succinct. If we enter:

host is also capable of running reverse lookups. You can provide it with an IP address, and it will tell you the name of the specific server associated with that IP. For example:

Try typing in host -a, followed by a website address, and note the results. Yes, that’s right. If you type in host -a it gives you the same exact output that you would get from a plain-old dig command with no options set.

Hopefully that quickly explains how dig/host is being used as a nslookup replacement. dig is a whole lot more informative and easy to use.  See the top 12 commands used in dig here.

Installing dig for


  1. First go to and look for BIND, click on download button.
  2. and choose right version, for my windows I’m downloading win – 64bit version
  3. When we have successfully downloaded the archive file, extract the zipfile content to a temporary directory on your workstation.
  4. Go into this directory and run as Administrator “BINDInstall.exe”, then choose the “Tools only” option and target directory where to install dig, I had choosen C:\Program Files\dig
  5. Next add the path of the dig folder (C:\Program Files\dig\bin) to the system PATHS variable. We should this way:Within win 10/server2012R2/server2016 search box type environment variables
    Then choose “Edit the system environment variable” and type admin password if needed. Following box will open. There is a button Environment Variables, click on it and
    add the path

    Close all dialogs.

  6. Now we should be able to run dig tool directly from the command line typing dig
  7. Depending on your system you may get an error dialog will open saying MSVCR110.dll is missing.
    Fix: Within this step the dig tools should already work. MS Visual C++ redistribution should be already installed, if not…follow next steps
    the dll is:

    MSVCR110.dll is the Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable dll that is needed for projects built with Visual Studio 2011. The dll letters spell this out. MS = Microsoft, V = Visual, C = C++, R = Redistributable. For Winroy to get started, this file is probably needed. This error appears when you wish to run a software which require the Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable 2012. The redistributable can easily be downloaded on the Microsoft website as x86 or x64 edition. Depending on the software you wish to install you need to install either the 32 bit or the 64 bit version. Refer the following link:         Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2012 Update 4

    so download mentioned update and install it.

    Download and installing Visual Studio 2015 from the link: did not work )
  8. Download & Install:
  9. Depending on the system it may require a restart. I would go ahead and restart.
  10. Now it works!

Linux/ Mac:

In CentOS/RHEL/Fedora dig is part of the ‘bind-utils’ package


For Debian/Ubuntu based distributions it comes from the ‘dnsutils’ package.



Dig is included in most Linux and Mac OS X installations by default via the Terminal.

How to Generate a Group Policy Report

This may be a noob topic, but it is an important one.

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8

Depending on the size of your organization you could have a few Group Policy Objects (GPO) or you could have many. Sometimes it is very hard find out why a workstation or server is acting the way it is. I would say that the GPOs are the heart of security in windows operating system.

A nice way to view which policies are being applied to the target Workstation/Server is by generating an .html file that shows all GPOs applied. The GPRESULT command displays the Resultant Set of Policy (RSoP) information for a remote user and computer.

Open Command Prompt and type the following:

Now open the file GPReport.html that is present on the desktop. It should look similar to the image below.

To read more about GPRESULT and switches allowed – click here.

Provisioning a New Office 365 User and Mailbox from Exchange Hybrid via PowerShell

Working with many Office365 clients, I receive queries on how to go about provisioning users and mailboxes for an Exchange hybrid deployment.

To begin with, let’s assume a couple things.

  1. We have a Windows 2012 R2 member server with Azure AD Connect (AAD Connect) version (or newer) and the Azure AD Module for PowerShell installed; and
  2. We have an Exchange 2013 CU11 (or newer) server configured for hybrid with an active O365 tenant.

Now that we’ve established a baseline, there are a couple of options to perform the task of provisioning an AD user, creating a mailbox, and assigning an Office 365 license.

  1. The first option would be to create an AD user, create an on premise mailbox, migrate the mailbox to Office 365, and assign a license; or
  2. The second option would be to create an AD user, create a remote (or Office 365) mailbox, and assign a license.

In this post, I will cover the second option simply because it includes fewer steps and attempts to avoid confusion around where the mailbox should be created.

Do not create an AD user and then go to the Office 365 portal to create a new user and associated mailbox. This method will not properly create a synchronized O365 user and mailbox.


From the Exchange server, first create the AD user with remote mailbox using one command via Exchange Management Shell (EMS or Exchange PowerShell)…

In the command above, I created the AD user in an OU named “Office 365 Users”, set the password to “EnterPasswordHere”, and will require the user to change their password at next logon. However, I did not assign an SMTP address or remote routing address assuming that the email address policies are configured to be applied as new mailboxes are created.


Once the AD user and mailbox are created, the AD object must to be synchronized to O365 in order to add the user with associated mailbox in the tenant. With the new version of AAD Connect, the scheduled sync time occurs every 30 minutes. In my case, I’m not that patient and will manually force a sync to O365.

From the server with AAD Connect installed, via an elevated PowerShell console, run the following command to perform the sync to O365…

This task will synchronize all changes made to AD since the user and mailbox were created.


In the final step, I assign an O365 license to the newly created and synchronized user. The following commands can be run from any machine that has both Microsoft Online Services Sign-in Assistant for IT Professionals RTW and Windows Azure Active Directory Module for Windows PowerShell installed. In my case, they are installed on each server, as well as my admin workstation.

Connect to O365 via PowerShell from an elevated PowerShell console; or using Azure AD Module for PowerShell console.

Confirm the new user does not have an O365 license assigned.

This command returns unlicensed O365 users in which the “isLicensed” parameter is “False”.

The next command returns the “AccountSkuId“, or subscription license(s), of my tenant that I will use to assign to the new user.

The AccountSkuId will look something similar to “tenantname:ENTERPRISEPACK“; where “ENTERPRISEPACK” represents my Office 365 Enterprise E3 subscription. Other subscriptions will have different representations.

Before I can assign any licenses to my new user, the user must be assigned a location (or country code). Since I’m am located in the United States, I use “US” as the two letter country code for the user, using this command…

Now that I’ve set a location for the new user, I can assign a license from my associated O365 subscription, using this command…

Finally, the user can access their assigned mailbox in Exchange Online.

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Mohammed Wasay

Dallas based Design Technologist & Hybrid Developer