If you haven't yet begun using the PowerToys tools for Windows 10 and 11 to accelerate your workflows as a Windows system administrator, you should. Let Tim show you how and why.
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In my experience, most Windows system administrators tweak their workstation environments for maximum comfort and efficiency. Depending on how long you've worked with Windows, you might remember the old PowerToys. These free utilities, aimed at power users, make some mundane operating system actions easier to accomplish.

You should know that Microsoft software engineers have really picked up the development ball and taken off running with a 21st century version of Microsoft PowerToys. They are excellent and ever-evolving, and you should know how to use them. Let me give you a quick introduction.

PowerToys history lesson

The PowerToys utility suite first showed up in Windows 95. These 15 tools included the venerable TweakUI, shown in the following screenshot:

TweakUI in Windows 95

TweakUI in Windows 95

TweakUI was a nice way to modify registry settings without having to fire up the Registry Editor. Other original PowerToys included:

  • CabView: Open CAB files in Windows Explorer
  • Explore from Here: Right-click to open Windows Explorer focused on that folder
  • Quick Res: Change screen resolution from the Windows taskbar

Then, we have the so-called GodMode, originally introduced in Windows XP and still existing in Windows 11. GodMode is a Control Panel-like graphical window that, like TweakUI, presents far more registry modification options than you get in the normal Control Panel interface.

GodMode in Windows 11

GodMode in Windows 11

Here's how to enable GodMode in Windows 11:

  1. Create a new folder.
  2. Rename the folder GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}.

You'll see the folder icon change. From now on, double-clicking that icon shows the GodMode interface.

The new Windows PowerToys

Windows PowerToys is a set of utilities aimed at power users to tune and streamline their Windows experience for greater productivity. These include tools for managing windows, identifying and unlocking locked resources, and batch-renaming files, among other helpful tasks. PowerToys is a GitHub-hosted open-source project developed by Microsoft that's available for free to download and use on any Windows 10 or Windows 11 system.

PowerToys in Windows 11

PowerToys in Windows 11

In this tutorial, I'll introduce you to four of the PowerToys I use frequently in my daily work. There's a lot more there, so be sure to read the documentation. Also, if you're a developer, feel free to contribute to the project. Anybody is welcome to file an issue for any bugs you see or suggestions for improvement you want to submit.


FancyZones is a window management tool that allows users to create custom window layouts for their open applications and move windows quickly and easily between those layouts. This can help to increase productivity by making it easier to organize and access frequently used applications and windows.

FancyZones makes it super easy to organize application and File Explorer windows

FancyZones makes it super easy to organize application and File Explorer windows

With FancyZones, you define a set of zones on your desktop and then use keyboard shortcuts or the mouse to move windows into those zones. Once a window is in a zone, it can be resized and positioned to fit within that zone. You can also save different layouts for different tasks, such as writing, programming, or browsing the web, and switch between them easily.

Each monitor can have its own FancyZones layout, and you no longer need to press a keyboard shortcut to invoke the layouts. As you can see in the next screenshot, simply dragging a window on a desktop shows the available FancyZones layout zones.

Dragging a window Dragging a window into a FancyZones layoutinto a FancyZones layout

Dragging a window Dragging a window into a FancyZones layoutinto a FancyZones layout

File Locksmith

File Locksmith is a tool in the Windows PowerToys collection that allows users to quickly and easily unlock or delete files and folders that are in use by other programs or processes. This can be useful when trying to delete or move a file that is in use and cannot be accessed or modified.

As a simple example, I right-clicked the Microsoft Word document I'm writing now and selected What's using this file? from the shortcut menu. As depicted in the next two screen captures, File Locksmith makes it easy to identify, learn about, and even terminate the blocking process.

Invoking File Locksmith on a locked file

Invoking File Locksmith on a locked file

File Locksmith gives you control over in use files

File Locksmith gives you control over in use files


PowerRename is a tool in the Windows PowerToys collection that allows users to rename multiple files and folders at once. It provides an advanced search and replace functionality for filenames and allows users to preview the changes before applying them.

To use PowerRename, select one or more files or folders, right-click, and choose PowerRename from the shortcut menu. Type in the search and replace text, and optionally use advanced options, such as regular expressions, to customize the renaming process. You can then preview the changes before applying them to make sure that the target files are renamed correctly.

PowerRename makes it simple to bulk rename files

PowerRename makes it simple to bulk rename files

Hosts File Editor

The Hosts File Editor is a tool in Windows PowerToys that allows users to edit the HOSTS file on their Windows computer. As I'm pretty sure you know, the HOSTS file is a simple text file that maps Domain Name System (DNS) hostnames to IP addresses. It's used to override the DNS resolution of certain domain names.

With the Hosts File Editor, users can add, edit, or remove entries from the local machine's HOSTS file, or import or export the entire HOSTS file. This can be useful for blocking unwanted domains or redirecting traffic to specific IP addresses for testing or other purposes. The Hosts File Editor also includes a feature to import the HOSTS file automatically from popular ad-blocking lists, which can be useful for blocking unwanted ads and tracking.

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PowerToys Hosts File Editor

PowerToys Hosts File Editor


I hope you found this tutorial enlightening. I'll be the first to tell you I'm a devoted PowerToys fan. In fact, I use these tools so often that I can't imagine working on a Windows client system that didn't have them installed. Until next time!

  1. Avatar

    File locksmith is really useful but doesn’t work properly sometimes. I also tend to use Hosts file editor, image resizer, and text extractor tools a lot. Good to know Microsoft is giving something for Free; I hope they don’t start pushing Ads in PowerToys too.

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