SOLVED: How To Figure Out What Switches a Piece of Software Has

If you have been an administrator for any length of time you have found yourself being unable to script an installation or change software because you don’t know what the switches are for that software.  We recently had the same problem and found a very cool solution.

We needed to run the new Microsoft Windows Update tool through command line but it is officially unsupported and therefore undocumented… very annoying.  The tool is called USOClient.exe and when you run USOClient.exe /? or /??? or ? you get nothing.

SysInternals (now operated by Microsoft) has an awesome free tool that lets you see all of the ASCI text strings inside an .EXE and here is how you use it:

  1. Download STRINGS.EXE from Microsoft
  2. Copy it into a folder
  3. Copy the EXE you need to learn about into the same folder
  4. Open a CMD prompt as an admin
  5. Change directory to the folder containing STRINGS and your mystery EXE
  6. How To Use Strings - determine software switchesType STRINGS64 <NAME-O-EXE>
    • i.e STRINGS64 USOClient.exe
  7. Copy the output to an Excel worksheet
  8. Sort alphabetically
  9. Look for text that makes sense.
    • i.e. SILENTINSTALL or SILENT

Remember that the coders of the software are human and prefer plain English so they likely used simple verbs you can understand for switches.

We used this method to determine the switches for the command line of Windows Update and have the results HERE if you are interested.

Questions or Comments?