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Get started by finding out what you have and how it's being used

To optimize your software investments and build a solid foundation for business growth, you first need to know what software you currently have deployed and how it's being used. Do you have enough software, or too much? Is it being used in the most efficient and cost-effective way? To begin creating your SAM plan, you need to do a full software inventory. This inventory will also provide an indication of the scope of the job ahead by telling you where your company stands versus where it should be.

With a completed baseline inventory, you will know exactly what software you are running and on what computers it is being used; by analyzing this information, you can determine where those programs can be best used, and where you might be able to save money. Through this process, you might also be able to discover and remove any unauthorized programs that may have been installed without permission.

Step-by Step Training: Performing a Software Inventory

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Step 1: Learn about the all-important first step in managing your software assets—getting an accurate record of your company's software titles by conducting a thorough software inventory.

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There are two main methods for conducting your software inventory:

Manual Inventory

If your organization has only a few computers, you might be able to perform a manual inventory by simply checking the hard drive of each computer and recording the information in a report. You can also view the list of programs that are installed on each computer by opening the Add or Remove Programs tool on each computer.

To open the Add/Remove Programs tool on a computer that is running Windows 7 or the Windows Vista operating systems, click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Programs. In Windows XP, click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Programs and Features.

Report Templates

Several templates are available for your inventory reports:

PC Software Inventory Report Template - Use this report to document the programs you find on computers in your organization.

Software Inventory Summary Report Template - Use this report to consolidate individual software titles.

Automatic Inventory

If you have a lot of computers in your organization, you might consider using a software inventory tool such as the Microsoft Software Inventory Analyzer (MSIA) to perform an automatic inventory of all of your computers and servers. (Note that the MSIA is intended for use in organizations that have 250 PCs or fewer.) Software inventory tools primarily scan for the software installed on computers, and asset management tools are designed to help you manage your network and its associated software.

There are a number of software inventory and asset-management tools available today, either from Microsoft or from independent software vendors who focus on SAM. Use the SAM Tools Provider Directory to find the tool that best suits your needs based on the size of your business and the applications you’re currently using.

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In addition to using automated discovery tools, you may also find it helpful to seek outside assistance for this step in your SAM plan.

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Most SAM tools automatically generate software inventory reports.By using the MSIA or another SAM tool, you can scan stand-alone or networked computers and generate the inventory results automatically.

When you have inventoried all of your company’s computers, you should combine the information into one master report. This report will be instrumental in the next step of SAM and as a reference for all SAM work moving forward.

What's Next

Now that you’ve completed your software inventory, you’re ready to start matching that software to your licenses and getting organized.

Next step: Get organized

Report Templates

Several templates are available for your inventory reports:

Use the PC Software Inventory Report template to document the programs you find on computers in your organization.

Use the Software Inventory Summary Report template to consolidate individual software titles.