Identifying free ports on Cisco Switches

I want to tell what ports are available on a Cisco switch... would it be safe to use "show interfaces counters" if the switch has been up for a long time and use the ports that show 0-1000 packets/bytes of throughput?  Most of the ports are in the billions+  and several are at 0.. but there are some at 1000 and I was "guessing/assuming" that those ports are just noise?

Or is there a better way to identify free ports so we can tell what is/isn't used rather than just looking at plugged in cables that never have been removed?

A friend just suggested "show int summary" and to go by the asterisks THEN by the counters...
Anyone have any better ideas or is that a pretty thorough way to handle it?

Thank you in advance!

och1Asked:
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Todd GerbertIT ConsultantCommented:
sh int | include line proto
 
"show interfaces" should tell you if the line protocol is up or down (i.e. connected or not), "| include line proto" just filters the results.
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cwhallCommented:
show int status | include notconnect

or

show interfaces summary | exclude \*
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that1guy15Commented:
"show interfaces status" will show you if a port is connected or not. That will give you if there is a device on the other end. But with this it could mean that the device on the other end is shutdown or the cable is unplugged. So not 100%

Use this to see which ports are active then use "sh int counters" on the disconnected or downed ports to see if there is any recent traffic on those ports.
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och1Author Commented:
That command will tell me if the port is up RIGHT NOW... but it doesn't help me with a "historical perspective" what if that is a port of someone in accounting that is on vacation or out of the office this week?
I need something that provides a little more "guarantee"....  (I have 40+ switches and 700-ish users/nodes across 13+ locations) and want to find out if we really need more hardware or just need to better utilize the ports that "we don't know we have")
We are definitely not a big network (just spreadt out), and as such, we have to be really careful with expenditures (and save the money for important things like my Experts-exchange membership!!!) :)
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och1Author Commented:
thank you guys, it took me long enough to respond to the first comment I hadn't read the rest of them yet!
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och1Author Commented:
I choose this as the "complete" solution because:
After doing the other solution(s) like the one containing "exclude \*" and comparing the results on a "port per port" basis the "exclude \*" solution misleads you in to thinking all of those ports have not been in use for quite awhile.. until you run "show int counters" and compare all the in/out packets and realize that something has recently talked on that port.
Thank you all for your insight.. each of you (even the answers I DIDN"T pick) have shared knowledge with me that I didn't previously have.

Sincerely!
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cwhallCommented:
How about: show int summary | include       0     0    0     0     0    0     0    0    0
using however many zero's you have on your counter line.

You can use rlogin app from RANCID package (http://www.shrubbery.net/rancid/) to automatically grab the output and dump to text file if your familiar with Linux.
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