Using the Microsoft Management Console

Even though the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) has been around for a number of years now - since the NT 4.0 Option Pack was released - I don't often see it being used to its full potential by administrators. The MMC really is a very simple tool to operate, assuming you have the desire to make your daily life just a little bit easier. Countless times, I've asked an administrator to pull up the Event Viewer or the Disk Management utility, and odds are they'll launch them as two separate apps, navigating the menu each time to find what they're looking for. In Windows 2000, nearly all administrative tasks are done through MMC, or a subset of it, so you can build your own custom interface with exactly the tools you need frequently.

MMC works on a very simple principle - it's just a shell. A bare MMC window is all you need to get started, which can be done by clicking Start - Run and typing MMC. This will provide you with a clean slate from which to build your administrative toolbox. This bare interface can be loaded with administrative modules called Snap-ins. These snap-ins each serve an administrative purpose, such as the Event Viewer or Services console. They are available as stand-alone modules via the Administrative Tools menu, but why not combine some of these into one interface that's easy to navigate and much quicker to load than manually starting each module individually.

To add a snap-in to your new console, click Console - Add/Remove Snap-in. The list of snap-ins will be empty, so click the Add button at the bottom. This will result in a list of all snap-ins that are available on your system. Choose the ones you'd like to use and click Add. For some snap-ins, you will be presented with a choice for local or remote computers - this is the powerful part of the MMC. You can add snap-ins that point to remote machines without having to manually launch a module, then connect, only to have to repeat the process the next time you'd like to perform a task on a remote computer.

Once you've customized your new console, click Console - Save and give it a descriptive name. By default, consoles are saved under the Administrative Tools folder in your individual profile. Once you've saved the file, click Start - Programs - Administrative Tools and you should see your new console listed.

Now comes the fun part. When you're building MMC consoles, put some thought to how you perform your daily administrative tasks. You may want to setup a dedicated network share that will contain custom MMC consoles that are pre-loaded with snap-ins for managing remote systems. These can be launched from other machines on the network without losing any functionality, assuming all of the snap-ins are available on the machine where the console is launched.

Maybe you use the Event Viewer every day to check for specific event types or to clear logs. You could create a console that simply has the Event Viewer snap-in for multiple remote computers. Then when you launch that console, you'll have them all available to you in one window. Another approach might be to create a console for each remote server that has the Event Viewer, Disk Management, Performance Logs and Group Policy snap-ins. Certainly you can see the usefulness of having such a system around, and it gets even better. You can set Author and User properties on each of the consoles, so the creation and modification can be centrally controlled, thereby providing a consistent interface at all times.

Additionally, third party application developers often write to the MMC standard, and register snap-ins during installation. You can easily use these snap-ins with remote systems as well. Be sure to look into this capability when evaluating applications because administrative burden is an important consideration when choosing products. There are a thousand more details that I'm glossing over concerning MMC, so be sure to pour through the Help system to learn more about the capabilities of this powerful administrative tool.



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