Hardware

Get IT Done: DameWare simplifies Windows administration

Discover a new way to administer Windows with this utility


DameWare NT Utilities (DNTU) is a collection of Windows-based administrative conveniences channeled into one centralized, intuitive interface. With DNTU, you can administer multiple Windows domains, servers, workstations, and Exchange accounts from the same console.

DNTU includes enhanced versions of standard Windows tools, as well as its own custom utilities, such as Mini Remote Control and DameWare Exporter. DameWare Mini Remote Control offers a remote view of servers and workstations. This application-based or service-based feature can be deployed on all 32-bit Windows platforms.

DameWare Exporter allows you to generate detailed reports for servers and workstations. This lets you keep detailed information on users, groups, shares, printers, services, and so on.

First look at DNTU
DNTU is available for a fully functional 30-day evaluation. When I downloaded it, my first impression was that it's a giant MMC snap-in. Strictly speaking, the interface is not MMC-enabled, but it funnels the most common Win2K administrative interfaces into one console (Figure A).

Figure A


DNTU allows you to open each item, and many objects have context-sensitive menus and options available on a right-click. For example, let's look at the workstation W-VMW-W2KPROF in the image above. This is a Windows 2000 Professional computer running in a VMware session. From DNTU, I have a number of options, including:
  • Running a command prompt from the workstation on my console
  • Searching
  • Managing the remote services
  • Viewing what software has been installed on the workstation
  • Sending a message to the workstation
  • Viewing open files
  • Starting a DameWare Mini Remote Control session

Figure B shows the menu that is available with a right-click on the workstation so you can see the other tasks you can perform.

Figure B


DameWare services
The DNTU toolset pushes a service to the workstations. For interaction with DNTU, Windows computers need the DameWare NT Utilities 2.6 service (DNTUS26.exe) installed on each server or workstation. This service runs as the local system account, but the current user logged on does not interact with it directly. If you choose to also use the DameWare Mini Remote Control application, the DameWare Mini Remote Control service (DWRCS.exe) will need to be installed on the workstation.

Once you install the DNTU console on a server or workstation, you can push these services out to computers you're properly authenticated on. Further, you can pass credentials to other computers or other domains to administer them from the DameWare console.

Populating the DameWare Interface
DNTU will automatically populate a certain extent of the management console, but you can customize it to add computers over the WAN, add different domains, remove certain devices, as well as set other display preferences. The DNTU console has the current domain listed first. Below that, you can add other domains in the Favorite Domains group. You can also add devices and non-Windows machines to the Non-Browsable Machines group.

The views you create can be organized with folders. You can add devices by IP address, NetBIOS name, or an IP address range. An adequate browse ability lets you add devices and seek specialty devices (SQL Server computers, RAS Servers, and Terminal Servers, among others).

Once you go through the effort of getting everything into the console, DNTU lets you export the display preferences. It keeps the console display settings in the Windows registry of a computer whose console is configured to your liking. This exportable key
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\DameWare Development

allows you to transport the settings to other consoles. This would be very convenient in a larger IT department to account for special devices and to deliver a standardized administrative interface to all admins and/or help desk technicians.

Definitely cool, but not magic
The DameWare tools extend base Windows functionality but generally do not exceed Windows options. For example, within the DameWare NT Utilities console, for each type of computer (servers, workstations, and nonbrowsable machines), you have the option to send a Windows message, as shown in Figure C. You can accomplish the same thing with NET SEND from the command line in Windows, but this console is a little easier to use and more convenient.

Figure C


The destination computer in this example, W-RICK-NET, is not running the Windows Messenger service, so the act of sending the message fails with the 2273 error message listed in the Status field of the Send Message applet. The Status field delivers useful information to the DameWare console user.

DameWare Mini Remote Control and Exporter
The Mini Remote Control is a view of a remote computer. The benefit of this tool (which is bundled with DNTU) is the impressive set of options that are available when making a connection. Options such as View Only, Stop Service On Disconnect, Remove Service On Disconnect, and Display Resolution really justify this DameWare tool.

The Mini Remote Control interface is quite intuitive, and once connected, the user on the remote or viewed computer is presented with a message stating who (username and machine name) has connected. The user has the option to disconnect the viewer with a right-click. Figure D offers a quick look at some of Mini Remote Control's options.

Figure D


The DameWare Exporter is another nice bonus to the DNTU offering. The Exporter will generate text files based on the criteria you select when running it on a machine or a domain. The options to run are:
  • Computers
  • Disk drives
  • Groups
  • Printers
  • Members
  • Services
  • Shares
  • Users

Running the DameWare Exporter against servers to make sure there are no hidden shares you are not using is one benefit of the tool. You can also use it as an auditing tool to make sure that all systems have the right resources and that there are no rogue services running on the network.

Final word
DameWare’s offerings can streamline Windows administrative tasks by requiring only one interface. I just wish DameWare would put out a white paper or a manual for download. The only documentation available is context-sensitive help (by pressing [F1]). However, DameWare still impressed me with its ability to administer a Windows network from one intuitive console.

About Rick Vanover

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

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