Remotely administering Windows 98, part 2

The larger your network, the more difficult it is to administer. In this Daily Drill Down, Brien Posey concludes his series on how to set up and use the remote administration tools available in Windows 98.

In part one of this two-part series, I explained how to set up user-level access to the system. I also showed you how to install the Remote Registry Service. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll explain how you can use these components to remotely administer Windows 98 workstations. As I mentioned, Windows 98 limits the extent to which you can remotely administer another Windows 98 machine. In spite of these limitations, however, there’s still a lot you can do.

Before you begin
Before you start using the techniques in this article, you should verify that all machines involved have been configured to use share-level access. Likewise, you should make sure that each of these machines has been set up with the Remote Registry Service. If you’re in doubt as to how to do this, check out part one.

File and print access
Perhaps the most important part of a remote computer you’d hope to administer through Windows 98 is its file system. Setting this up is very simple. Begin by going to the remote machine and opening My Computer. Select the C: drive and right-click it. Next, select the Sharing command from the resulting context menu. When you do, you’ll see the Sharing tab of the C: drive’s Properties sheet. By default, the drive isn’t shared. However, by sharing the root directory of the drive, you can make it accessible from across the network.

To share the drive, click the Share As button. Next, enter a share name and an optional description. You can then use the Add button at the bottom of the window to add the names of the users who should be allowed to access the partition remotely. You can also set the type of access that each user should have to the partition. You can see an example of this in Figure A.

Figure A
You can make a partition available from across the network by sharing it.

After you’ve shared a partition and set up the appropriate access rights, you should share any remaining partitions on the system. Doing so will gain you full access to all of the system’s partitions from across the network. I’ve even found it useful in the past to share the CD-ROM drives. Occasionally, I’ve been trying to fix a problem on a remote PC while talking to a user on the phone. In such situations, I’ve been able to tell the user to insert a CD and then I could remotely copy files from the CD to the user’s PC.

Remote registry
Another very handy tool is Registry Editor. When you’re running the Remote Registry Service, Registry Editor allows you to directly edit the registry of a remote machine. When working with the registry, remember to exercise extreme caution because making certain changes to the registry can destroy Windows 98, your applications, or both. If you do decide to play with the registry, first make sure that you have a good backup.

To manipulate a remote PC’s registry, open Registry Editor on the local machine by entering the REGEDIT command at the Run prompt. When Registry Editor loads, select the Connect Network Registry command from the Registry menu. Next, enter the name of the computer whose registry you want to work with in the resulting dialog box’s Computer Name field and click OK. When you do, you’ll see the remote computer’s registry appear below your computer’s registry. As you can see in Figure B, rather than starting with My Computer, the remote registry will begin with the remote machine’s computer name.

Figure B
You can use Registry Editor to edit another computer’s registry.

System Policy Editor
System Policy Editor allows you to establish system policies for individual users on specific PCs. If you’re concerned that employees will mess up their computers, System Policy Editor is a very effective tool. By adjusting the system policy, you can prevent them from being able to perform any action that could be harmful to their systems. You could use System Policy Editor with the Remote Registry Service to disable the Run prompt and Control Panel for those logins, for example.

The downside is that system policies tend to be difficult to deploy on a large scale. Each policy can be very tedious to configure and implement. By using the Remote Registry Service, however, you can remotely access and modify a machine’s system policy from the comfort of your desk.

To run System Policy Editor, insert your Windows 98 CD and navigate to the \Tools\Reskit\Netadmin\Poledit directory. Double-click the Poledit.exe icon, which will launch System Policy Editor. When it loads, select the Connect option from the File menu. You’ll be prompted for the name of the remote machine that you want to attach to. Enter its name and click OK. You’ll see a list of user accounts that exist on the remote PC. Select the account that you want to work with and click OK. System Policy Editor will now be set to work on the remote PC, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C
System Policy Editor can manipulate system policies on remote Windows 98 machines.

One word of caution: System Policy Editor is a very powerful tool. If you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, you can lock down a machine so tightly that neither the administrator nor any one else can access it. So, be extra careful when using System Policy Editor.

System Monitor
Sometimes, you may need to know exactly what’s going on inside a remote PC before you can diagnose a problem that the end user may be having. In such a situation, System Monitor is invaluable. This tool lets you view performance information on a remote PC in real time. For example, you can view everything from the number of memory pages per second to the percentage of CPU utilization.

To use System Monitor on a remote PC, select Programs from the Start menu and click Accessories. Then, select System tools and click System monitor. If you don’t see the System Monitor icon in your System Tools group, you’ll have to install the System Monitor program. To do so, open Control Panel and double-click the Add/Remove Programs icon. You’ll see the Add/Remove Programs Properties sheet. Select the Windows tab, and you’ll see a list of some of the available components. Now, double-click System Tools in the Components list. From the list of available System Tools, select the check box next to System Monitor, and click OK twice. Windows 98 will now copy the necessary files from your Windows 98 installation CD and install the System Monitor program.

Once System Monitor has been installed, you can load the program from the Start menu, as I described above. When System Monitor starts, you’ll see a series of graphs outlining the performance of your local machine. To look at a remote machine, select the Connect command from the File menu. When prompted, enter the name of the remote computer and click OK. System Monitor will begin displaying the performance statistics of the remote machine in real time, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
You can use System Monitor to look at the performance of a remote machine in real time.

Net Watcher
With Net Watcher, you can view any computers connected to the remote computer and the shares which the computers are using. You can even see how long the user has been connected to the remote computer.

The Net Watcher program isn’t installed by default. To install it, open Control Panel, and double-click the Add/Remove Programs icon. Select the Windows tab from the Add/Remove Programs Properties sheet. Double-click System Tools in the Components list. In the System Tools list, select the check box next to Net Watcher, and click OK twice. Windows 98 will now copy the necessary files from your Windows 98 installation CD and install the Net Watcher program.

Once Net Watcher has been installed on your system, you can access it by going to the Start menu and clicking Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Net Watcher. When Net Watcher starts, you can monitor a remote PC by selecting Select Server from the Administer menu. Net Watcher will ask for the name of the remote machine. Enter it, and click OK. Windows 98 will connect to the remote machine, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E
Net Watcher can see which machines are connected to the remote machine’s share points.

In this Daily Drill Down, we showed you how four tools—Registry Editor, System Policy Editor, System Monitor, and Net Watcher—allow you to use Windows 98 to remotely administer other Windows 98 machines. They work with the Remote Registry Service and user-level access that we discussed in part one of this series.

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance technical writer and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. If you’d like to contact Brien, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail he receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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