Data Centers

SolutionBase: Administer Windows Server 2003 from your XP workstation

Tired of running back and forth between your office and the server room to do things on your Windows Server 2003 network? Here's how you can load network administration tools on your Windows XP workstation.

Windows Server 2003 comes with some very rich and powerful network administration tools. Using them, you can configure your server to do just about anything. The downside to these tools however is that you must be sitting in front of your server to use them, or at the bare minimum connected remotely to the server. This can be slow and cumbersome, making it difficult to quickly accomplish needed tasks.

Fortunately, using the built-in tools that come with Windows Server 2003, you can run the administration tools directly on a workstation. All it takes is loading some tools from your Windows Server 2003 CD - ROM. Here's how it works.

Author's Note

For the purposes of this article, I'll be installing the Support Tools that come with Windows Server 2003 Small Business Edition. The version of Windows Server 2003 you're using may vary slightly, but essentially will work the same way.

Getting started

First, make sure that your administration workstation is running Windows XP Service Pack 1 or later. If you're using Windows 2000 Professional or Windows 9x for an administration workstation, you're out of luck.

Next, you'll need to find your original Windows Server 2003 CD - ROM. Put it into the Windows XP workstation that you're going to use for your administration workstation. Drop to a command prompt and change drives to your CD - ROM. At the command prompt type

msiexec /i x:\i386\adminpak.msi

and press [Enter] where you replace x: with the drive letter for your CD - ROM drive. If the installer doesn't start right away, check the I386 directory on the CD - ROM for the ADMINPAK.MSI file. If it's not there, you may need to switch CDs. For example, in Windows Server 2003 Small Business Edition, the necessary file is on Disc 1.

When the files install, you'll see a typical Windows installation screen appear. There aren't any gotchas to worry about. Just follow the onscreen prompts to install the tools. When everything's done, just click Finish.

Using the tools

After you click Finish, you can start using the tools. No reboot on the administration workstation is necessary. Before you start using the tools however, you still may need to logoff and log on to your network. Make sure you've logged into the workstation with a user that has Domain Admin rights on the network. You may need other rights as well depending on what you want to do on the network. In any case, the user will need the same rights on the administration workstation as they'd need to do the same tasks at the server itself.

You can find the tools by clicking Start | All Programs | Administrative Tools. In the folder, you'll find the following new tools in addition to the standard ones from Windows XP shown in Figure A.

Figure A

You'll find these new tools in your Administrative Tools folder.

As you can see, just about anything you can do from your server can now be done from your workstation in the comfort of your office (or cubicle as it may be). For example you can run such tools as:

  • Active Directory Users And Computers
  • Active Directory Sites And Services
  • DHCP Manager
  • DNS Manager
  • Terminal Services Manager
  • Cluster Administrator

These tools run the same way on your workstation as you're used to from your server. You may notice a slight lag running the tools because the utilities have to access your server over the network, which naturally will be slower than running them directly on the server itself.

When you use some of the tools, you may be prompted to connect to a computer as seen in Figure B. Make sure you connect to the name or IP address of the server you want to manage. Don't select This Computer. Because you're using an administration workstation, the necessary services won't be there and you may become confused.

Figure B

Make sure you connect to the proper computer.

Some new tools

You may notice in the list some tools that don't appear on your server itself. These tools are:

  • Active Directory Management
  • Public Key Management
  • IP Address Management

These tools are called Convenience Consoles and are actually administration consoles that cluster together commonly used administration tools. For example the Active Directory Management console, shown in Figure C, groups the Active Directory Users And Computers, Active Directory Domains And Trusts, Active Directory Sites And Services, and DNS Manager utilities in one place.

Figure C

Convenience Consoles group commonly used tools together.

The IP Address Management console shown in Figure D consolidates the DHCP Manager, DNS Manager, and WINS Manager. You'll need these utilities to administer IP services on your network.

Figure D

The IP Address Management helps you administer TCP/IP on your network.

Finally, the Public Key Management console, shown in Figure E groups together the Certification Authorities, Certificate Templates, Certificates For Current User, and Certificates For Local Computer tools.

Figure E

The Public Key Management console helps you administer certificates.

Gain additional power with the Support Tools

After you've gotten used to running administration programs on your workstation, you can also gain some additional power by loading up the Support Tools. First, you'll need to find your original Windows Server 2003 CD - ROM. Put it into the Windows XP workstation that you're going to use for your administration workstation. Drop to a command prompt and change drives to your CD - ROM. At the command prompt type

msiexec /i x:\support\tools\suptools.msi /q addlocal=all

and press [Enter] where you replace x: with the drive letter for your CD - ROM drive. The addlocal switch installs all of the support files on your Windows XP workstation. This will take a little over 10Mb of hard drive space. It's probably the best choice to get the full usage of the tools on your new administration workstation.

If the installer doesn't start right away, check the SUPPORT\TOOLS directory on the CD - ROM for the SUPTOOLS.MSI file. If it's not there, you may need to switch CDs. For example, in Windows Server 2003 Small Business Edition, the necessary file is on Disc 2.

When the files install, you won't actually see a typical Windows installation wizard appear. Your only indication that something's going on is going to be some activity on the XP workstation's hard drive and CD - ROM. You'll also notice a new folder in the Start | All Programs folder called Windows Support Tools.

There aren't any actual programs there, but the support utilities themselves reside in the Program Files\Support Tools folder on your workstation. There are dozens of utilities that increase your support and troubleshooting abilities on your Windows Server 2003 server. Some of the things you'll find include:

  • Acldiag.exe - ACL Diagnostics
  • Clonepr - ClonePrincipal
  • Dsastat.exe - Directory Services Utility
  • Movetree.exe - Active Directory Object Manager
  • Replmon.exe - Active Directory Replication Monitor
  • Dmdiag.exe - Disk Manager Diagnostics
  • Ftonline.exe - Fault Tolerant Disk Mounter

Make sure you're extra careful when using these tools. Misuse may cause you to damage your network. Using specific tools is beyond the scope of this article, but you can find out more about each available tool by checking out the online help.

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