Compared to Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition (WS2K3) offers almost forty new command line tools for administrators to use. Many of the tools available are also available on Windows XP, but this is the first appearance of these tools on the server product line. I'm going to introduce four of these new tools and provide usage examples to help you get a better grasp of WS2K3.
WS2K3 provides clip.exe as a new tool that lets you redirect command prompt output to the Windows clipboard. Administrators have for a long time redirected output to a text file for later manipulation, but this tool allows them to save a step when they simply want to copy the output in order to be able to paste it somewhere else.
Here is a short example of a quick recursive directory search of all files on the C: drive of a server:
C:\> dir *.* /s | clip
With the output being piped to the "clip" command, this puts the entire set of results into the Windows clipboard. You can then paste this into a word processor or another program.
Driverquery.exe allows administrators to view a list of installed device drivers. This command line tool can be run over the network (with proper credentials) and can be used to evaluate various versions of Windows. The example below shows the running of driverquery twice—once for the local machine and once for another Windows 2000 Server on the network. The /v option allows you to run the query in verbose mode. This mode gives more detailed results.
C:\>driverquery /v | clip
C:\>driverquery /s s-rwv-2k /v | clip
This tool is useful because it shows device drivers that are installed, regardless of whether they are in use. I placed the results of these commands into the clipboard (using clip.exe) and then put them into a word processing document. One word of warning: The results can be a little difficult to read because of the width of the columns. A 1280 x 1024 screen is not even enough to cover the full width of all of the columns, which means you'll need to scroll across the screen to look at all of the data.
This will be a useful tool for administrators to run in environments where numerous servers exist. Administrators can use driverquery.exe to check the status of the hardware and can paste the results into a text document that can be searched for suspicious states or contraband devices on various systems.
This tool lets you put custom entries into the Event Viewer. This can be on your local server or another Windows Server 2003 computer on your network. Eventcreate.exe can also send messages to Windows 2000 computers, but because a version of the tool specific to Win2K is not available, there are usually some errors that appear inline in the log.
Now, I will illustrate a simple example to send a message to another WS2K3 computer on my network. I have two WS2K3 computers on the test network. The primary one is S-RWV-NET and the other one is S-RWV-NET-2. From the S-RWV-NET computer, I entered the following command:
eventcreate /s s-rwv-net-2 /T Success /d "Test via LAN to other PC" /id 390
Windows accepted the command and the destination, since the two computers are members of the same domain, and I am logged on as a user with adequate rights for the task. The result looks like this:
SUCCESS: An event of type 'Success' was created in the 'Application' log with 'EventCreate' as the source.
This resulted in an entry into the Windows Event Viewer’s Application Log on the destination machine, as shown in Figure A. Note the highlights showing the result and which computer sent the message.
This tool would be useful to the administrator in circumstances where changes on one server would directly impact another server’s processes, applications, or connectivity. Eventcreate.exe allows you to specify which log the message appears in, the type (success, error, warning, or information), the source for the event, and other options. This could become a valuable tool to log various events of networked computers in the background, using some crafty batch files.
The AT command has been one of the most useful Windows administrator tools through many Windows releases. Windows Server 2003 replaces the AT command with Sctasks.exe, although AT still works. Sctasks.exe introduces many options for the administrator to schedule tasks to run on the server. Some of the new options are:
- Schedule: Administrators now have the option to run scheduled tasks daily, weekly, monthly, or once on system startup, on logon, and on idle.
- Modifiers: There is now more granularity on the recurrence of the scheduled tasks. Options include minute options (1-1439), hour (1-23), day (1-365), week (1-52), month (1-12), or position of day options, such as "first," "second," "third," "fourth," "last," and "lastday."
- Remote Computer: You can run tasks on remote computers and specify credentials to schtasks instead of providing authentication info in the first line of your task (e.g., as part of a .bat or .cmd file).
- Export Schedule: Schtasks allows you to query the scheduled tasks and deliver the results to a specified format such as a list, a table, or a .csv file.
Schtasks offers many other new options as well. There are extensive context-sensitive help parameters offered in the main categories (creating, running, deleting, etc.) of task management. Figure B shows a simple iteration of the tool and a query of the system for all scheduled tasks.
The result of the query was redirected to a text file, which offers a useful collection of information about the scheduled tasks and options for running the scheduled task. Click here to see this text file.
Installing Windows Support Tools
The four tools mentioned above are present from a default installation of Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition. On the Windows Server 2003 installation CD, there are also additional tools located at \SUPPORT\TOOLS\SUPTOOLS.MSI. This installation package represents the Windows Support Tools collection, which contains over 60 command line tools, applications, and VBScripts that can be used to add administrative flexibility to your server. Many of these tools are familiar components of the Windows Resource Kit.
Administrative Tools Pack
Windows Server 2003 also offers the Administrative Tools Pack (as does Windows 2000), which allows administrators to run a collection of domain controller functions from a supported client operating system with appropriate credentials. The installation of this tool is available on the Windows CD at \I386\adminpack.msi. It is also available online from Microsoft.
This version of the Administrative Tools pack will work for both Windows 2000 and WS2K3 products. However, the Windows 2000 Administrative Tools are incompatible with Windows Server 2003. Therefore, if you intend to have any Windows Server 2003 systems, you should update all instances of the Administrative Tools Pack to avoid any compatibility issues.
Comparing versions of WS2K3
With all of the new tools, terminology, features, and deployment scenarios, it can be a little confusing to sort out how the different pieces of WS2K3 work across the various editions of Windows Server 2003. For that purpose, Microsoft has prepared a concise table that lets you view features of WS2K3 across the different editions and have access to descriptions of the features from within the table.
I have been using Windows Server 2003 for over six months in the Customer Preview Program (CPP). The more I use the product, the more I am convinced that it is not a revolutionary release of the server product. It is an extension of Windows 2000 with key added features, including integrated Windows XP interfaces and tools, that administrators will appreciate.
Many Windows NT Server 4.0 users will find this upgrade very attractive for that soon-to-be-unsupported server platform. Generally, I like WS2K3 and I have found that it integrates very well with a Windows 2000 infrastructure.
As the release of the new product looms closer, more details are being provided to aid in deployment considerations. Microsoft has provided a WebCast, PowerPoint presentations, best practices, Active Directory considerations, and more for Windows Server 2003. Pricing was recently announced for WS2K3 as well. The pricing is generally in line with Windows 2000 Server pricing. The new Web Server edition offers a very attractive price tag. Click here for more on WS2K3 pricing.
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.