I was talking with a friend the other day who was describing a recent troubleshooting expedition. He said that while he liked having certain tools such as Device Manager, Event Viewer, and Performance Monitor available as stand-alone tools, he preferred having them all together in Computer Management. He then went on to say that at times Computer Management could become a bit crowded because it contains so many disparate tools. I suggested that he create a custom Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and add only those tools that he needed for that particular troubleshooting operation. He looked at me kind of funny and asked what I was talking about.
I then showed him how to create a custom MMC. Afterward, he said that he wished he had known how to do so a long time ago.
It then occurred to me that while most people are familiar with certain standard MMC tools, such as Computer Management or Device Manager, many are unaware that MMC is actually a shell into which you can insert various tools, which are called snap-ins. In fact, it is actually fairly easy to create custom tools in Windows 7's Microsoft Management Console once you know how to do so.
The shell interfaceTo access the MMC shell, just press [Windows]+R to open the Run dialog box, type MMC in the text box, and click OK. When you do, you'll encounter a UAC and will need to respond appropriately. In a moment, you'll see an empty shell, as shown in Figure A. As you can see, the basic MMC looks familiar -- except that it is empty.
When you first launch MMC, you'll see an empty console to which you can add various tools called snap-ins.
On the right pane is the Console Root, which is simply the first item in what can become an expandable tree-like structure that organizes the tools in your custom console. In the center is the area where the actual tool and its related controls are displayed. On the right is the Actions pane, which will display a list of actions, or commands, that are associated with the tool.
Now that you see what the empty MMC shell looks like, let's take a look at how you can add tools, or as they are called in MMC parlance snap-ins.
Windows 7 comes with a couple dozen snap-ins that you can use to build your custom MMC console. In addition to Windows 7's native snap-ins, other snap-ins from third-party developers can be incorporated into a custom console.
At this point, go ahead and save the console by pulling down the File menu and selecting the Save command. When you do, you'll see a standard Save As dialog box rooted in the Administrative Tools folder. Simply, give the console an appropriate name, such as My Troubleshooting Tool, and click the Save button.You're now ready to begin adding snap-ins to create your custom console. To get started, pull down the File menu and select the Add/Remove Snap-in command. This will bring up the Add or Remove Snap-ins dialog box, as shown in Figure B. This dialog box will be your staging area where you'll compile a list of snap-ins before actually adding them to your custom console.
You'll use the Add/ or Remove Snap-ins dialog box to select those snap-ins that you want to add to your custom console.Simply select a snap-in and click the Add button. When you select a snap-in, you'll see that it is described in the Description panel at the bottom of the dialog box. As you add some snap-ins, you see the Select Computer dialog box, shown in Figure C. In most cases, you'll be creating your custom console on your local computer. However, you can create a console that will allow you to troubleshoot another system on your network.
In most cases, you'll be creating your custom console on your local computer.Once, you have added some snap-ins, you can use the Move Up and Move Down buttons, as shown in Figure D, to reorder the snap-ins. When you're done, just click the OK button.
You can use the Move Up and Move Down buttons to reorder the snap-ins.You'll then see your custom MMC, as shown in Figure E. At this point, pull down the File menu and save your new console. Once you save your custom console, you can access it instantly by clicking the Start button and typing My Troubleshooting Tool in the Start Search box.
Take note that your custom MMC has a Favorites menu, which can come in quite handy.
Be sure and take note that your custom MMC has a Favorites menu, which can come in quite handy. For example, if you are troubleshooting using the Microsoft Office Diagnostics log-in Event Viewer, you can add it to the Favorites menu, thus saving yourself from having to navigate down the Event Viewer tree each time that you want to check it.
What's your take?
Were you aware that you could create a custom MMC? Now that you know how, will you take advantage of this feature? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.