Five tips for creating custom MMCs for administrative tasks

Building your own management consoles lets you consolidate the tools you routinely use so you can streamline your admin chores. Here are a few pointers for creating helpful MMCs.

Microsoft provides a number of administrative tools for Windows, but it can sometimes be helpful to create your own management consoles. In this article, I will share five tips for getting the most out of your custom MMCs.

1: Think about the tasks you perform most often

Creating a custom management console involves the use of one or more snap-ins. When deciding which snap-ins to use in your console, think about the types of tasks you perform on a regular basis. For example, suppose that you were in the habit of setting up the Windows firewall and then checking the Event Viewer for any firewall-related events. In that type of situation, it might make sense to create an MMC that combines the Windows Firewall snap-in with the Event Viewer snap-in. That way, the tasks you normally perform in sequence are all grouped within a single console.

2: Avoid creating consoles that could cause confusion

As you create custom management consoles, I recommend that you structure them in a way that avoids any potential confusion. For instance, there is no way I would create a single console that manages both the local security policy and the domain security policy. I know for an absolute fact that if I had such a console, I would constantly be making changes to the wrong policy.

Of course, this is just an example of a custom console that probably wouldn't work well for me. I'm sure that most of you are less scatterbrained than I am and wouldn't have much trouble with the console that incorporates both the local and domain security policies. Even so, my point remains the same. If you think that grouping certain types of snap-ins could potentially lead you to make mistakes, you shouldn't do it.

3: Pick the extensions you need

Many of the snap-ins that are available for use within a custom management console contain multiple extensions. An extension is really nothing more than a unit of functionality within the snap-in. What's nice about extensions is that they can be enabled or disabled to achieve exactly the functionality you need from your console.

A perfect example is the Resultant Set Of Policy snap-in. It's made up of about a dozen extensions, all of which can be individually enabled or disabled. This makes it possible to create a Resultant Set Of Policy console that shows only your security settings. Likewise, you could create a Resultant Set Of Policy console that shows you everything but scripts. You can enable and disable extensions in any combination that meets your needs. Keep in mind, however, that not all snap-ins use extensions.

4: Use hierarchies for large consoles

Normally, when you create a custom management console, all the snap-ins you add are grouped beneath the Console Root. This works fine for smaller consoles, but if you are creating a large or complex console, it might be advantageous to group the snap-ins according to function.

The Add Or Remove Snap-ins screen contains an Advanced button. Clicking this button enables the Parent Snap-in function, which lets you choose another folder or even another snap-in to act as the parent for other snap-ins. Doing so makes it possible to group snap-ins in a hierarchical manner.

If you're going to be creating a large snap-in, I recommend creating a series of folders and grouping related snap-ins within common folders. Once you've added all the necessary snap-ins and Windows displays the console, you can rename your folders to convey the purpose of each one.

5: Build task-related consoles

Sometimes, it might be helpful to create a custom console that performs a specific management function, but for multiple computers. For instance, when you add the Event Viewer snap-in to a console, Windows will ask whether you want to manage the local computer or a remote computer. By using multiple instances of the Event Viewer snap-in, you can create a console that shows the event logs for several different machines. Of course, I am just using the Event Viewer snap in as an example. There are several snap-ins you can use to manage remote machines.

Bonus tip: Save your changes

Even though this is supposed to be a list of five tips, I wanted to throw in an extra one: Don't forget to save your custom console once you have created it. Setting up a console can involve a bit of work, and I can't tell you how many times I have accidentally closed a newly created console without saving it first.