Is it worth your money?

When Microsoft first started shipping resource kits for Windows, the software that came with the resource kits was something of an afterthought. The Microsoft Windows 3.0 Resource Kit came with a few goofy demonstration programs, such as Windows Fishtank, but few system utilities.

By the time the Microsoft Windows NT 3.1 Resource Kit shipped, the package included three books that were worth the resource kit's price and a CD-ROM that was chock full of applications. Most of the applications were utilities that simplified NT administration or software development, but Microsoft didn't make the utilities as useful as they could have been. Microsoft didn't document many of the applications and poorly documented most of the others. Most of the utilities had extremely basic user interfaces (UIs). And most important, Microsoft didn't support any of the utilities. Some of the utilities didn't work, and Microsoft refused to offer customers advice. Nevertheless, many of the NT 3.1 resource kit's utilities were absolutely essential.

When I asked Microsoft representatives why the company didn't support the resource kit applications, they replied that the applications were freeā€”customers paid for the resource kit books, but not the software. That statement was defensible because in those days you could download any of the resource kit utilities for free from Microsoft's FTP site.

That first NT resource kit set the tone for resource kit utilities: a combination of the valuable and the useless, all with quirky documentation, difficult-to-use interfaces, and no support from Microsoft. When NT 3.5's resource kit arrived, Microsoft continued to refuse to support resource kit applications, but the company didn't offer the new resource kit's utilities for free. Apparently, Microsoft realized that the resource kit utilities were valuable, so the company forced customers to buy the resource kit to get the utilities.

The Latest Version
The most recent supplements to the Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit demonstrate that the company no longer considers books to be the only valuable part of resource kits. Neither Supplement Two nor Supplement Three comes with any books. Of course, Microsoft still doesn't support resource kit software.

Supplement Three is a larger-than-22MB file that contains new utilities and all the utilities that previous versions of the NT 4.0 resource kit contained, including updates to some of the older utilities. As far as I can tell, you can buy Supplement Three only by joining Microsoft Press' ResourceLink (http://mspress.microsoft.com/reslink/nt40/toolbox/ download/download.htm) and downloading the file. You can join ResourceLink for $70.

Is Supplement Three worth this price? Probably. The supplement provides some useful new tools, and I've paid $70 for one utility before.

One of Supplement Three's useful tools is a link-checking wizard, which verifies that all your file associations make sense. If the wizard finds a problem with a file association (e.g., if you deleted Microsoft Excel's program files to remove the application and your system incorrectly thinks it can still handle .xls files), the wizard removes the file association. This functionality might not sound important, but I do so much fiddling with my systems that I carry the link-checking wizard around on a disk. I run the wizard as part of my standard preventive maintenance routine on my NT 4.0 workstations.

Another new Supplement Three tool, Typeperf, is a command-line version of Performance Monitor. (For information about Performance Monitor, see Michael D. Reilly, "The Windows NT Performance Monitor," March 1997.) Typeperf regularly generates reports containing the values of Performance Monitor counters and reports those values to Stdout. Performance Monitor generates similar reports, but Typeperf is unique because it gives users a wealth of possibilities for output redirection. And speaking of performance, if you're trying to track down a memory leak, you need Supplement Three's Dotcrash. Dotcrash forces NT to perform a memory dump of a running process.

Finally, Supplement Three includes Windows Scripting Host. WSH has been available for downloading for a while, but if you don't already have the software, obtaining a copy of WSH is another benefit of downloading Supplement Three.

Supplement Three is worth a look. If only Microsoft would support those applications!

Corrections to this Article:
  • This Old Resource Kit: "Supplement Three" states that to get the Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit, Supplement Three, you must join Microsoft Press' ResourceLink and download the file. You can also find Supplement Three on TechNet's Server Utilities CD-ROM (January 1999) under \winnt\reskt4u3\x86\fulntrki.