Augment Win2K Pro with these essential tools

If you spend any time administering a corporate or home network, you understand the convenience of managing that network directly from your Windows 2000 desktop. All Win2K Server products include an administration-mode license for terminal services and permit IT staff to remotely administer servers. But another common method of network administration is to install a variety of network support tools on a PC running Win2K Professional, then use those tools to accomplish your day-to-day duties. The advantage of this method is that you can administer the network from within the current session—no additional logons are necessary (assuming you have the proper administrative credentials). To configure a basic administrative Win2K Pro workstation that's ready for network support, you need to gather some essential tools from a variety of sources, including the most recent Win2K Pro service pack, the Microsoft resource kits, and specific applications (e.g., Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server).

Start with the Basics
After you install the basic OS and any required user applications, immediately bring the system up-to-date with the most recent service pack. As of this writing, Service Pack 2 (SP2)—available at http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/downloads/servicepacks/default.asp—is the most recent Win2K Pro service pack.

Next, install any hotfixes that remedy post-SP2 security and functionality problems. These hotfixes fall into two categories: critical updates and recommended updates. You can obtain these updates from several places. First, when you use Windows Update to view and install system updates on an individual PC, a listing of all the current updates appears automatically. You can also obtain network-deployable versions of these updates from Microsoft's Windows Update Corporate site at http://corporate.windowsupdate.microsoft.com. (If you'll be deploying updates to multiple systems on your network, downloading from that site is your best route.) Finally, you can download and learn about the most recent critical and recommended updates at http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/downloads/default.asp.

The Win2K Support Tools
After you've sufficiently patched your system, you're ready to start assembling your administration toolkit. First, install the Win2K Support Tools. The Support Tools package contains such Win2K administration standbys as the low-level Active Directory (AD) editor ADSI Edit, the AD-replication monitor Replmon, the AD-replication diagnostics tool Repadmin, and the Win2K domain manager Netdom. The Support Tools are essentially a subset of the tools in the Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit. You can find a full listing of the Support Tools utilities in an HTML Help file called w2rksupp.chm, which is in the main Support Tools folder. Another nice Support Tools inclusion is w2000msgs.chm, a Help file that contains a comprehensive listing of Win2K event and error messages and their meanings.

Microsoft has updated several of these tools since Win2K's release, so be sure to use the version of the tools that the SP2 (or later) CD-ROM contains. If you don't have the SP2 CD-ROM, you can obtain the tools as a separate download from http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/downloads/servicepacks/sp2. If you already installed the original versions of the tools from the Win2K Pro Installation CD-ROM's \support\tools folder, you can download an SP2 Support Tools update patch at http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/downloads/servicepacks/sp2/supportpatch.asp.

After you have the most recent version of the tools, run the setup.exe file (from the SP2 CD-ROM's \support\tools folder), which launches the Windows 2000 Support Tools Setup Wizard. This process installs approximately 19MB of supplemental support tools on your system, into a folder called \program files\support tools. (The system adds this folder to the Path environment variable so that the contained executables are accessible from any currently logged on directory.) The installation also creates a Programs folder on the Start menu called Windows 2000 Support Tools, which contains shortcuts to several of the utilities and the documentation files.

The Support Tools package comes in a Windows Installer (.msi) file, so you can easily automate its deployment to multiple network systems by using Group Policy or other deployment methods to publish or assign it to workstations. If you use msiexec.exe to launch the installation process (e.g., with the msiexec2000rkst .msi command-line utility), you can use several command-line switches to further control the setup process. These switches, which the SP2 CD-ROM's \support\tools folder's sreadme.doc file describes, include the following:

  • /i, which lets you install or configure the Windows Installer package
  • /f, which lets you repair an existing installation
  • /a, which lets you perform an administrative installation to a network server location
  • /x, which lets you uninstall the Windows Installer package

The Support Tools installation process installs the files contained in the support.cab file, which resides in the SP2 CD-ROM's \support\tools folder. However, observant users might notice another .cab file in the same folder: The deploy.cab file contains several tools related to deployment, automation, and customization, including Sysprep 1.1 (which prepares Win2K OS images for deployment) and Setup Manager (which creates unattended answer files). Because these tools aren't included in the Support Tools installation process, you'll need to double-click the deploy.cab file and manually extract them to a folder on your system.

The Win2K Administration Tools
The next batch of utilities you want to have handy on your Win2K Pro system are the Win2K Administration Tools. These tools, which come in a Windows Installer package named adminpak.msi, aren't on the Win2K Pro Installation CD-ROM—you must obtain them from the \i386\system32 subfolder of a Win2K Server installation source (e.g., CD-ROM, network share point). However, as with the Support Tools, be sure to install the most recent version of the Administration Tools. (Both SP1 and SP2 shipped with updated versions of the adminpak.msi file.)

To install the Win2K Administration Tools, simply double-click the adminpak.msi file in Windows Explorer. Doing so launches the Administration Tools Installation Wizard. The system copies the files contained in the .msi file into the \winnt\system32 folder and adds shortcuts that represent the newly installed administration tools to the Start, Programs, Administrative Tools folder.

Think of the Win2K Administration Tools as Win2K-specific versions of the old WindowsNT client­based Network Administration tools. The package includes a variety of tools—in the form of Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins—to help you administer various services and components within a Win2K network environment, including AD, DHCP, DNS, WINS, Routing and Remote Access, and Win2K Server Terminal Services.

Two important components of the Win2K Administration Tools package are the RDP 5.0 terminal services client and the Connect Manager Administration Kit. Together, these two tools provide the capability to manage the majority of a Win2K network's most crucial services.

Unlike the Support Tools, the Win2K Administration Tools package contains no central Help file with descriptions of the included tools. However, as with the server-based versions, virtually all the tools are accompanied by .chm Help files that explain their function and usage. (In most cases, these files have the same name as the utility but end with a .chm extension.)

Final Polishing
Between the Win2K Support Tools and the Win2K Administration Tools, you'll have the majority of the tools you need to perform most of your daily network administration tasks. However, the resource kit contains several additional tools that you might find useful—for example, tools and scripts for administering AD, TCP/IP, security, users, groups, and the registry. For information about the tools that the resource kit contains, visit http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/techinfo/reskit/rktour/server/s_tools.asp.

To round out the configuration of your administrative Win2K Pro system, install any necessary application-specific administration consoles and utilities, such as those provided with Exchange, SQL Server, and any other applications on your network that support remote administration. If you're running an NT domain environment, you might also want to install the latest versions of the client-based NT Network Administration tools, which include Server Manager and User Manager for Domains. (Like their Win2K counterparts, these tools are available on the NT installation CD-ROM, but you'll find updated versions in the NT service packs.)

Remember: If you have local versions of administration tools, you'll need to keep those tools as current as the tools on your network servers. Typically, service pack updates automatically update tools on servers but not on workstations. To update local tools, you'll need to obtain updated tools from service packs and perform a separate installation (or upgrade or patch). Occasionally, Microsoft provides new or updated versions of resource kit tools and Support Tools at http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/downloads/tools/default.asp, so be sure to regularly visit this site to keep your toolkit updated.

You've now perfected your toolkit. Network administration is only a mouse click away.