More than a manual

Microsoft Windows NT Workstation Resource Kit and Microsoft Windows NT Server Resource Kit are full of useful information and belong on every administrator's bookshelf. (For a review of the resource kits, see Jonathan J. Chau, "Resource Kit Review," March 1997.) This article does not focus on the volumes of documentation but rather on the tools that come on the CD-ROM packaged with the resource kits. The tools alone are worth the price of the resource kits.

What Is the Resource Kit?
The NT Workstation resource kit includes a thick book--1350 pages--and a CD-ROM. The text of the book is also on the CD-ROM. In addition to a selection of the tools I'll discuss below, the NT Workstation CD-ROM contains the NT client-based administration tools. You can install these tools to administer an NT network from a computer running NT Workstation. The tools include User Manager for Domains, Server Manager, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Windows Internet Name Service (WINS), Remote Access Manager, and Remote Boot Manager. You must install these tools separately; they are not part of the default resource kit installation process.

The NT Server resource kit includes three volumes: Microsoft Windows NT Server Resource Guide, Microsoft Windows NT Server Networking Guide, and Microsoft Windows NT Server Internet Guide. The NT Server resource kit CD-ROM includes the complete text of the three NT Server volumes and the NT Workstation resource kit's book. The CD-ROM includes about 30 utilities that are not on the NT Workstation resource kit's CD-ROM. These utilities include the Browser and Domain monitors, some DHCP tools, and time synchronization utilities, most of which will interest only systems administrators. The CD-ROMs are valuable for those of us who work outside the office and don't want to haul around a suitcase full of manuals. Briefly, the resource kits expand on the information in the NT manuals and Books Online, providing the background you need to troubleshoot and optimize NT systems.

The resource kits include tools that systems administrators and systems engineers can use daily. You might wonder why Microsoft did not include the tools with NT. Well, Microsoft can, and does, market them as an additional product. But other reasons for separating out these tools exist. Not everyone will need them, so the tools would just take up additional disk space on most systems. Many of these utilities do not conform to the standard interface or fit neatly into a category. The Microsoft programmers wrote many of the tools for their own solutions, and the tools became part of the resource kits as other people adopted and applied them.

Most of these utilities have not been through the regression testing that NT has undergone. In other words, watch out for bugs in the code! Microsoft does not guarantee the performance of the tools, response times on support, or bug fixes. But Microsoft supports the tools as time permits and will attempt to provide fixes as needed.

When you install the tools from the CD-ROM, they are grouped in folders. I'll discuss them in the order they're grouped. I used the NT Server resource kit's CD-ROM, so some of the tools might not appear on your system if you install just the NT Workstation resource kit CD-ROM.

Configuration Tools
The first group consists of the configuration tools. With Auto Logon, you can bypass the usual NT logon screen with a default username and password. This utility restricts you to the current username, and you can supply the password. Before you systems administrators go into orbit over this obvious major breach in security, you must know you can do the same thing from the Registry. From the Registry, you can specify the default domain, username, and password, just as you can with Auto Logon. And the password is not encrypted in the Registry. I do not recommend this utility or Registry change in most situations.

C2 Configuration Manager, shown in Screen 1, checks how your system measures up against the C2 security specification. With this utility, you can modify some settings to bring your system into compliance. For example, you can remove the POSIX and OS/2 subsystems, display a logon message that warns off unauthorized users, and disallow blank passwords.

Command Scheduler lets you schedule commands on your computer or any other computer on which you have administrative rights. The commands must be batch or CMD files, which you can set to occur every day or on specific days. This utility is simply a graphical interface for the AT command.

Time Service for NT sets the time of an NT computer accurately from a variety of sources and synchronizes computers over a LAN. The icon in the folder takes you to a document file that describes how this utility works. (For more information about Microsoft's time synchronization utilities, see Tao Zhou, "Time Synchronization in an NT Network," February 1997.)

Time Zone Editor is handy if you live somewhere that does not conform to NT's preset time zones. However, most zones are already covered.

When you add another processor to a single processor computer that has NT installed, apply the Uni to MultiProcessor utility. Do not run the utility if you install it with multiple CPUs in place, because the system finds the CPUs during installation. Run this utility for upgrading.

Desktop Tools
Next, let's review the resource kit's desktop tools. 3D Paint, Animated Cursor Editor, and Image Editor are graphics manipulation tools that you can create (given a little artistic ability) some interesting images with. 3D paint is a 3GL application. With Animated Cursor Editor, you can create those fun, moving cursors that Microsoft introduced with NT. Image Editor handles BMP, icon (ICO), and cursor (CUR) files.

Microsoft Desktops, formerly known as Multidesk, creates multiple desktops so you can work on two or more projects at the same time and keep each on its own desktop. Each desktop shows all the shortcuts and icons of the usual desktop. The only difference is the open applications. To switch from one desktop to another, click the appropriate icon.

Diagnostic Tools
The next folder contains diagnostic tools. Browser Monitor is useful for checking the status of the various browsers on your network. You can see in Screen 2 which computer is acting as the master browser (MDR in this case), and where the backup browsers are (I have only one backup browser, BLACKHAWK, in the example domain). This utility can help you balance the load on your browsers and configure the browsers for best performance and minimal impact on the network.

The Domain Monitor, as Screen 3 shows, lists the domains, the Primary Domain Controller (PDC) in each domain, and the status of links to trusted domains. This utility is useful for tracking down problems with validations and broken trust relationships.

Network Watch is a quick way to look at the resources shared on a specific computer and administer the shares. You can add or drop a share, see who is connected, disconnect users, and connect and disconnect network drives. This utility replicates some of Server Manager's functionality but with a neater interface.

Process Viewer, shown in Screen 4, lets you see what processes are running and how much memory and how many threads the process is taking. You can also kill a process from this dialog box.

Quick Slice is a quick substitute for Performance Monitor. It displays %CPU usage as a bar chart for the currently running processes.

SNMP Monitor monitors any Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) Management Information Base (MIB) variables across multiple SNMP nodes. The monitor also logs the results to an Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) data source.

Disk Tools
Disk tools are also on the CD-ROM. Disk Probe is a sector editor that you can use to edit, save, or copy data on the physical hard disk. With Disk Probe, you can repair damaged partition table information, replace the Master Boot Record (MBR), and repair or replace damaged Partition Boot Sectors. This utility can save the MBR and Partition Boot Sectors as files so that you can replace the MBR and Partition Boot Sectors later if they are damaged. Obviously, you don't use this program unless you have no other alternative.

Fault Tolerance Editor (FTEDIT) lets you create and edit fault tolerant sets for disk drives and partitions. Although you can perform these functions with Disk Administrator on the local computer, FTEDIT lets you set up fault tolerant sets on remote computers. Be aware that FTEDIT edits Registry entries directly.

File Tools
Next, let's review file tools. File and Directory Comparison shows the differences among specified files or folders. Unfortunately it lacks any browse capability, so you have to type in the full path and filename.

File Expansion expands a compressed file or group of files, typically from a distribution CD-ROM, onto your hard disk. This utility is useful for replacing corrupted, deleted, or overwritten files.

Text File Viewer lets you look inside files with an NT Explorer-like split-window interface. This utility is set up to include .html and .c file extensions but not Word or Excel files, confirming that this tool is for programmers.

Internet and TCP/IP Utilities
The next folder includes Internet and TCP/IP utilities. FTP Configuration sets the maximum number of users. You can determine whether to allow anonymous connections and set other FTP variables.

Mail Server (click Install Mail Service on the resource kit menu) configures an NT server (not workstation) as an email provider for intranet or Internet users. With this software, the computer can connect directly to the Internet to send and receive email, and provide user postoffice services. This software raises some security concerns, so read the documentation before you implement it.

IP Configuration is a useful utility that should be in the NT retail product. The tool lists IP data comprehensively, as Screen 5 shows. With this utility, you can quickly check IP parameters with the DHCP and WINS databases. IP Configuration will be even more effective when it can display data for a remote computer. (Are you listening, NT developers?)

NT UUCode is a 32-bit GUI program that encodes and decodes files and applies the UUencoding standard for transmitting files over the Internet. If you use a service such as CompuServe, you need a utility such as this one to encode files from transmission to accounts on other services or Internet accounts.

Management Tools
The resource kit includes a management tools folder. Shutdown Workstation lets you shut down a workstation on the network. This capability can come in handy if a user locks up the workstation with some out-of-control process. Or you can shut down the workstation and reboot after you change parameters, for example.

Setup Tools
Another folder contains setup tools. Windows NT Setup Manager, shown in Screen 6, is hiding in the Setup folder, which you might think is for the resource kit setup. Not so. The Setup Manager helps you create the answer files that you need to install NT without sitting in front of the computer to answer questions.

Other Tools
Several other tools do not have shortcuts in the resource kit folders. You can run these tools from the command line or the Run option in the Start menu.

Use SYSDIFF.EXE to gather information needed to perform an unattended installation of applications software. You can even use it with applications that don't support an install script. Create an NT system snapshot with SYSDIFF. Then install the application, and run SYSDIFF again. It will create a difference file, which includes Registry modifications and any other changes the new application makes. You can use the difference file with the unattended install, or at another time, to install the same application on multiple computers without having to go through the install process. The SYSDIFF documentation clearly warns about configuring the sample computer the same way as the target computers. If you must install software on large numbers of computers, you'll appreciate this utility. SYSDIFF is on the NT CD-ROM but without the documentation. (For a more detailed explanation of SYSDIFF, see Bob Chronister, "Tricks and Traps," May 1997.)

The resource kit has a group of tools for user administration, including utilities to add users and add groups. SHOWACLS.EXE lists access rights for files. The resource kit also has a set of Performance Monitor tools that help stress test your system.

Late-Breaking News
As I was writing this article, Microsoft published a supplement to the NT Server resource kit, Microsoft Windows NT Server Resource Kit, Version 4.0, Supplement One. Microsoft revised the documentation, with extra emphasis on Internet Information Server (IIS) and Internet security. The CD-ROM includes the service packs, and Microsoft improved the utilities with more tools. For more details, see the Microsoft Press Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/mspress. Microsoft Press also is planning a resource kit Web site, which will (for a subscription fee) help you keep up with the latest resource kit information.

You Be the Judge
The resource kits have other useful tools that I can't describe here for lack of space. I hope this article gives you some idea of the tools available in the resource kits so that you can decide whether the kits are a good investment for you and your company.

Microsoft Windows NT Workstation Resource Kit
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Redmond, Washington, 1996
ISBN 1-572-31343-9
Price: $69.95, 1350 pages
Microsoft Windows NT Server Resource Kit
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Redmond, Washington, 1996
ISBN 1-572-31344-7
Price: $149.95, three-volume set
Microsoft Windows NT Server Resource Kit
Version 4.0, Supplement One
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Redmond, Washington, 1996
ISBN 1-572-31559-8
Price: $39.99, 336 pages