It's time to upgrade again. No, I'm not talking about moving from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000 (Win2K)—I'm talking about the Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit Supplement 4. If you can get it free (you might already have it), this supplement is a deal. If you need to pay for it, well, you might want to see what it contains and decide for yourself.

Supplement 4 combines many tools and enhancements that you can download for free (if you're patient—some of these things are big) or buy (for only shipping and handling charges) from Microsoft. The supplement includes the Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK), as well as the client-side components for Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM—I'll explain later why WBEM is important.) The Supplement 4 CD-ROM also includes Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 5.0 and several add-ons (IE Web Accessories) that offer added IE functionality, such as the ability to zoom in on a graphic while browsing and to open a frame in a new window. In addition, the CD-ROM version offers a new drawing program (Intergraph's Imagination Engineer LE) and a security program called System Scanner.

The heart of any resource kit supplement, however, is the utilities. So, what do you get in Supplement 4? You get all the old utilities, of course—some of which Microsoft has updated a bit. For example, the supplement updates Netdom yet again (my testing showed that Netdom still works as advertised). With Supplement 4, Microsoft also maintains its liberal license policy for the resource kit utilities: Buy one copy of the supplement, and you can put the utilities on every machine at your geographical location. (Is the building across the street a different geographical location? That's a question for the lawyers, I suppose.)

The best part of Supplement 4, however, is its 62 VBScript files. These scripts let you perform an amazingly wide range of tasks: query a remote computer for its processor type, BIOS information, or just about any other hardware information; change a file's owner; use a different user account to run a command; kill a process; list user information; shut down a remote machine; and complete a few dozen other tasks.

But the real value of these scripts isn't so much in what the scripts do as in what they demonstrate. You can use existing NT commands or resource kit tools to do almost everything Supplement 4's VBScript files can do. But the existing commands and tools consist of compiled programs whose source code lives somewhere in Redmond, and most of us administrators aren't C-savvy enough to whip up some C code to emulate those functions. However, almost all of us can learn a bit of VBScript. Looking at and following or modifying an example script is a good way to learn, and Supplement 4's scripts can help you build some useful system utilities even if you don't know C.

Earlier, I promised to explain why WBEM is important. Most of the supplement's VBScript files will work not only on the local machine but also on any remote machine, and most of the scripts let you specify usernames and passwords with the privilege to perform the scripts' administrative functions. A remote machine will be deaf to the scripts' commands, however, if the remote machine isn't running Supplement 4's WBEM code.

Have I convinced you to buy the supplement? Before you do, check your pile of TechNet CD-ROMs because you might already own it. If you have a CD-ROM labeled Windows NT 4.0 Resource Kit Utilities and dated September 1999, pop the CD-ROM into your CD-ROM drive and congratulate yourself on subscribing to TechNet. Otherwise, go to http://mspress.microsoft.com/books/3628.htm to find out how to buy Supplement 4. (This URL was valid at press time, but Microsoft frequently reorganizes its Web sites, breaking URLs along the way. If the URL doesn't work, go to http://mspress.microsoft.com and search on Resource Kit to find Supplement 4.) At almost $50, Supplement 4 might be a questionable value, but if you want to learn more about building powerful VBScript files, you just might think the supplement is worth the price.