Can you say 'MMC?' That means manageability in Windows 2000

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Welcome to the debut of ITworld.com, and thanks for stopping to check out my column. My charter is to discuss Windows 2000 features, issues, tools, and strategies as they pertain to server-based platforms (i.e., Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server). Thus, I will often highlight a feature and describe how to realize its potential. At times I may take a broad topic and spread discussion of it over several columns in order to provide more in-depth technical discussion on that particular topic. But the key thing to remember is that this column is about two things -- Windows 2000 and servers. I may occasionally get into Windows 2000 Professional issues, but generally only when they relate to issues of enterprise administration or to ways in which the product relates to Windows 2000 Server features, problems, or issues. With those prefatory remarks out of the way let's dig in.

If you haven't been privy to the Windows 2000 beta code or you were just too busy to install any of the betas or release candidates that you did receive, then you might be a little surprised when you actually do attempt to install the product for the first time. While the lengthy install might catch you off guard, the chief obstacle you'll likely encounter will be the difficulty in instantly mapping Windows 2000 management tools to their Windows NT 4.0 counterparts.

There are some real differences between Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, particularly in regards to where Microsoft has decided to place management tools. Thus, in my first few columns I will help you find the Windows 2000 administrative equivalents to the tools that you may be used to from Windows NT Server 4.0. These initial columns will serve as overviews, but I will further discuss some of these tools in future installments.

Management is a snap-in

This week, I'll give you a general description of the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), the basis for most of the administrative tools in Windows 2000. I'll also introduce the Computer Management console, and outline the tools that provide functionality equivalent to Windows NT 4.0's User Manager for Domains utility.

Administration in Windows 2000 can be best described in three words: Microsoft Management Console. MMC (formerly code-named Slate) actually shipped with various Windows NT 4.0 add-ons, such as the Windows NT 4.0 Option Pack. MMC is a generic and extensible administration console that hosts application-independent ActiveX controls as administrative snap-ins. MMC has been enhanced for Windows 2000, but its basic structure -- an administration console based on snap-ins -- has not changed.

Most Windows 2000 administration facilities are written as MMC snap-ins. You can customize your management interface by creating your own MMC-based collections; but let's start our discussion with the features that Microsoft has put in the box.

One of the core MMC collections that Microsoft provides in Windows 2000 is the Computer Management console. You can access the Computer Management console by going to the Start menu and selecting Programs, Administrative Tools, Computer Management, or by right-clicking on the desktop's My Computer object and selecting Manage from the resulting pop-up menu. Computer Management will give you access to most common administrative functions, such as managing hardware device drivers, network files shares, and services.

This last item -- services -- is one to remember. If you don't, you'll waste your time looking for it in the Services applet from the Control Panel; Microsoft has removed it from this familiar location. Instead, look in Computer Management, or in the Start menu under Programs, Administrative Tools, Services.

You can also use the Computer Management console to connect to other Windows 2000 machines for remote management capabilities. However, certain functions, such as device driver management, can only be viewed in read-only mode on remote machines.

Where to find Users

One of the most popular tools for Windows NT 4.0 administrators, for obvious reasons, is User Manager, because the tool is used to manage user and group accounts and set user-based policies on Windows NT machines or domains. But you won't find User Manager in Windows 2000. Instead, there are two different tools available for creating accounts, depending on whether you are creating users accounts on a stand-alone or member server, or creating accounts within a Windows 2000 domain based on Active Directory.

For stand-alone or member servers, Microsoft has moved account management to the Computer Management console. You will find this feature under System Tools, Local Users and Groups. For managing accounts in Active Directory domains based on Active Directory, you will use the Active Directory Users and Computers console (Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Active Directory Users And Computers).

In Windows NT 4.0, User Manager handles a few other tasks beyond typical account management. These include account policies, auditing, machine-specific user rights, and trust relationships with other domains. Three of these functions -- account policies, user rights (now termed local policies), and auditing -- are now managed with the Local Security Policy console (Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Local Security Policy) or, when you need to manage policies for a Windows 2000 domain, the Domain Security Policy console (Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Domain Security Policy). Trust relationships, however, can be managed with the Active Directory Domains and Trusts console (Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Active Directory Domains and Trusts) found on Windows 2000 domain controllers.

Backward compatibility

If you still need good old User Manager to manage your Windows NT 4.0 infrastructure from a Windows 2000 machine, you can install the Windows 2000 Resource Kit. Both the Server and the Professional Resource Kits contain a copy of User Manager. However, User Manager is only available for backward compatibility and it can't be used to administer Windows 2000-based domains.

If you're familiar with Windows NT 4.0, you will find quite a few other changes in Windows 2000, but this overview should give you a bit to start with. In my next column, I'll highlight a few more differences in Windows 2000's administrative toolset; I'll help you find the functional replacements for Server Manager and Disk Manager, and discuss general changes to networking configuration.

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