The Microsoft Management Console (MMC) is built into Windows to display and group similar tasks in a single view. It comes in a variety of pre-built configurations, or you can create your own. If you find yourself using several Windows management tools to get your job done, creating a custom MMC can make your life a lot easier – putting everything you need right at your fingertips instead of sprawled across one or more desktops.
MMC Basics – Snap-ins and Computer Management
The MMC is basically a container for one or more MMC snap-ins. A snap-in is an administrative view or workspace in Windows that allows you to do a certain task. Think of Event Viewer or the Services pane – these, and similar workspaces, are snap-ins, and you can put as many of them together as you want in a single MMC.
A great example of what a custom MMC could look like is the built-in Computer Management console in Administrative Tools. This console contains the two snap-ins I just mentioned, along with several others. Use this console to start and stop services, view the Windows Event Log, and manage shares, local users and groups, and hardware devices. You can even use the Computer Management console as a starting place for a custom MMC – just open it in author mode, and then add or remove snap-ins according to what you need to get done.
Tip: To open a console in author mode, open a Command Prompt, and then enter the console's file name, followed by /a. For my Computer Management example:
An MMC for Every Role
Whether you manage users and groups, address allocation, or resource name mapping, there's a snap-in for you. The following is a list of some of the MMC snap-ins commonly used by SysAdmins:
- Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC)
- DNS Manager
- Group Policy Object Editor
- Remote Desktops
Note: Some of these options won't be available on all systems, depending on the roles they're configured to support. For example, you won't be able to add the ADUC snap-in to the MMC if you're running Windows 7 until you install Microsoft's Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT).
To add one or more of these snap-ins to a custom console, open the console in author mode, and then select the snap-in from the list provided in the Add/Remove Snap-in dialog (in the File menu). You can even assign a custom parent node if you want to modify the hierarchy of how the console displays your snap-ins. To do that, click Advanced when you're adding snap-ins, and then select the option to allow changing the parent snap-in.
After you create or edit your custom console, be sure to save it for future use. You can either save the console as-is (File > Save), or save the console under a new name (File > Save As).
Connecting to Remote Computers
By default, the MMC connects to the local computer you use to launch it. However, if you want to manage services on another computer, for example, you'll have to specify that computer in the MMC first. To connect to a remote computer, click the Actions menu, and then select Connect to another computer. You can even do this at the command line when you open the console using the argument, /computer=computerName, where computerName is the name of the remote computer.
If you want to connect to several remote systems in a single console view, you'll probably want to check out a third-party remote administration tool. This might also be a good option for you if you don't have the time or technical confidence to create all your custom consoles yourself. DameWare Remote Support, for example, offers most of what you would add to a custom MMC without all the work it would take to make it. View all of your tools in a tabbed interface, and connect to multiple systems without leaving the window. It even includes DameWare Mini Remote Control so you can quickly connect to remote desktops to troubleshoot or administer them in a more hands-on fashion.
So, if you find yourself jumping in and out of several different consoles or remote computers in a given day, try creating a custom console to make your job (and life) a bit easier. Using the tips and tools in this post, you should be up and running in no time, and then you'll have more time to do other things, like reading more posts on Geek Speak.