SCCM 2012 Right-Click Tools – Part 3: Alternatives

In Part 3 in this series about the Configuration Manager 2012 Right-Click Tools, I will explore a few alternative right-click extension utilities, and some that work outside of the Configuration Manager Console.

David Stein By David Stein - Tue, November 27, 2012 - 0 comments google+ icon

David is an author and consultant, working for Endurance IT Services in Virginia Beach, Virginia, specializing in Microsoft enterprise systems and Business Process Automation.

In Part 1, I discussed the need for custom extensions to expand the functionality of Configuration Manager, and I reviewed the latest version of “SCCM Right-Click Tools” by Rick Houchins.

In Part 2, I explored what the “SCCM Right-Click Tools” can do for Configuration Manager Administrators. I exposed some of the Client Tools and Client Actions features, along with some caveats to be aware of.

ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools by Ryan Ephgrave

Like the SCCM Right-Click Tools I reviewed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this article, this set of Right-Click tools, developed by Ryan Ephgrave, offers many of the same “Actions” and “Tools”, for managing client computers as well as Collections of computers. As the name implies, the scripts which are used to perform the heavy-lifting are written in PowerShell.

The ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right Click Tools offer a very similar set of menus as that of SCCM Right-Click Tools. This includes both “Actions” and “Tools” menus for devices and for Collections. But it also provides a “Console Tools” menu for both devices and Collections, which contains some features found under the Client Tools menu in other extensions, but separates them into this group by itself. It also provides a few unique items such as “Show Collections”, which enumerates all the Collections, of which the selected device is a member.

ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools - Client Actions menu

ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools – Client Actions menu

ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools - Client Tools menu

ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools – Client Tools menu

ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools - Console Tools menu

ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools – Console Tools menu

ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools - Collection-related menus

ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools – Collection-related menus

ConfigMgr Console Extensions

Another alternative to SCCM Right-Click Tools are the ConfigMgr Console Extensions (formerly “SCCM Console Extensions”), developed by Dan Ireland (download link). I actually prefer this variant over the others because of the broad scope of features and options that allow you to customize it more easily.

This set of utilities offers all of the same capabilities as both SCCM Right-Click Tools and ConfigMgr 2012 PowerShell Right-Click Tools. It also offers some interesting features which are unique, such as:

  • Generate New ConfigMgr GUID
  • Discover and Assign Site Code
  • Clear Client Cache
  • Refresh Group Policy
  • Abort In Progress Reboot/Shutdown
  • (3) “Custom Browser Based Management Link” items

The last item above is the one that caught my attention. I had been hacking the XML files and adding my own scripts in order to customize the SCCM Right-Click Tools extensions. There’s really nothing wrong with that approach, if you have the desire and the time, but if you just want to get up and running quickly, this extension might be the one for you.

The download is in a .ZIP format and contains two files: setup.exe and ReadMe.txt.

The same process is used as when installing the others: Close the Configuration Manager Console, launch the installer using “Run as Administrator” and follow the prompts to complete the installation.

Standalone Alternatives

You don’t have to extend the Configuration Manager console in order to achieve a lot of the capabilities described above. There are standalone utilities that can perform many of the same functions.

SCCM Client Center

One well-known standalone utility is the SCCM Client Center, by Roger Zander. For an in-depth review of SCCM Client Center, check out this article by Jose Sanchez on 4sysops. SCCM Client Center can be downloaded from SourceForge.

When you open SCCM Client Center, it will display a small splash form with the application version and author information, then it opens the main screen (shown below). From here you connect to a remote client from the upper-left textbox, allowing you to perform most every function you would need to manage. You can also view status messages, running processes, and initiate various diagnostic and repair tasks.

SCCM Client Center - Client Actions menu

SCCM Client Center – Client Actions” menu

The “Client Actions” menu allows you to initiate all of the actions available from within the ConfigMgr client…

SCCM Client Center - Tools menu

SCCM Client Center – Tools menu

The “Tools” menu offers some useful and interesting features, such as getting App-V client and log information. The “Warranty” item is rather interesting, but only if you are connected to a Dell computer, where it can collect the Dell Asset Tag and query for its warranty information.

SCCM Client Center - Inventory Actions sidebar item

SCCM Client Center – Inventory Actions sidebar item

The “Inventory Actions” sidebar item opens a panel (shown below) with tabs to query various properties of the remote computer, such as Add/Remove Programs, Security Patches, DCM compliance, Inventory Classes, and more.

SCCM Client Center - Inventory Actions

SCCM Client Center – Inventory Actions

SCCM Client Actions Tool (aka. SCCM CAT)

This is another standalone utility for managing ConfigMgr clients. Developed by Christjan Schumann, it is written as an HTA package which contains most of the script code to perform the heavy-lifting. One of the cool things about HTA apps is that if you don’t like the interface design, or style, you can edit it to your liking (I recommend you create a backup copy first!). You can download SCCM CAT from Codeplex at http://sccmcat.codeplex.com. Christjan has since moved away from the Configuration Manager world, so this project is not likely see much change going forward.

SCCM Client Actions Tool

SCCM Client Actions Tool

System Center Configuration Manager 2012 Toolkit

Finally, I can’t wrap this article up without mentioning the ConfigMgr 2012 Toolkit from Microsoft. This is the latest in the evolution of the old “SMS Toolkit” which has continued to follow the course of SMS, Configuration Manager 2007 and now 2012. Some of these are well-known and simply updated for Configuration Manager 2012, while others are new to the toolkit. After installing this toolkit, you will see a new program group on the Start Menu, but not all of the tools are shown here.

System Center Configuration Manager 2012 Toolkit

System Center Configuration Manager 2012 Toolkit

Client tools

  • Client Spy – Client Spy (CliSpy.exe) provides client information about software distribution and inventory.
  • Deployment Monitoring Tool – The Deployment Monitoring Tool (DeploymentMonitoringTool.exe) is a GUI utility for helping you diagnose issues relating to application deployments, updates and baselines.
  • Policy Spy – Policy Spy (PolicySpy.exe) provides features to view and help troubleshoot issues relating to policy retrieval and evaluation on a given client.
  • Power Viewer Tool – The Power Viewer (powervwr.exe) tool provides information on the status of power management features on a given client
  • Send Schedule Tool – The Send Schedule Tool (sendschedule.exe) allows you to trigger client actions remotely. Any of the available (enabled) Actions on a given client can be invoked using the corresponding action code and the name of the remote computer.
Server tools
  • License Tracking PowerShell Cmdlets – The ServerTools folder within the installation contains a couple of DLLs and XML files along with a PowerShell PSD1 code library to provide additional capabilities for viewing and tracking licenses. You will need to do a little configuration in order to start using the cmdlets, but not much really. You may want to set the ExecutionPolicy to “unrestricted” first, but otherwise, you simply import the module “ConfigMgrCALTracking.psd1″ into your PowerShell scripts in order to leverage the additional cmdlets. For help, enter “get-help Get-ConfigMgrAccessLicense -detailed”
  • Security Configuration Wizard Template for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager – (that’s a long name indeed!) This is a DLL (ConfigMgrSCWHelper.dll) that provides a MMC console add-in for evaluating and reconciling the security baseline of your ConfigMgr Site Servers. It’s built for Windows Server 2008 R2 systems, but it may be updated with SP1 for Windows Server 2012.
  • Role Based Administration Modeling and Auditing Tool – The Role Based Administration Modeling tool (RBAViewer.exe) allows you to model and audit Role-Base Administration (RBA) security roles and scopes. This is somewhat similar to what the Group Policy Modeling feature does for Active Directory administrators.
  • Run Metering Summarization Tool – The RunMeterSumm tool (runmetersumm.exe) allows you to initiate the Metering Summarization process on a Primary Site server, rather than waiting for the scheduled time.

So, while technically these are not all akin to “SCCM Right-Click Tools”, there is some overlap, and then some.

Conclusion

This wraps up our look at various functional extensions to the Configuration Manager 2012 console features. Microsoft has indeed provided an incredibly robust and capable out-of-the-box solution to most of our needs. But it looks like no matter what vendors are able to produce, their customers will find things to enhance the base product to suit their needs. The best part of this continual pursuit of greater capability is that we call benefit from the results.

-1+1 - Rate this post
Loading ... Loading ...
Your question wasn't answered? Ask in the new 4sysops forum!
===Leave a Comment===

Login

Lost your password?