The Free Windows Admin Tools introduced in this post are brought to you by the maker of ManageEngine Desktop Central and ManageEngine Mobile Device Manager Plus.
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Timothy Warner

Timothy Warner is a Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management Most Valuable Professional (MVP) who is based in Nashville, TN. Check out his Azure and Windows Server video training at Pluralsight, and feel free to reach out to Tim via Twitter.
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ManageEngine has been in the Windows systems administration game for a long time; their robust product portfolio covers many management scopes:

  • Active Directory management
  • Analytics
  • Application performance management
  • Datacenter, server, and network performance management
  • Desktop and mobile device management
  • IT help desk management
  • Log analysis and security management
  • Solutions for managed service providers (MSPs)
  • Network performance
  • Cloud orchestration and management

Desktop Central is ManageEngine's leading desktop and mobile device management solution. One reason why this toolset is so popular is its native integration with ServiceDesk Plus, ManageEngine's IT help desk ticketing solution. Note that Desktop Central is free for 25 computers and 25 mobile devices and ServiceDesk Plus Standard Edition is completely free.

ManageEngine's Free Windows Admin Tools are completely free as well. Let's have a closer look!

Setting up the tools ^

Go ahead and download the Free Windows Admin Tools from the ManageEngine website. I suggest you install the lightweight installation package (which weighs in at only 5MB) on your Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 administrative workstation.

The Free Windows Admin Tools application appears to be a "garden variety" Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) desktop application. As you can see in the following screenshot, we need to add at least one Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) domain in order to get to "the goods."

The Free Windows Admin Tools interface

The Free Windows Admin Tools interface

After connecting the toolset to at least one domain, your next task is to add one or more servers to monitor.

Were ready to perform local and remote server administration

Were ready to perform local and remote server administration

Testing functionality ^

In a nutshell, let me start by listing some of the "bread and butter" administrative tasks that you can perform on local or remote servers from the Free Windows Admin Tools application:

  • Perform Group Policy updates
  • Force system restarts or shutdowns
  • Join or unjoin the system to/from an AD domain
  • Check laptop battery level
  • View hard disk space
  • Enumerate local user and group accounts, including the currently logged-on user
  • Initiate a wake on LAN request
  • Display system information
  • Browse network shares
  • Obtain a remote command prompt

The Manage Computers node is where you can run each tool against one of your managed server nodes. For instance, in the next screenshot you can see the Remote Command Prompt interface.

Remote command prompt

Remote command prompt

Take a closer look at the previous screenshot and I'll clue you in on what's going on. First, you select a server from your computer list at left. Next, you choose your network management tool (Remote Command Prompt in this case). Finally, you can either run a predefined command from the list, or send in a custom command by typing into the text box.

Being a PowerShell enthusiast, I sent in the command powershell to start a PowerShell console session. Sadly, this didn't work, although I'm not sure, honestly, if the Free Windows Admin Tools utility doesn't support switching from cmd.exe to powershell.exe, or if Windows Server 2016 itself isn't supported yet.

While many of the tools are "view only," you can perform a surprising number of configuration actions with this tool. For instance, clicking the Trash Can icon in the Remote Task Manager view lets you kill processes on local and remote nodes. Of course, your scope of management will depend upon your domain administrative credentials (you're prompted for these creds when you add the domain to the tool).

As another example of this behavior, look at the next screenshot, which shows our ability to remotely manage server hardware in a "Device Manager-like" view.

Remote Device Manager

Remote Device Manager

Most of the ManageEngine Free Windows Admin Tools allow you to export the current view in comma-separated value (CSV) or plain text format.

Arguably, the most powerful feature built into this admin tool set is found on the Manage Network tab. Here we can (a) create logical computer groups; and (b) perform a remote action on all members of the group at once. The possibilities here are:

  • GPO update
  • Restart
  • Shutdown
  • Wake on LAN

The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) ports used by the ManageEngine Free Windows Admin Tools are essentially your standard NetBIOS/universal Plug-and-Play (uPnP) ports:

  • TCP 135
  • TCP 445
  • TCP 5000-5002

Wrap-up ^

Some Windows systems administrators I know may say, "What's the big deal here? I can use Windows PowerShell remoting, or the older remoting technology built into the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) tools. Why should I care about this toolset?"

I suppose that argument is valid, especially for experienced Windows systems admins. From my perspective, the ManageEngine Free Windows Admin Tools are helpful for beginner-to-intermediate-level Windows administrators who need to manage relatively small IT shops with no more than 6-8 servers.

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1 Comment
  1. avatar
    Lindsay - Cybsafe 1 month ago

    Great to see some oversight tools for sysadmins on Microsoft - together with something like Cybsafe, admins can have visibility over internal software management but also staff engagement with preventative cyber security strategies - great marriage!

    Thanks Tim!

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