Some days ago, I blogged about the free tool AvancedRemoteInfo. LanHelper from Hainsoft is a similar tool, but it is not free. However, US$ 69.95 is not much considering that it is much more powerful than ARI.
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The focus of LanHelper, however, is not on gathering information about computers, but on basic remote management tasks such as Wake-On-LAN, Remote Shutdown, user and user group management, remote execution, shares and open files management, services control, and user notifications.
LanHelper supports several ways to find computers. You can scan the LAN, scan IP ranges, and scan in domains and workgroups. The tool only finds computers that are currently online. But you can save the list of found computers. It would be nice if LanHelper were able to access Active Directory to gather the computer list.
LanHelper uses the task scheduler to perform tasks remotely. Therefore, the task scheduler service has to be running on the machines you want to manage. This is the default setting in Windows, but some admins disable it for security reasons.
It is possible to perform a certain task on multiple computers. For this, you have to select the machines with the mouse in the scan result by holding the control key. A right-click opens the context menu with all available commands. Selecting a command will bring up a pop-up window with further options. It lists the IP addresses of all selected computers; I would prefer to see computer names here, but it is only possible to change this default setting for the execute command.
In my view, the remote execute feature is the best part of LanHelper. You can specify the credentials which LanHelper will use to logon to the remote machine and you can schedule the execution of the command. The executable has to be available on the remote machine. If it is not yet there, you can tell LanHelper to copy it to system32 of the remote system. Another option is to launch the command via a network share, for example NETLOGON, which can be accessed by all domain computers.
LanHelper comes with several useful predefined commands (see the screenshot for a complete list). For example, you can lock the mouse and the keyboard, logoff the user, or open the CD-ROM drive of the remote computer. The latter could be useful if you want to impress the pretty secretary next door. You can also use LanHelper to send her a message to apologize and to invite her for lunch. 😉 I suppose this feature won’t convince your boss to let you buy the tool. But perhaps the fact that you can use LanHelper to reset all local administrator passwords is more convincing.
The users dialog offers four different actions: view, create, delete, membership, reset password. The view command retrieves the user databases from all selected computers. You can then perform user-related tasks on a single computer. The other three actions can be executed on multiple computers. For example, you could create a new user on all computers and assign it to the local administrators group. The other functions of LanHelper work similarly. For instance, the services command allows you to carry out common service-related tasks on multiple machines.
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LanHelper works fine on Vista, but some features are not supported: screenshots, lock mouse / keyboard, and send messages. All in all, I find LanHelper a very useful tool. The scripting guys might object that you can do all these tasks with a PowerShell program. But I think a self-written script costs your company a little more than $69.95 if you take into account the time you need to do all the programming yourself.