I am still doing some research about the improvements of Windows Vista with respect to system administration. This post is the first part of a list about Vista's new management tools. I will write another article about this topic soon.
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Vista has several diagnostics tools which can detect problems and help users solve them. Such problems could be failing hard disks, faulty RAM modules, degraded performance or lack of network connectivity. Mitch Tulloch discussed some of the tools. Microsoft has a white paper about this topic.
Performance Diagnostic Console
This new tool includes the performance monitor which you probably know already from XP and it gives you an overview of the computer's resources. There is a new interesting feature called Reliability Monitor. It allows you to keep track of the system stability by calculating a reliability index.
This utility got a major overhaul; most importantly is its event forwarding feature, i.e. the capability to centrally manage multiple event logs from different computers and to run queries across multiple logs. This article at Windows Networking goes into details and has some nice screenshots.
Windows XP SP2 supports about 1,500 Group Policy settings, Windows Vista has 3,000. Some of the new settings are related to new Vista features, for example, Bit Defender, some bring more control over the operating system. For instance, you can now remotely control USB devices using Group Policies.
Another major improvement is the network awareness of Group Policies. In Windows XP, Group Polices were only refreshed after reboots, when the user logged in or in periodic intervals. Now, they are refreshed whenever a network connection is detected.
New is also that replacement of ADM files by ADMX files. The "X" stands for XML. I've read that it is now easier to create templates for Group Polices.
Windows Vista will include the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) which can be downloaded already for a while.