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Windows Server 2003 in a Nutshell

Windows Server 2003 Add-Ons, Part 1

by Mitch Tulloch, author of Windows Server 2003 in a Nutshell
02/24/2004

Remember Windows 95? Remember the headache of administering different versions of the platform on your network? There was version 4.00.950, version 4.00.950A, version 4.00.950B, version 4.00.950B (2.1), version 4.00.950C. Maybe there were more...

Microsoft has a habit of re-releasing existing products with new enhancements added. But with Windows Server 2003 things have changed. Instead of releasing whole new versions, they simply release new bits and pieces as they appear. And there are lots of them, even though the product is only a year old.

Apparently Microsoft has given up on ever getting a product right the first time, and has decided instead to release on schedule and plug the holes later. Some of these bits and pieces should have been included in the release version of Windows Server 2003, and if you haven't installed them yet you're working with an unfinished product.

In this article I'll look at some of these bits and pieces, called feature packs, highlighting several you may find useful if you've begun deploying Windows Server 2003 on your network. In later articles in this series I'll look at other feature packs and tools Microsoft provides to get the most out of Windows Server 2003. See a full list of feature packs available here.

Group Policy Management Console

The first feature pack you should download should be the new Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), an integrated console for managing every aspect of Group Policy. Why? Because the set of tools included in Windows 2000 for managing Group Policy are confusing.

Which Active Directory console should I use to configure a Group Policy Object (GPO)? Am I editing a GPO or a GPO link? How can I tell if the Group Policy settings I'm selecting will do what I expect? The tools for managing Group Policy in Windows 2000 were so confusing that most administrators failed to take advantage of the full power of Group Policy to simplify the management of their networks.

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The GPMC overcomes these problems -- almost. The original version of GPMC had some issues, especially with Resultant Set of Policy (RSoP) reporting, but these have been fixed in SP1 and now you can have a single, integrated tool for managing all GPOs in your forest from one console (Figure 1). The tool isn't perfect -- GPO links are distinguished from GPOs by shortcut icons instead of using the word "links," which would have made more sense -- but it's light years better than the mixed bag of tools included with Windows 2000.

GPMC runs on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, and it lets you manage Group Policy for Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 machines. Note that the SP1 version no longer requires that you have a Windows Server 2003 server license (a Windows 2000 Server license will do). For a quick summary of how to use the GPMC, see Group Policy in Chapter 4 of my book, Windows Server 2003 in a Nutshell.

Figure 1
Figure 1. The new Group Policy Management Console (GPMC).

Remote Control Add-on for Active Directory Users and Computers

I'll call this RCAOFADUC for ease of reference <grin>. This handy little item adds much needed functionality to the Active Directory Users and Computers console by enabling you to right-click on a computer and choose Remote Control to open a Remote Desktop connection to the selected computer (Figure 2).

It works with computers running Windows Server 2003, terminal servers running Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP machines that have Remote Desktop enabled.

All you have to do is download the self-extracting file, run the Setup program (rControl_Setup.exe) once in your forest, and copy the client (rControl.exe) to the %SystemRoot% folder on any remote machines you want to be able to control this way. For more on using Remote Desktop, see the topic Remote Desktop in Chapter 4 of my book Windows Server 2003 in a Nutshell.

Figure 2
Figure 2. RCAOFADUC, or whatever you want to call it.

Shadow Copy Client

Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) is a new feature of Windows Server 2003 that automatically makes point-in-time copies of files in shared folders. This lets users themselves recover documents they've accidentally overwritten or deleted, instead of having to call the support desk and beg a restore from backup (Figure 3). For this to work however, Windows XP and Windows 2000 desktops must have shadow copy client installed and this is the place to get it. For more on working with shadow copies, see Shared Folders in Chapter 4 of my book Windows Server 2003 in a Nutshell .

Figure 3
Figure 3. Recovering a previous version of a file using shadow copies.

Conclusion

The three feature packs I've mentioned here will help you get the most out of your network if you've begun deploying Windows Server 2003 to any extent. In future articles of this series I'll look at more feature packs and tools that can make your life easier as an administrator.

Mitch Tulloch is the author of Windows 2000 Administration in a Nutshell, Windows Server 2003 in a Nutshell, and Windows Server Hacks.


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