5 Windows 10 management tools every IT pro must know
With tools such as PowerShell and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, IT can make managing Windows 10 much simpler from deployment through mobile device management.
To lighten their Windows 10 workloads, IT professionals can turn to several tools built into the OS as well as utilities they can add on.
Some of these Windows 10 management tools offer substantial productivity improvements, so IT administrators owe it to themselves to learn more about each.
Deployment Image Servicing and Management
Microsoft's Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) command-line utility is the Swiss Army knife for Windows image inspection, management and manipulation. It includes a raft of PowerShell applets.
IT pros can use DISM for a variety of tasks, including checking image file versions and contents, cleaning up the Windows Component Store, importing and exporting device drivers, and performing operations on Windows image files.
Microsoft Intune and Windows Autopilot
Intune is a cloud-based management tool specifically designed for mobile devices. It's intended to let mobile workers be productive while also protecting corporate data and assets. Intune can:
- Manage the mobile devices users work with to access company data
- Manage the mobile apps users work with
- Provide controls on company data to manage how users access and share it
- Enforce security policy and other compliance rules on devices and apps users work with
Intune integrates with Microsoft Azure Active Directory for identity and access control and with Azure Information Protection for data coverage. If IT uses Intune with Office 365, mobile users can run it on all of their devices, while the organization's information assets remain protected. Microsoft charges for Intune on a monthly, per-user basis.
Autopilot is an Intune extension that lets companies design device configurations and send them to OEMs. Those devices come back ready to build the specified image as they boot up the first time and go through sign-in, authentication and synchronization. Autopilot can reset, repurpose and recover devices as well.
Microsoft Deployment Toolkit
Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) is a collection of Windows 10 management tools, all of which center around deploying Windows to specific devices of IT's choosing.
The MDT helps admins build an automated installation source they can use to deploy Windows operating systems, including Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 and 2019. It works from a single technician machine or a central server that may be running Windows Deployment Services (WDS) or Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager.
MDT lets IT bundle all software for a specific installation -- including OS, drivers, updates and applications -- into a pool of available elements grouped into deployment packages. MDT generates a custom Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE) so that client PCs can install assembled deployment packages over a network. Alternatively, the WinPE disk image can boot from bootable media, or boot using WDS. MDT also supports three different installation modes: Zero Touch Installation, Lite Touch Installation and User-Driven Installation.
PowerShell is one of the most important Windows 10 management tools for efficient IT pros. It has all the power and capability of a full-blown programming language and can run a huge collection of cmdlets -- PowerShell scripts that take input parameters and run as commands at the command line or embedded in scripts.
There are thousands of PowerShell cmdlets and modules available across dozens of categories in the PowerShell Module Browser. Many, if not most, of them are designed to help save time and effort and boost productivity for Windows admins.
Microsoft's System Preparation Tool (Sysprep) is a module within Windows itself that is located in the %Windir%\System32\Sysprep folder. It helps admins and others who wish to deploy Windows on one or more systems.
Once IT pros run initial setup steps on a single PC -- called the reference PC or reference machine -- they can then use Sysprep to prepare that machine for cloning. They can then deploy the image Sysprep creates on as many PCs as they want to without running into security identifier duplication issues that a literal clone would run into.
Making the most of Windows 10 management tools
Becoming proficient with these and other Windows 10 management tools comes down to practice, practice and more practice.
If IT pros put the time in, they'll learn the ins and outs and best ways to apply these tools. And the more they use them, the more useful ways they'll find to put them to work.