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Get a grip on your infrastructure with a custom MMC

Microsoft provides great administration tools, such as PowerShell and Server Manager. But don't neglect the venerable Microsoft Management Console for its flexibility.

The Microsoft Management Console (MMC) is an excellent tool to manage services on the local system. However, you can improve its efficiency by creating custom consoles that contain the tools -- commonly called snap-ins -- you need for daily tasks. The snap-ins work on local and remote systems, giving you a single console with access to the information you need most.

I knew about custom MMCs as a Microsoft Certified Trainer, but it wasn't until I worked as a systems administrator that I could put one into practice. I spent my days managing Active Directory, DNS and multiple file servers. I also reviewed log files for several Windows Server systems regularly. I built a custom console to make it easy to access all the services I controlled.

How to start building a custom MMC

The advantage of a custom console is that it provides a single interface to access all your daily administrative tools.

To start building one, think about how you spend your days interacting with Windows Server. Are you mainly responsible for network services, such as DNS and DHCP? Are you an Active Directory administrator? Do you spend a lot of time managing Group Policy settings? Create a general list of the Windows components you manage and the servers where these services reside.

Install the Remote Server Administration Tools

Depending on your local Windows system, you may not have all the necessary snap-ins installed. Most workstations will never be used to manage a global Active Directory environment. Based on this, Microsoft doesn't install all the snap-ins on all client systems. You might need to install the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) on your local workstation to use the required snap-ins.

Suppose your desktop administrative system is a Windows 11 system. Use the following steps to install RSAT:

  1. From the Settings menu, select Apps then select Optional Features.
  2. Under Add an optional feature, choose View Features.
  3. Type "RSAT" in the search menu.
  4. Check the box for each snap-in you want to install.

For those who prefer PowerShell, open an elevated PowerShell console and run the following command to display the installed snap-ins.

Get-WindowsCapability -Name RSAT* -Online | Select-Object -Property DisplayName, State

Type the following PowerShell command to install the DNS snap-in.

Add-WindowsCapability -Online -Name Rsat.Dns.Tools~~~~

Once the necessary snap-ins are available on your system, you can create your custom console.

From the Run menu, type "mmc" to open a blank console. It resembles standard pre-configured consoles, with a window pane on the left, a larger one in the middle and an Actions pane on the right. It also includes options to manage snap-ins.

Chances are, most of what you do daily is not on the local system but on remote servers. However, it makes sense to begin with the local system.

From the File menu, select Add/Remove Snap-in. A long list of available snap-ins appears. You can choose one to view a description of it.

MMC snap-ins
Customize the MMC by adding extensions.

Start by adding the snap-ins for Device Manager and Computer Management. When you select Computer Management, a window will open to ask whether you want to connect to the local computer or another computer. Select the local computer option and click Finish. Choose OK in the Add or Remove Snap-ins window.

Some of the typical snap-in choices for a server admin include Disk Management, Event Viewer, Local Backups, Local Users and Groups, and Task Scheduler. Adding any of these services gives you a way to manage them from this one console and saves you from having to browse Server Manager or the Administrative Tools menus for each console.

You now have a custom console that offers interfaces you regularly use to interact with the local machine. However, the real value comes from a single MMC that connects to multiple remote servers.

How to set up MMC snap-ins to manage remote servers

It's a similar process to add consoles that point to remote servers. For example, if you manage DNS and DHCP on one or more remote servers, then it would be handy to connect to these devices through your custom console. Otherwise, you would have to remotely connect to each server.

Add the DNS console to connect to and manage the service on the DNS server. You could also add DHCP, Active Directory or even Event Viewer consoles. I had an Event Viewer snap-in for each remote server I managed, which made them available in one console. This was far easier than establishing remote connections to these servers one at a time.

How to save your custom MMC

You must save the console to have it ready to use. Select the File menu in the console window and choose Save. The interface will prompt you for a location. Choose your desktop for now and give the console a logical name.

You could create a few custom consoles organized by task. For example, perhaps you want a single console for all Active Directory tasks with a separate console for Event Viewer or file management.

Take a few minutes to consider the services and servers you manage daily, and see whether a custom console would make your tasks more efficient.

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