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What tools do you find useful for remote administration of Windows systems, specifically workstations?

What tools sounded useful that ended up being more trouble than they were worth?

I'm not thinking so much of remote desktop tools (VNC, RDP, etc.), but things that allow you to access, configure, and otherwise manage users' computers without interrupting them.

One utility per answer, please.

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6 Answers

PsTools in general, and PsExec in particular.

PsExec will allow you to run arbitrary programs on the remote computer, including cmd.exe and even powershell.exe. Having a remote command-line login to a Windows machine is great.

Also, winexe is a Unix utility that allows you the same access to a remote Windows machine.

The great thing about these remote access tools is that they require nothing but standard Windows privileges to use. There doesn't need to be any special software installed on the remote system.

That said, I've still found them to be more effective than a lot of utilities that do require a server.

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+1 for winexe. Many admins still ignore linux... –  PEra Oct 10 '09 at 21:26
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I stick with the native AD and Computer Management tools in adminpak.msi. I know that they will be at every site I go to.

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Can you be more specific, please? Are there any notable components of those tools that you find particularly useful? –  wfaulk Oct 7 '09 at 19:55
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Everything in adminpak.msi –  Nick Kavadias Oct 7 '09 at 20:24
    
Pretty much yeah. Everything that comes in adminpak. –  mrdenny Oct 7 '09 at 20:39
    
I've honestly never found those tools very useful for workstation admin. Too often you get a "you can't do that remotely" error, and that's when there's a tool to do what you want. For example, there's no "Add/Remove Programs" in there. –  wfaulk Oct 7 '09 at 21:16
    
Manually using Add/Remove Programs in a managed environment is something I've never seen the need for though ;) ...just remove the deployed package from the policy - and users aren't admins so they can't add anything not deployed via policy anyway? ^^ –  Oskar Duveborn Oct 7 '09 at 21:32
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We use SCCM and PowerShell heavily to manage our workstations. Besides managing software distribution, configurations, and OSD, SCCM is a great remote control/remote assistance tool.

SCCM pricing: at minimum, $579 for the server and $41 per client.

For RD, a couple of us are into VisionApp Remote Desktop which can manage a bunch of RD sessions at once; I recommend it highly.

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My favorite utility is RAdmin by Famatech. My favorite feature is the ability to work behind NAT firewalls. It is mainly a remote control administration tool, but it has different connection "modes" that lets you work with the specific computer in different ways.

There's another tool that I want to try, but haven't yet. It's called Network Administrator by IntelliAdmin. It will let you a lot of stuff in the background, without interrupting your users. These company also has several other useful tools.

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freeSSHd sounded like a great idea until I tried to use it.

It seems to call home frequently, and often errors out on user console login, generating a popup. In order to enable a number of useful features, it requires console interaction, which creates a tray icon that allows users to kill the service. The Windows authentication is a nice feature, but there's no way to allow a Windows group, only individual users.

I eventually discovered that cmd.exe via PsExec works as well, if not better, and I quickly uninstalled freeSSHd.

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Good old Remote Desktops MMC snap-in to access dedicated management servers and similar, allows you to configure up and manage a bunch of RDP connections in one console. It finally got it's own native shortcut with Win7/Server 2008 R2 I think when they renamed Terminal Services to Remote Desktop Services ^^ (earlier you have to manually add it in any MMC)

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