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Enterprise Windows
Windows NT
Prized Possessions
Microsoft's new NT resource kits are packed with hidden goodies.

-- by John D. Ruley

Ever since its first edition in 1993, the Microsoft Windows NT Resource Kit has been the one accessory I've faithfully recommended to all NT users. For less than $200, it provides outstanding documentation and a wide range of utilities that no NT Workstation power user or NT Server administrator should be without.

For NT 4.0, I have good news and great news about the resource kits (note that it's now plural, since Microsoft offers separate kits for NTW and NTS). The good news pertains to Windows NT Workstation users. The great news applies to NT Server administrators.

Let's celebrate the good news first. A mere $70 buys the new single-volume NT Workstation Resource Kit, including the accompanying CD-ROM (those expecting network tools, however, will be severely disappointed). Full installation of the NTW 4.0 Resource Kit CD takes a whopping 39MB, but that includes material most people won't need, such as the full source code for Perl 5.0 and REXX.

At more than 1,400 pages, the NTW Resource Kit is so hefty it's hard to hold. The text does a pretty thorough job of compressing volumes 1 (NT Resource Guide) and 4 (Optimizing Windows NT) of the old NT 3.51 Resource Kit. New material includes a deployment guide that covers Microsoft's new setup options for NT (such as SYSDIFF.EXE and the notorious OLLBACK.EXE, which, if used improperly, can destroy the NT Registry)

The NTW kit also provides an entirely new section on disk and file system troubleshooting that almost justifies the entire price of the toolkit. Among this section's highlights are documented procedures for recovering NT from a boot-sector virus, modifying the NT partition table and examining disk sectors.

To support these operations, the NTW 4.0 Resource Kit includes a completely new set of disk and file system tools, including a low-level sector and partition editor called Disk Probe, a new disk mapper and a fault-tolerant Registry Editor that lets you modify mirrors and RAID arrays. A DOS-based utility to save and restore critical sectors is also provided.

The fact you resort to DOS-rather than NT-for this last utility is interesting, as is this kit's version of Disk Probe, which lacks a Partition Cracking menu. This makes it less capable than the Disk Probe version that developers received with the unofficially released File System development kit. (Microsoft distributed a prerelease version of that kit at a developer's conference, but never officially shipped it.) Still, the resource kit version of Disk Probe does know enough to decode the partition table, and both NTFS and FAT boot sectors.

Other utilities in the NTW 4.0 Resource Kit include a wide range of POSIX tools, the Perl 5.0 and REXX scripting languages, and administration tools (including enhanced client tools for NT Server and a Windows 95-compatible System Policy Editor). All of these have been updated from versions in past resource kits.

New additions to the NTW 4.0 kit include Desktop Themes ( la the Win95 Plus Pack), an edition of Microsoft TechNet (normally available only as a monthly subscription service for $295 per year) and a difficult-to-use but neat 3-D paint program that demonstrates NTW 4.0's OpenGL support.

There are too many new or updated items in the NTW kit to list all of them, but some of the other standouts include:

An extension to the Addusers command-line program that accepts a comma-delimited file as input; this is useful for administrators who need to set up a large number of user accounts on a batch basis

- Long-overdue tools to delete user profiles and services

- A remote (network) clipboard viewer

- A monitor resolution modifier that negates the need to use Control Panel/Display

- A Service Installer Wizard

An updated SU.EXE utility that lets you start a process while impersonating any user-provided that you have the associated user's security credentials

Documentation on the use of Microsoft's new "Designed for Windows 95 and Windows NT" logo

Developer-centric tools include an API monitor (from the NT development kit), heap monitor, kernel profiler, OLE/COM object viewer and various command-line tools. The hardware compatibility list and other help files (network adapter settings, Registry entries, audit categories and so on) have also been updated.

Since NTW is increasingly used by network administrators, the NTW kit also includes an AppleTalk protocol analyzer, DNS statistics inspector, updated versions of the SNMP MIB compiler and performance MIB viewer, NetTime for Macintosh, Local and Global user group list utilities, tools to monitor (NLMON.EXE) and test (NLTEST.EXE) NTS Domain features, and a new password property-setting tool that lets an administrator require complex, case-sensitive passwords.

Did I mention the Internet tools? They include an EMWAC-to-Microsoft gopher converter (EM2MS.EXE), an ftp service configuration tool, INET.EXE (which works like the command-line NET.EXE, but substitutes DNS names for NT's standard UNC names), and a beta telnet server. Ironically, the telnet server is not limited to a particular number of logged-in users, despite the fact that NTW's license includes a 10-inbound connection limit.

The NT Resource Kit has always offered some interesting tools for end users, and the NTW 4.0 kit continues this tradition. In addition to updated versions of TopDesk and NT Desktops (which allow you to have multiple virtual desktops), a shell extension (LAYOUT.DLL) lets you save and restore desktop icon layouts for multiple desktop arrangements.

Among the Registry tools is a backup utility that can create, read, save, restore, change, delete and secure Registry entries. Even better, the new tools for changing and deleting keys work on remote systems as well as the local machine.

My only complaint is that the NTW kit has less than 100 pages of network coverage.

Serving up NT

The NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit is a superset of the workstation kit, meaning that you don't need to buy the workstation kit if you opt for the server version. The NT Server kit costs $149.95 for a three-volume book set and a CD-ROM. The book set includes a 360-page Resource Guide, an 860-page Networking Guide and a disappointingly lean 200-page Internet Guide, which focuses on Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS)

The NTS Resource Kit CD includes everything on the NTW CD, plus:

- Browser troubleshooting tools

- A report generator that operates on NT event logs

- Microsoft's new dbWeb tool for linking IIS to databases

- DHCP and Domain troubleshooting tools

- EMWAC server CGI gateway scripts

- A new Group Copy tool

- Microsoft's Index Server for IIS

- A new NT version of Microsoft's never-officially-supported KIXstart batch tools

- An updated SMTP/POP3 Internet Mail Server

For more information about the new NT 4.0 resource kits, go to http://www.microsoft.com/mspress.

NT Enterprise arrives

Beginning with WINDOWS Magazine's February edition, you'll see some enhancements to our Windows NT server and desktop coverage. First, my column will be renamed NT Workstation, and will appear in the magazine's How To section. Second, Enterprise Windows will become NT Enterprise, a special monthly supplement-its very own magazine within WINDOWS Magazine. This new supplement will bring you the latest news, trends and analysis of issues pertaining to Windows NT and enterprise networking. NT Enterprise will be available to readers who specifically request it (for the latest information, check http://www.winmag.com/ew). I'll be writing for the supplement as well as for my NT Workstation column in the regular magazine.

John D. Ruley is WINDOWS Magazine's Senior Technology Editor and author of Networking Windows NT 4.0 (John Wiley & Sons, 1996). For details, see http://www.winmag.com/netnt or contact John at the e-mail addresses here.

Copyright 1997 CMP Media Inc.


(From Windows Magazine, January 1997, page 257.)