Mr. Roboto

Shut Down, Redux

The Specops Gpupdate tool eases the task of remotely shutting down and restarting whole groups of machines.

Shutting down, restarting and logging remote computers must be a hot topic for Windows administrators. After running a column entitled "Shut Down Already" in July 2006, I received numerous comments from clever readers. They all had other ideas for remotely shutting down and restarting remote machines en masse.

One reader -- who shall remain anonymous for his protection -- simply suggested that we should all "make the interns walk around and do it." Sorry, but Mr. Roboto is not into the Intern-Net method of doing anything. Besides, nothing would cause an uprising of the interns quicker than that.

Another reader, Mark Mills, had a better suggestion. He uses Special Operations Software's Specops Gpupdate tool (download the tool here). This tool meets the First Law of Roboto with its price: Free. It's a plug-in for Active Directory's Users and Computers console -- a tool with which most admins already spend plenty of quality time every day.

Figure 1
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Figure 1. Gpupdate lets you select an entire Active Directory organizational unit.

Using this tool, you don't have to select individual computers. Instead, you can select a whole organizational unit (OU) full of machines (see Figure 1). Then your options include restarting the computer, shutting down the computer, starting the computer (using Wake-On-LAN, requiring that the computer have a WoL-compatible network adapter), or forcing the computers to refresh their Group Policy settings. As its name would imply, that's the tool's primary purpose.

Figure 2
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Figure 2. After making a change, you'll see a graph showing the results.

When you select any of these options, you get a bar chart showing you the outcome of the operation (see Figure 2). You'll see how many computers are still working on it, how many are complete, how many didn't work and how many couldn't be contacted because they were either offline or protected by a local firewall. By the way, if it's the Windows Firewall that's blocking access, you can use a Group Policy setting to open the proper exceptions to allow this kind of remote administration. That's an important trick to keep in mind.

Anyway, you'll see a detailed list that will show you exactly which computers are in which category of success or failure. That's when you can put the Intern-Net to work to handle the computers you couldn't reach remotely.

LONG LIVE FREE TOOLS

By now, you've probably heard about Microsoft's purchase of Winternals, the company co-founded by guru Mark Russinovich. Mark recently stated in his blog that Microsoft plans to keep the huge library of free Sysinternals tools available to the public. In case Microsoft changes its mind later, you should go download them all now. -- D.J.

Looking at the simplicity of the Gpupdate tool, you have to wonder why Microsoft didn't build in a similar type of functionality. It doesn't really matter because Specops stepped in. Because the tool is free and works well, there's virtually no reason not to use it and continue to restart manually. Let's hope we see more companies producing free tools like this.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author/Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of PowerShell.org, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/ConcentratedDon.

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