Product Reviews

Script-Free WMI

Remote system configuration gets visual with WMI Explorer.

For the average administrator, WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) is one of the hundreds of acronyms you encounter when you study for the MCSE exam.

To those who know scripting, however, WMI is a powerful interface that can greatly simplify routine administration and development tasks. The heavy hitters in the scripting world are already using WMI in many different ways to lower administrative costs when controlling and managing remote Windows machines.

Once you decide to get into WMI scripting, you face a learning curve. A GUI-based tool like WMIX may be just what you need. Its hierarchical structure makes it simple to drill down into the WMI and manipulate the operating system on a powerful—and potentially dangerous, if you're not careful—level. Through the WMI, you can alter some fundamental system settings.

WMIX is easy to work with. You install the tool on your workstation and as long as you have rights to your target machines, you're in business. You can call a machine up and begin browsing its WMI, do side-by-side comparisons and create favorites for the machines on which you'll most likely be manipulating the WMI. The tool takes less than five minutes to get up and running.

A Clean Interface
When you're trying to work on a couple hundred workstations, the last thing you want to do is struggle with the controls as you try to get things done. The key selling point to WMIX is the well-designed interface and how easy it is for you to dig deep into the WMI.

The program offers you three general views to control various aspects of the WMI. The Browser View begins with a hierarchical structure, similar to what you find in Windows' Device Manager. You can perform different actions on different areas of each machine, such as uninstalling a piece of software, creating services, starting processes or remotely configuring IP settings on a network.

Figure 1. WMIX's interface lets you view items by association, from the device level down to the drive partition level.
Figure 1. WMIX's interface lets you view items by association, from the device level down to the drive partition level. (Click image to view larger version.)

Next, there is the Namespace View. Here you can view the WMI from the hierarchical standpoint, drilling down into the tree. Finally, the Query Editor lets you write WQL queries directly in the system.

Documentation 20%
Installation 20%
Feature Set 20%
Performance 20%
Management 0%
Overall Rating:

1: Virtually inoperable or nonexistent
5: Average, performs adequately
10: Exceptional

WMIX comes with some nifty reporting tools that mimic the types of reports you'd get out of something like Belarc Advisor, but with much more detail. You can pull reports from many parts of the WMI and display them in a nice neat format in your browser.

For a small package, this tool has a lot to offer. It's a powerful way for administrators to manage workstations in the same way as if you were writing scripts directly for the WMI. Developers will find this helpful for digging into the WMI repository, searching for objects or working with WMI classes.

Right now, WMI Explorer is a standalone package. It has a low cost, and is well worth buying for the ability to really get into WMI.

If you need a good little utility to let you dig into WMI, WMIX may be just the thing to have in the toolbox. PJ Technologies also plans to bundle WMIX in the next release of its GoverLAN suite.

About the Author

Rick A. Butler, MCSE+I, is the Director of Information Services for the United States Hang Gliding Association.


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