Utility Spotlight: Remote Control

You can’t be in two places at once, so the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7 let you remotely manage your servers.

Lance Whitney

Managing Windows servers may not be easy, especially if you have to do so remotely. You have a helping hand in the form of the free Microsoft Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT). The latest version of this useful utility—designed for Windows 7—lets you access and administer a variety of commands and features on your servers from the comfort of your own PC.

Using RSAT, you can remotely manage different roles and features on a Windows-based server, including Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), DNS, Active Directory, Group Policy, SMTP, Terminal Services and Hyper-V. Microsoft published a full list of all the features you can manage with RSAT in a Knowledge Base article.

Installation and configuration is the most time-consuming part of using RSAT. Once it’s fully configured, you can manage roles and features on any server running Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008 (either a minimal Server Core environment or a full server installation), and even Windows Server 2003. When managing Windows Server 2008 R2, all roles and features are accessible. You can manage more limited subsets on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003. You can run RSAT on the Enterprise, Professional and Ultimate Editions of Windows 7.

Load It Up

You’ll find the RSAT download at the Microsoft Download Center. Download the file amd64fre_GRMRSATX_MSU.msu for 64-bit Windows 7 or x86fre_GRMRSAT_MSU.msu for the 32-bit version. Before you can install the latest version of RSAT for Windows 7, you must first uninstall any previous editions. This includes RSAT for Windows Vista or the Windows Server 2003 Administration Tools Pack.

When you trigger the .msu file for RSAT for Windows 7, you’ll receive a message asking if you want to install the Update for Windows. Answer yes and follow the usual prompts. Besides applying the update, the installation process will also create an Administrative Tools folder in your Start Menu Programs, if there isn’t one already. When the installation is complete, a Windows Help screen will pop up explaining what to do next.

You’ll be directed to open the Control Panel on your Windows 7 PC; click on the icon for Programs and Features. Then you’ll want to click on the option to “Turn Windows features on or off.” In the Windows Features dialog box, expand RSAT and select the features you want to install. Review the individual features to determine which are appropriate for the servers you wish to access (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 You can review and select the features to which you’ll have access

Figure 1 You can review and select the features to which you’ll have access.

You’ll see options for Active Directory, DHCP, DNS, SMTP and Hyper-V, among others. You can install all the features if you want, especially if you plan to access and manage a variety of servers that may collectively encompass all of those roles. Initially, however, it’s better to be selective in the features you pick. You can always add more down the road.

Server Tool Time

You’ll find the new features you’ve installed in the Administrative Tools folder. Managing your server is a simple matter of selecting a feature, such as DHCP, and entering the name of the server. Once you’re connected, you can directly administer that specific role just as if you were directly logged onto that server.

For example, running Server Manager from your Windows 7 PC lets you connect to a Windows Server 2008 R2 box. Then you can assign roles, add features and run diagnostics. Running the DHCP tools lets you connect to and administer a DHCP server. Running the Share and Storage Management tools lets you create and modify network shares and administer the physical disks on a server.

You can also centrally manage various Administrative Tools by adding them to your local Microsoft Management Console (MMC). Type “mmc” in the Windows Run field. This will open the console. Click on the File menu, and select Add/Remove Snap-In. You’ll see a list of all available snap-ins (see Figure 2). Choose the ones you want, and then you can administer all the necessary roles and features for your servers directly from the MMC.

Figure 2 All the available snap-ins are listed when you select Add/Remove Snap-In

Figure 2 All the available snap-ins are listed when you select Add/Remove Snap-In

RSAT is certainly not the only way you can remotely manage your servers. IT has long relied on Windows Remote Desktop Connection to access and control other machines. RSAT does, however, let you centrally administer any server in your organization without having to open separate Remote Desktop Connection sessions for each one.

Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a writer, IT consultant and software trainer. He’s spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, he took a blind leap into the IT world in the early ’90s.