Introduction to System Center Configuration Manager

Applies to: System Center Configuration Manager (Current Branch)

A product in the Microsoft System Center suite of management solutions, System Center Configuration Manager can help you manage devices and users both on-premises and in the cloud.

You can use Configuration Manager to help you:

  • Increase IT productivity and efficiency by reducing manual tasks and letting you focus on high-value projects.
  • Maximize hardware and software investments.
  • Empower user productivity by providing the right software at the right time.

Configuration Manager helps you deliver more effective IT services by enabling:

  • Secure and scalable software deployment.
  • Compliance settings management.
  • Comprehensive asset management of servers, desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

Configuration Manager extends and works alongside your existing Microsoft technologies and solutions.

For example, Configuration Manager integrates with:

  • Microsoft Intune to manage a wide variety of mobile device platforms.
  • Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) to manage software updates.
  • Certificate Services.
  • Exchange Server and Exchange Online.
  • Windows Group Policy.
  • DNS.
  • Windows Automated Deployment Kit (Windows ADK) and the User State Migration Tool (USMT).
  • Windows Deployment Services (WDS).
  • Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance.

Configuration Manager also uses:

  • Active Directory Domain Services for security, service location, configuration, and to discover the users and devices that you want to manage.
  • Microsoft SQL Server as a distributed change management database—and integrates with SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to produce reports to monitor and track management activities.
  • Site system roles that extend management functionality and use the web services of Internet Information Services (IIS).
  • Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) and BranchCache to help manage the available network bandwidth.

To be successful with Configuration Manager, you must first thoroughly plan and test the management features before you use Configuration Manager in a production environment. As a powerful management application, Configuration Manager has the potential to affect every computer in your organization. When you deploy and manage Configuration Manager with careful planning and consideration of your business requirements, Configuration Manager can reduce your administrative overhead and total cost of ownership.

Use the following topics and additional sections in this topic to learn more about Configuration Manager.

Related topics in this documentation library:

The Configuration Manager console

After you install Configuration Manager, use the Configuration Manager console to configure sites and clients, and to run and monitor management tasks. This console is the main point of administration and lets you manage multiple sites.

You can use the console to run secondary consoles that provide support for specific client management tasks, like:

  • Resource Explorer, to view hardware and software inventory information.
  • Remote control, to remotely connect to a client computer to perform troubleshooting tasks.

You can install the Configuration Manager console on additional computers, and restrict access and limit what administrative users can see in the console by using Configuration Manager role-based administration.

For more information, see Install System Center Configuration Manager consoles.

The Application Catalog, Software Center, and the Company Portal

The Application Catalog is a website where users can browse for and request software for their Windows-based PCs. To use the Application Catalog, you must install the Application Catalog web service point and the Application Catalog website point for the site.

Software Center is an application that is installed when the Configuration Manager client is installed on Windows-based computers. Users run this application to request software and manage the software that Configuration Manager deploys to them. Software Center lets users do the following:

  • Browse for and install software from the Application Catalog.
  • View their software request history.
  • Configure when Configuration Manager can install software on their devices.
  • Configure access settings for remote control, if an administrative user enabled remote control.

The Company Portal is an app or website that provides similar functions to the Application Catalog, but for mobile devices that are enrolled by Microsoft Intune.

For more information, see Get started with application management in System Center Configuration Manager.

Configuration Manager properties (on Windows PCs)

When the Configuration Manager client is installed on Windows computers, Configuration Manager is installed in Control Panel. Typically, you don't have to configure this application because the client configuration is performed in the Configuration Manager console. This application helps administrative users and the help desk troubleshoot problems with individual clients.

For more information about client deployment, see Client installation methods in System Center Configuration Manager.

Example scenarios for Configuration Manager

The following example scenarios demonstrate how a company named Trey Research uses System Center Configuration Manager to empower users to:

  • Be more productive.
  • Unify their compliance management for devices for a more streamlined administration experience.
  • Simplify device management to reduce IT operating costs.

In all scenarios, Adam is the main administrator for Configuration Manager.

Example scenario: Empower users by ensuring access to applications from any device

Trey Research wants to ensure that employees have access to the applications that they need, as efficiently as possible. Adam maps these company requirements to the following scenarios:

Requirement Current client management state Future client management state
New employees can work efficiently from day one. When employees join the company, they have to wait for applications to be installed after they first sign in. When employees join the company, they sign in and their applications are installed and ready to be used.
Employees can quickly and easily request additional software that they need. When employees need additional applications, they file a ticket with the help desk. Then they typically wait two days for the ticket to be processed and for the applications to be installed. When employees need additional applications, they can request them from a website. They are installed immediately if there are no licensing restrictions. If there are licensing restrictions, users must first ask for approval before they can install the application.

The website shows users only the applications that they're allowed to install.
Employees can use their mobile devices at work if the devices comply with security policies that are monitored and enforced.

These policies include enforcing a strong password, locking a device after period of inactivity, and remotely wiping lost or stolen devices.
Employees connect their mobile devices to Exchange Server for email service. But, there is limited reporting to confirm that they are in compliance with the security policies in the default Exchange ActiveSync mailbox policies. The personal use of mobile devices is at risk of being prohibited unless IT can confirm adherence to policy. The IT organization can report mobile device security compliance with the required settings. This confirmation lets users continue to use their mobile device at work. Users can remotely wipe their mobile device if it's lost or stolen, and the help desk can wipe any user's mobile device that is reported as lost or stolen.

Provide mobile device enrollment in a PKI environment for additional security and control.
Employees can be productive even if they're not at their desk. When employees aren't at their desk and don't have portable computers, they can't access their applications by using the kiosk computers that are available throughout the company. Employees can use kiosk computers to access their applications and data.
Usually, business continuity takes precedence over installing required applications and software updates. Applications and software updates that are required install during the day and frequently disrupt users from working because their computers slow down or restart during the installation. Users can configure their working hours to prevent required software from installing while they're using their computer.

To meet the requirements, Adam uses these Configuration Manager management capabilities and configuration options:

  • Application management
  • Mobile device management

He implements these by using the configuration steps in the following table:

Configuration steps Outcome
Adam makes sure that new users have user accounts in Active Directory and creates a new query-based collection in Configuration Manager for these users. He then defines user device affinity for these users by creating a file that maps the user accounts to the primary computers that they will use and imports this file into Configuration Manager.

The applications that new users must have are already created in Configuration Manager. He then deploys the applications that have the purpose of Required to the collection that contains the new users.
Because of the user device affinity information, the applications are installed on each user's primary computer or computers before the user signs in.

The applications are ready to use as soon as the user successfully signs in.
Adam installs and configures the Application Catalog site system roles so that users can browse for applications to install. He creates application deployments that have the purpose of Available, and then deploys these applications to the collection that contains the new users.

For the applications that have a restricted number of licenses, Adam configures these applications to require approval.
Users can now use the Application Catalog to browse the applications that they're allowed to install. Users can then either install the applications immediately, or request approval and return to the Application Catalog to install them after the help desk has approved their request.
Adam creates an Exchange Server connector in Configuration Manager to manage the mobile devices that connect to the company's on-premises Exchange Server. He configures this connector with security settings that include the requirement to set a strong password and lock the mobile device after a period of inactivity.

For additional management for devices that run Windows Phone 8, Windows RT, and iOS, Adam obtains a Microsoft Intune subscription. Then he installs the service connection point site system role. This mobile device management solution gives the company greater management support for these devices. This includes making applications available for users to install on these devices and extensive settings management. In addition, mobile device connections are secured by using PKI certificates that are automatically created and deployed by Intune.

After configuring the service connection point and subscription for use with Configuration Manager, Adam sends an email message to the users who own these mobile devices for them to click a link to start the enrollment process.

For the mobile devices to be enrolled by Microsoft Intune, Adam uses compliance settings to configure security settings for these mobile devices. These settings include the requirement to set a strong password and lock the mobile device after a period of inactivity.
With these two mobile device management solutions, the IT organization can now provide reporting information about the mobile devices that are being used on the company network and their compliance with the configured security settings.

Users are shown how to remotely wipe their mobile device by using the Application Catalog or the Company Portal if their mobile device is lost or stolen. The help desk is also instructed how to remotely wipe a mobile device for users by using the Configuration Manager console.

In addition, for the mobile devices that are enrolled by Microsoft Intune, Adam can now deploy mobile applications for users to install, collect more inventory data from these devices, and have better management control over these devices by being able to access more settings.
Trey Research has several kiosk computers that are used by employees who visit the office. The employees want their applications to be available to them wherever they sign in. However, Adam doesn't want to locally install all the applications on each computer.

To achieve this, Adam creates the required applications that have two deployment types:

The first: A full, local installation of the application that has a requirement that it can only be installed on a user's primary device.

The second: A virtual version of the application that has the requirement that it must not be installed on the user's primary device.
When visiting employees sign in to a kiosk computer, they see the applications that they require displayed as icons on the kiosk computer's desktop. When they run the application, it's streamed as a virtual application. This way, they can be as productive as if they're sitting at their desktop.
Adam lets users know that they can configure their business hours in Software Center, and can select options to prevent software deployment activities during this time period and when the computer is in presentation mode. Because users can control when Configuration Manager deploys software to their computers, users remain more productive during their work day.

These configuration steps and outcomes let Trey Research successfully empower their employees by ensuring access to applications from any device.

Example scenario: Unify compliance management for devices

Trey Research wants a unified client management solution that ensures that their computers run antivirus software that is automatically kept up-to-date. That is:

  • Windows Firewall is enabled.
  • Critical software updates are installed.
  • Specific registry keys are set.
  • Managed mobile devices cannot install or run unsigned applications.

The company also wants to extend this protection to the Internet for laptops that move from the intranet to the Internet.

Adam maps these company requirements to the following scenarios:

Requirement Current client management state Future client management state
All computers run antimalware software that has up-to-date definition files and enables Windows Firewall. Different computers run different antimalware solutions that aren't always kept up-to-date. Although Windows Firewall is enabled by default, users sometimes disable it.

Users are asked to contact the help desk if malware is detected on their computer.
All computers run the same antimalware solution that automatically downloads the latest definition update files and automatically re-enables Windows Firewall if users disable it.

The help desk is automatically notified by email if malware is detected.
All computers install critical software updates within the first month of release. Although software updates are installed on computers, many computers don't automatically install critical software updates until two or three months after they're released. This leaves them vulnerable to attack during this time period.

For the computers that don't install the critical software updates, the help desk first sends out email messages asking users to install the updates. For computers that remain noncompliant, engineers remotely connect to these computers and manually install the missing software updates.
The current compliance rate within the specified month is improved to over 95% without sending email messages or asking the help desk to manually install them.
Security settings for specific applications are regularly checked and remediated if it's necessary. Computers run complex startup scripts that rely on computer group membership to reset registry values for specific applications.

Because these scripts only run at startup and some computers are left on for days, the help desk can't check for configuration drift on a timely basis.
Registry values are checked and automatically remediated without relying on computer group membership or restarting the computer.
Mobile devices can't install or run unsafe applications. Users are asked not to download and run potentially unsafe applications from the Internet. But there are no controls in place to monitor or enforce this. Mobile devices that are managed with Microsoft Intune or Configuration Manager automatically prevent unsigned applications from installing or running.
Laptops that move from the intranet to the Internet must be kept secure. For users who travel, they frequently can't connect over the VPN connection daily. These laptops become out of compliance with security requirements. An Internet connection is all that is required for laptops to be kept in compliance with security requirements. Users don't have to sign in or use the VPN connection.

To meet the requirements, Adam uses these Configuration Manager management capabilities and configuration options:

  • Endpoint Protection
  • Software updates
  • Compliance settings
  • Mobile device management
  • Internet-based client management

He implements these by using the configuration steps in the following table:

Configuration steps Outcome
Adam configures Endpoint Protection. He enables the client setting to uninstall other antimalware solutions and enables Windows Firewall. He configures automatic deployment rules so that computers check for and install the latest definition updates regularly. The single antimalware solution helps protect all computers by using minimal administrative overhead. Because the help desk is automatically notified by an email message if antimalware is detected, problems can be resolved quickly. This helps prevent attacks on other computers.
To help increase compliance rates, Adam uses automatic deployment rules, defines maintenance windows for servers, and investigates the advantages and disadvantages of using Wake-on-LAN for computers that hibernate. Compliance for critical software updates increases and reduces the requirement for users or the help desk to install software updates manually.
Adam uses compliance settings to check for the presence of the specified applications. When the applications are detected, configuration items then check the registry values and automatically remediate them if they're out of compliance. By using configuration items and configuration baselines that are deployed to all computers and check for compliance every day, you no longer require separate scripts that rely on computer membership and computer restarts.
Adam uses compliance settings for enrolled mobile devices and configures the Exchange Server connector so that unsigned applications are prohibited from installing and running on mobile devices. Because unsigned applications are prohibited, mobile devices are automatically protected from potentially harmful applications.
Adam makes sure that site system servers and computers have the PKI certificates that Configuration Manager requires for HTTPS connections. Then he installs additional site system roles in the perimeter network that accept client connections from the Internet. Computers that move from the intranet to the Internet automatically continue to be managed by Configuration Manager when they have an Internet connection. Those computers don't rely on users signing in to their computer or connecting to the VPN connection.

These computers continue to be managed for antimalware and Windows Firewall, software updates, and configuration items. As a result, compliance levels automatically increase.

These configuration steps and outcomes result in Trey Research successfully unifying their compliance management for devices.

Example scenario: Simplify client management for devices

Trey Research wants all new computers to automatically install their company's base computer image that runs Windows 7. After the operating system image is installed on these computers, they must be managed and monitored for additional software that users install. Computers that store highly confidential information require more restrictive management policies than the other computers. For example, help desk engineers must not connect to them remotely, BitLocker PIN entry must be used for restarts, and only local administrators can install software.

Adam maps these company requirements to the following scenarios:

Requirement Current client management state Future client management state
New computers are installed with Windows 7. The help desk installs and configures Windows 7 for users, and then sends the computer to the respective location. New computers go straight to the final destination, are plugged into the network, and automatically install and configure Windows 7.
Computers must be managed and monitored. This includes collecting hardware and software inventory data to help determine licensing requirements. The Configuration Manager client is deployed by using automatic client push installation. The help desk investigates installation failures and clients that don't send inventory data when it's expected.

Failures are frequent because of installation dependencies that aren't met and WMI corruption on the client.
Client installation and inventory data that is collected from computers is more reliable and requires less intervention from the help desk. Reports show software usage for license information.
Some computers must have more rigorous management policies. Because of the more rigorous management policies, these computers are currently not managed by Configuration Manager. These computers are managed by using Configuration Manager to accommodate exceptions without additional administrative overhead.

To meet the requirements, Adam uses these Configuration Manager management capabilities and configuration options:

  • Operating system deployment
  • Client deployment and client status
  • Compliance settings
  • Client settings
  • Inventory methods and Asset Intelligence
  • Role-based administration

He implements these by using the configuration steps in the following table:

Configuration steps Outcome
Adam captures an operating system image from a computer that has Windows 7 installed and is configured to the company specifications. He then deploys the operating system to the new computers by using unknown computer support and PXE. He also installs the Configuration Manager client as part of the operating system deployment. New computers are up and running more quickly without intervention from the help desk.
Adam configures automatic site-wide client push installation to install the Configuration Manager client on any computers that are discovered. This ensures that any computers that were not imaged with the client still install the client so that the computer is managed by Configuration Manager.

Adam configures client status to automatically remediate any client issues that are discovered. He also configures client settings that enable the collection of inventory data that is required and configures Asset Intelligence.
Installing the client together with the operating system is quicker and more reliable than waiting for Configuration Manager to discover the computer and then trying to install the client source files on the computer. However, by leaving the automatic client push option enabled, you provide a backup method for a computer that already has the operating system installed to install the client when the computer connects to the network.

Client settings ensure that clients send their inventory information to the site regularly. This, in addition to the client status tests, helps to keep the client running with minimal intervention from the help desk. For example, WMI corruptions are detected and automatically remediated.

The Asset Intelligence reports help monitor software usage and licenses.
Adam creates a collection for the computers that must have more rigorous policy settings. Then he creates a custom client device setting for this collection that disables remote control, enables BitLocker PIN entry, and lets only local administrators install software.

Adam configures role-based administration so that help desk engineers don't see this collection of computers. This helps ensure that these computers aren't accidentally managed as standard computers.
These computers are now managed by Configuration Manager, but with specific settings that don't require a new site.

The collection for these computers isn't visible to the help desk engineers. This helps reduce the possibility of the computers being accidentally sent deployments and scripts for standard computers.

These configuration steps and outcomes result in Trey Research successfully simplifying client management for devices.

Next steps

Before you install Configuration Manager, you can become familiar with some basic concepts and terms that are specific to Configuration Manager.

When you're familiar with the basic concepts, use the System Center Configuration Manager documentation to help you successfully deploy and use Configuration Manager.