Remotely Manage Windows Systems From the Command Line

By: Don R. Crawley

Copyright (c) 2008 Don R. Crawley

It seems like nearly every operating system has a lot of hidden tools; little gems that, if you know about them, make your life a lot easier by solving problems or helping your work more efficiently. Anyone who has attended one of my seminars knows I'm all about centralizing system management using tools like SSH, Webmin, Group Policy, Zenworks, Dameware, pt360, or any of the multitude of other management tools that allow you to work as efficiently as possible. In this article, I'm going to show you a group of Windows tools that allow you to manage remote systems from your desktop using the command line interface. (Let's be real: The idea is to allow us to make that Friday afternoon 3:00 tee time, instead of working into the night and through the weekend! Even if you're not a golfer, it's a metaphor for not allowing work to get in the way of life.)

You're probably aware of Mark Russinovich's work at his website SysInternals (now a part of Microsoft's Technet site) in creating great tools to help manage Windows systems. You may not be aware, however, of his PsTools suite. This collection of command-line tools allows you to perform many functions on remote systems from your command line. They're lightweight, they're very easy to install on your system, they don't require any installation on the remote system, and they work very well.

Here's a list of the tools and what they do (taken from the PsTools webpage):

-PsExec - execute processes remotely
-PsFile - shows files opened remotely
-PsGetSid - display the SID of a computer or a user
-PsInfo - list information about a system
-PsKill - kill processes by name or process ID
-PsList - list detailed information about processes
-PsLoggedOn - see who's logged on locally and via resource sharing (full source is included)
-PsLogList - dump event log records
-PsPasswd - changes account passwords
-PsService - view and control services
-PsShutdown - shuts down and optionally reboots a computer
-PsSuspend - suspends processes

The name "Ps" comes from the UNIX/Linux "ps" command that lists running processes. Anyone who has worked very much with Linux or UNIX has used commands like "ps -aux" to see what's running, process IDs, resource utilization, etc. It seems strangely fitting that Mark would name this powerful suite of Windows tools after one of the most widely-used 'nix commands.

This collection of tools falls under the heading of, "What took me so long to find these?" The easiest way for you to find them is to Google on "PsTools". You can then download them from the Technet website.

I'll bet you find them helpful!

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