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Windows XP System Tools: Microsoft Management Console (MMC)
Windows comes with many applications for administering and managing the system. In older versions, these programs had to be used separately. In Windows XP, there is an interface that can be customized to contain in one package all the system tools that a particular user employs on a frequent basis. For networks or multi-user systems there are also a variety of security settings that can be made within the interface. Microsoft calls this interface a “management console” and generally refers to it as MMC. A computer user can choose which of the many available tools to include. The individual tools are referred to as “snap-ins”. A console has a hierarchical structure with folders and in fact resembles a Windows Explorer tree.

Preconfigured consoles

Many of the system tools that come with Windows XP are already in a console form. They can be used alone or as snap-ins to a console that contains a collection of applications. The sidebar on the right lists the preconfigured consoles most commonly used. These are found in the folder \Windows\System32\. Depending on your setup, there may be some in other locations as well. (Some of these come only with the XP Professional version.) Note that the consoles have the extension msc (not to be confused with MMC). Most of these consoles can be opened by entering their names (including the extension) in the Start-Run line. Some, but not all, are also accessible from Control Panel. Depending on how your computer is set up, some may also be listed in Start-All Programs-Administrative Tools. As is common in Windows there are also several other ways to open some of the tools. However, using the Run line is probably the easiest way. (A few consoles intended mainly for systems administrators may be in folders not included in the standard path environment and will need the Run line browse function)

Some of the consoles that have specialized purposes for use by systems administrators may not normally be of interest to the average PC user. However, routine system maintenance and management involves many and these are discussed below.

Computer Management Console

This  preconfigured console has most of the system tools that an average PC user may need. It can be opened by entering "compmgmt.msc" into the Start-Run line. An alternate way is to right-click on Start-My Computer and choose "Manage" from the context menu. Yet another way is through Control Panel-Performance and Maintenance-Administrative Tools. The figure below shows one view of this console. The interface is very much like a Windows Explorer window.

Computer management console 

There are a number of views and configurations for a console but the defaults are probably sufficient for most average PC users. Those who wish to go into more details of the various console settings and capabilities can consult The Elder Geek.

Note that this version of the Computer Management Console contains 11 other consoles as snap-ins. These are grouped into three folders or categories. Among the most commonly used of the tools are Disk Defragmenter and Disk Management (in the folder Storage), and Services (in the folder Services and Applications) which are discussed in more detail on other pages.

Customized Consoles

If you wish to have a console containing only the snap-ins that you commonly use, it is very easy to create your own version. Go to Start-Run and enter "mmc" (without quotes). A blank console will open as shown below.

Customizing the  console

To add snap-ins, open the "File" menu and choose "Add/Remove Snap-in". The next figure will open.

Add snap-ins to console

Choose the tab "Standalone" and click "Add". The next figure giving a list of possible snap-ins will open. Not all of these will be msc consoles but some ActiveX controls will also be shown.

Selecting snap-ins

In the figure we have chosen the Computer Management Console as a snap-in. Click "Add" and continue to select and add components as desired. Note that the tree structure means that you can add folders and organize the snap-ins according to personal preference.

Common prefigured consoles

The files listed in the table below are preconfigured consoles found in the folder \Windows\System32\ (Some are found only in Windows XP Professional.)

Common Consoles
File Description
certmgr.msc Manages certificates involved in security
ciadv.msc Manages the Indexing Service
compmgmt.msc The Computer Management Console. It contains a number of the other consoles as snap-ins
devmgmt.msc The Device Manager
dfrg.msc Disk Defragmenter. More discussion here
diskmgmt.msc Disk Management. More discussion here
eventvwr.msc Event Viewer for managing system logs
fsmgmt.msc Shared Folder Management
gpedit.msc Group Policy Editor. More discussion here
lusrmgr.msc Local Users and Groups Manager
ntmsmgr.msc Removable Storage Manager
ntmsoprq.msc Removable Storage Operator Requests
perfmon.msc System Performance Monitor
rsop.msc Resultant Set of Policy. For system administrators
secpol.msc Security Policy
services.msc Manages the many services involved in Windows and also installed software. More discussion here
wmimgmt.msc Windows Management Instrumentation Service

Another console called Component Services (comexp.msc) is located in a different folder, \Windows\System32\com\, which is not in the standard path. It is usually opened from All Programs-Administrative Tools or Control Panel-Performance and Maintenance-Administrative Tools.


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