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Winternals shoots for remote recovery of PCs and servers

Nov 12, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* A look at Winternals Recovery Manager

I may have mentioned from time to time that when I first managed networks back in the dark ages of the mid 1980s, any system crash, update or maintenance work required that I physically visit the PC in question. This might mean a three-hour drive starting out at 10:00 p.m., catching a quick nap on-site, then drive three hours back to my office. That’s six hours of driving to do 15 minutes of work.

After a couple of years, I discovered Cosession (others may have used PCAnywhere or Carbon Copy), which allowed me to dial-in and take control of a PC remotely, then proceed as if I was sitting on that network. (There was no Internet connection for us commercial types back then.) This did cut down on my road trips with two major exceptions – when the PC hosting Cosession needed work or when the server crashed.

Nowadays, we mostly connect over the ‘Net to maintain PCs and servers. We can even re-boot crashed machines remotely. But there’s still one situation (outside of hardware failures, of course) in which, until recently, forced network managers to visit remote sites. That’s when a change in the operating system or an application, an update or a hot fix, a service pack or a patch causes the system to crash. Re-boot and it simply crashes again. Time to search for your car keys? Maybe not.

I mentioned Winternals Recovery Manager (WRM) a couple of months ago when talking about the quandaries that patching can cause – patch quickly and risk crashes or test thoroughly first and risk security breaches. WRM allows you to take a snapshot, either manually or at scheduled intervals, of the essential system-files needed to boot up and run the machine. Apply the patch, boot and invoke the recovery manager if there’s a problem.

Today’s tip is that you can do this remotely.

Install Recovery Manager and you also install its boot client. When a software bug causes a machine to both crash and be unable to boot up, the WRM client takes over, boots a minimal environment, then restores the system to the last known good snapshot. And you don’t have to be there pressing keys or clicking mice for this to happen, it can all be done remotely. And that’s only one way in which Winternals’ Remote Manager can help. Features include:

* Change Passwords: Changes any local password – including lost and locked-out administrator passwords.

* Recovery Manager Boot Client: Creates bootable images to restore unbootable and locked-out computers.

* Registry Editor: Edits the registry of remote computers via the network.

* Driver/Service Manager: Views and changes remote computers’ driver and service settings.

* Compare and Restore Files, Drivers & Services: Explores and documents system changes and apply just selected aspects of a Recovery Point.

* View Event Logs: Browse system, application, and event logs on damaged and unbootable computers.

* Multiple System Rollback: Simultaneously undoes harmful changes that occurred in multiple systems.

That deserves a good look on your part. You may not want to install it on every PC in your network, but it should be a real time and money saver on at least the most critical remote machines.