The Microsoft Management Console

The primary administrative tool for managing Windows Server 2003 is the MMC. The MMC provides a standardised, common interface for one or more of the applications, called snap-ins, that you use to configure the elements of your environment. These snap-ins are individualised to specific tasks, and can be ordered and grouped within the MMC to your administrative preference.

The primary administrative tools in Windows Server 2003 are MMC consoles with collections of snap-ins suited to a specific purpose. The Active Directory Users and Computers administrative tool, for example, is specifically designed to administer the security principals (Users, Groups, and Computers) in a domain. The snap-ins within the MMC not the MMC itself are the administrative tools that you use.


The MMC looks very much like a version of Windows Explorer, only with fewer but- tons. The functional components of an MMC are contained within what are called snap-ins: Menus and a toolbar provide commands for manipulating the parent and child windows, and the console itself (which contains the snap-ins) allows targeted functionality. In addition, an MMC can be saved with and the various options and modes appropriate to the situation.

Navigating the MMC

An empty MMC is shown in Figure 1. Note that the console has a name, and that there is a Console Root. It is this Console Root that will contain any snap-ins that you choose to include.

Each console includes a console tree, console menu and toolbars, and the detail pane. The contents of these will vary, depending upon the design and features of the snap- in use. Figure 2 shows a populated MMC with two snap-ins loaded, and a child window of the Device Manager snap-in.

Using the MMC Menus and Toolbar

Although each snap-in will add its unique menu and toolbar items, there are several key menus and commands that you will use in many situations that are common to most snap-ins, as shown in the following table.

File Create a new console, open an existing console, add or remove snap-ins from a console, set options for saving a console, the recent console file list, and an exit command
Action Varies by snap-in, but generally includes export, output, configuration, and help features specific to the snap-in
View Varies by snap-in, but includes a customize option to change general console characteristics
Favorites Allows for adding and organizing saved consoles
Window Open a new window, cascade, tile, and switch between open child windows in this console
Help General help menu for the MMC as well as loaded snap-in help modules
Common MMC Menus and Commands

Building a Customised MMC

Each MMC contains a collection of one or more tools called snap-ins. A snap-in extends the MMC by adding specific management capability and functionality. There are two types of snap-ins: stand-alone and extension.

You can combine one or more snap-ins or parts of snap-ins to create customized MMCs, which can then be used to centralize and combine administrative tasks. Although you can use many of the preconfigured consoles for administrative tasks, customized consoles allow for individualization to your needs and standardization within your environment.

Tip By creating a custom MMC, you do not have to switch between different programs or individual consoles.

Stand-Alone Snap-Ins

Stand-alone snap-ins are provided by the developer of an application. All Administrative Tools for Windows Server 2003, for example, are either single snap-in consoles or preconfigured combinations of snap-ins useful to a particular category of tasks. The Computer Management snap-in, for example, is a collection of individual snap-ins useful to a unit.

Extension Snap-Ins

Extension snap-ins, or extensions, are designed to work with one or more stand-alone snap-ins, based on the functionality of the stand-alone. When you add an extension, Windows Server 2003 places the extension into the appropriate location within the stand-alone snap-in.

Many snap-ins offer stand-alone functionality and extend the functionality of other snap-ins. For example, the Event Viewer snap-in reads the event logs of computers. If the Computer Management object exists in the console, Event Viewer automatically extends each instance of a Computer Management object and provides the event logs for the computer. Alternatively, the Event Viewer can also operate in stand-alone mode, in which case it does not appear as a node below the Computer Management node.

Console Options

Console options determine how an MMC operates in terms of what nodes in the con- sole tree may be opened, what snap-ins may be added, and what windows may be created.

Author Mode

When you save a console in Author mode, which is the default, you enable full access to all of the MMC functionality, including:

  • Adding or removing snap-ins
  • Creating windows
  • Creating taskpad views and tasks
  • Viewing portions of the console tree
  • Changing the options on the console
  • Saving the console

User Modes

If you plan to distribute an MMC with specific functions, you can set the desired user mode, then save the console. By default, consoles will be saved in the Administrative Tools folder in the users’ profile. Table 2 describes the user modes that are available for saving the MMC.

Type of User ModeDescription
Full Access Allows users to navigate between snap-ins, open windows, and access all portions of the console tree.
Limited Access, Multiple Windows Prevents users from opening new windows or accessing a portion of the console tree, but allows them to view multiple windows in the console.
Limited Access, Single Window Prevents users from opening new windows or accessing a portion of the console.
MMC User Modes
Note MMCs, when saved, have an *.msc extension. Active Directory Users And Computers, for example, is named Dsa.msc (Directory Services Administrator.Microsoft Saved Console).

Building and Saving Console

In this exercise we will create, configure and save an MMC console.

  1. Click Start, and then click Run.
  2. In the Open text box, type mmc, and then click OK.
  3. Maximize the Console1 and Console Root windows.
  4. From the File menu, choose Options to view the configured console mode. In what mode is the console running?
  5. Verify that the Console Mode drop-down list box is in Author mode, and then click OK.
  6. From the File menu, click Add/Remove Snap-In.
    The Add/Remove Snap-In dialog appears with the Standalone tab active. Notice that there are no snap-ins loaded.
  7. In the Add/Remove Snap-In dialog box, click Add to display the Add Standalone Snap-In dialog box.
  8. Locate the Event Viewer snap-in, and then click Add.
    The Select Computer dialog box appears, allowing you to specify the computer you want to administer. You can add the Event Viewer snap-in for the local computer on which you are working, or if your local computer is part of a network, you can add Event Viewer for a remote computer.
  9. In the Select Computer dialog box, select Local Computer, and then click Finish.
  10. In the Add Standalone Snap-In dialog box, click Close, and then in the Add/ Remove Snap-Ins dialog box, click OK.
    Event Viewer (Local) now appears in the console tree. You may adjust the width of the console tree pane and expand any nodes that you want to view.
  11. On your own, add a snap-in for Device Manager (local).
  12. Save the MMC as MyEvents.


The MMC is a useful tool for organising and consolidating snap-ins, or small programs that are used for network and computer system administrative tasks. The hierarchical display, similar to that of Windows Explorer, offers a familiar view of snap-in features in a folder-based paradigm. There are two types of snap-ins, stand-alone and extension, with extensions appearing and behaving within the MMC based on the context of their placement. Any console can be configured to work in either of two modes, Author or User, with the User mode offering some restricted functionality in the saved console.