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Windows 2000 Administration: Weighing In with an Ounce of Prevention

Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. Tidal waves.

None of these disasters can compare with your system going down when you're a Windows 2000 administrator. Thank goodness that Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Professional Editions are more stable than Windows NT 4.0 — and a lot more stable than Windows 95 or (heaven help you) Windows 3.1 or Windows for Workgroups.

Nonetheless, you need to make a list, check it twice, and be prepared to deal with a naughty shutdown with some nice planning — today!

Putting together your disaster-preparedness checklist

When cost isn't an issue, several steps can move you to maximum preparedness. (Of course, not everyone has the national budget of IBM to make systems bulletproof. When money is a large or massive problem, discount the suggestions that fall outside your price range.)

Consider the following checklist:

  • Connect your server to an emergency generator to avoid blackouts.
  • Use redundant disks to recover data in case of mechanical failure.
  • Install a backup system (preferably automated) to save data at regular intervals on tape or disk.
  • Create a Backup schedule. Follow it religiously.
  • Create and store a set of System Boot Disks.
  • Create and store a set of Emergency Repair Disks.
  • Store your installation CD-ROM in a safe, accessible location.
  • Configure your system to protect itself and restart when the system stops unexpectedly because of a software malfunction or a power outage.

Knowing what Windows 2000 does when it hangs

A feature that causes Unix and NetWare administrators to drool in envy is the luxury of giving your Windows 2000 system standing orders that tell it what to do in case the system freezes, dies, or otherwise ends its activities unexpectedly. As long as you are recognized as an Administrator or a member of the Admins group on the computer, you have a unique and useful tool at your command.

To issue your standard operating procedures when the system runs smack into disaster, do the following:

1. Open Computer Management by clicking the Start button and pointing to Settings.

2. Select Control Panel and then double-click Administrative Tools.

3. Double-click Computer Management.

You can view or change system properties on a remote computer or a local computer.

4. Right-click Computer Management (Local), then select Properties from the pop-up menu.

5. On the Advanced tab of the menu, click Startup and Recovery.

6. Under Startup and Recovery, select the actions Windows 2000 should perform when an error occurs. Only rarely should you need to change selected default settings such as these:

Write an event to the system log

Send an administrative alert

Write debugging information

Automatically reboot

You should deselect the log or stop the recording of debugging info only if you are critically short on space. Otherwise, you need those capabilities to determine what went wrong with your system. Also, you might deselect the automatic reboot if you're sure the problem is a failing piece of hardware. Then the machine can stay powered down so you can open it safely, remove a failed hard drive or floppy disk drive, and never feel the bite of the electric snake.

When you select the option(s) labeled Write an Event to the System Log or Send an Administrative Alert, then you have more information to help you track the cause of the problem. (After you bring your system back to life, that is.)

On the Windows 2000 Server, this action occurs by default every time a Stop error occurs. On Windows 2000 Professional, you must manually set this option. On Windows 2000 Professional, Write an Event to the System Log is an option that you must set manually.

Managing remote shutdowns

One of the joys of administering Windows 2000 over a network is that you can impose your wishes on a machine even when it's not within arm's reach. In the bad old days of token-ring connectors and tape drives, you couldn't administer a computer that you couldn't hit with a swing of your mouse from your desk.

Times have changed indeed. Even when users are on the machine you need to change, you can upstage their work to do a forced change — or, in this case, a forced shutdown of the system. Ah, the feeling of power. (Almost balances the responsibility, doesn't it?)

To complete a remote shutdown, carefully follow these steps:

1. Open Computer Management by clicking the Start button and pointing to Settings.

2. Select Control Panel, then double-click Administrative Tools.

3. Right-click Computer Management (Local).

4. Click Connect to another computer from the pop-up menu.

The Select Computer dialog box appears.

5. Under Name, choose the computer that you want to restart or shut down. Then click OK.

You can also type the name instead.

6. In the console tree, right-click Computer Management (of the Remote computer name), then click Properties from the pop-up menu.

7. Select the Advanced tab, then click the Startup and Recovery button.

8. Click the Shut Down button.

This action opens the Shut Down dialog box.

9. Under Action, select the actions you want to perform on the remote computer.

10. Under Force Apps Closed, select when you want to force applications to close when you shut down or restart the computer.

As a rule, this is a good idea when you expect problems. Otherwise, avoid it. Forcing programs to close avoids the remote computer hanging, but it may damage it when a program hasn't been shut down cleanly.

11. Click OK to apply your changes.

You must be recognized as an administrator or a member of the Admins group on both your computer and the computer you are managing to perform a remote shutdown.

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