Originally launched in 2017 as Project Honolulu, Windows Admin Center (WAC), or WAC as it became known, has gained lots of functionality and features to make managing your servers, clusters, and Windows 10 PCs that much easier.
WAC is a browser-based application that is downloaded and locally deployed, so no server is needed to use this tool. In many ways, It’s a replacement for other in-box tools such as Server Manager and MMC. However, it isn’t intended to replace System Center but merely complement that environment.
Windows Admin Center Features
As this tool has been around for a while, what are all the features it offers and what can you do with this to make system management easier? Though the list is long, some notable features are:
- Configuring Local Users and Groups
- Managing Storage
- Managing Devices
- Failover Cluster Manager
- Managing Windows Services, Scheduled Tasks, and Network Settings
Getting Started with WAC
Usually, WAC is installed in one of two places—either on your local desktop to easily manage remote systems, or on a Windows Server (with desktop experience) itself.
First, you need to download the Windows Admin Center from the Microsoft Evaluation Center (note, this isn’t an evaluation itself, it’s just named that). This applies to both a Windows 10 system and a Windows Server system.
You may need to take a few additional steps both during the installation of the MSI and depending on the operating system.
- Installed on port 6516 by default, you may need to open this in the Windows Firewall.
- If you are using Windows 10 in a workgroup or domain, you may need to modify the
TrustedHosts, which is used within WinRM.
- WAC installs as a network service, which necessitates that you specify the port and a certificate for HTTPS. The service can use a self-signed certificate, or you can provide a thumbprint of a certificate already on the computer.
- Much like Windows 10, assuming your server is in a workgroup or domain, you may need to modify the
TrustedHosts, which is used within WinRM.
So, what are some of the tasks that you might want to do as an administrator? Let’s take a look at a few of those scenarios and what options you have available. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but some of the more common tasks an administrator might want to tackle.
Configure Local Users and Groups
Often, it’s necessary to configure your users and groups. In this case, it’s the local administrator, which may or may not be managed by a Group Policy. As you can see from the following example, we have the ability to manage the membership of an individual account (such as adding
LogonAsBatchRight, which often comes up as an issue), delete a user, or modify a user’s password. All of this helps greatly with troubleshooting access to a system and auditing what local users have access to your systems.
During day-to-day operations, disk usage grows and can quickly run out if you aren’t paying close attention. Thankfully, the storage pane enables you to see not only what your options are but also to resize a disk if necessary. Even more useful is the ability to remotely modify file shares, either to remove or edit a shares membership.
Disabling remote devices or updating drivers on remote servers can be very important. If you don’t have the correct drivers or updated ones, you can suffer stability and performance-related issues. What’s very useful is the ability to remotely update a driver.
Easily managing Scheduled tasks remotely is extremely useful. Often, you may need to make a change, such as disabling a task or modifying its schedule, and you won’t have the time to remote into the server. Though you can do this with PowerShell, WAC makes it very easy to manage remotely.
Finally, managing Windows Services is useful as many applications install a service running under different user rights. If this is the case, being able to remotely change the logon type, recovery, and startup mode settings become very handy. Especially if you change the service user’s password, being able to quickly change this on several servers from one interface can save a lot of time!
PowerShell and the WAC
You may have noticed in the upper-right corner a small console icon. A unique capability of WAC is that it gives you all of the PowerShell code that it uses to retrieve and make changes remotely to servers. By clicking on that small icon, you can explore and use all of the scripts that the WAC uses.
How to Extend WAC
Microsoft was thinking about the future when designing the WAC. By building in a software development kit (SDK), it enables for anyone to build on extensions and additional functionality to really build out how much the WAC can do. A few examples of extensions that have been written for the WAC are linked here.
If you want to get into writing your own, you can visit Microsoft’s documentation and dive into what it might take to make WAC work for you.
How WAC Works for You
Remotely managing a large number of servers is difficult. Having a single pane that can connect to and manage all of those servers remotely can be a great time saver. With the added extensions and the ability to see the PowerShell in use when managing those servers, you can quickly add the WAC into your management workflow.
With the release of the Windows Admin Center, a forward-thinking and extensible framework became available for any IT administrator to get a handle on their systems. Microsoft has invested a lot of time and resources into this product, and is certainly the future of system management for easy and quick management of multiple systems.