Important and Useful Windows Applications You Didn’t Know You Already Had: Microsoft Management Consoles

I have the impression that Microsoft doesn’t really trust the average PC user. Windows tucks away a lot of system tools in obscure places. These tools aren’t listed in the All Programs menu and you have to hunt them down in Control Panel or already know about them before you can find them. Among these are a group of system applications called "Microsoft Management Consoles" (MMC).  Depending on your system, there are around two to three dozen of these utilities. They are present in Windows XP, Vista, and 7. Being system tools, they require administrator privileges to run.

MMC consoles have the extension .msc and can be run by entering the console file name in a command prompt or the Run line. In Windows Vista/7, the name can also be entered in the Search box. The extension .msc is required. You can find a list and description of many of them at this link.

In this tip, I will point out the MMC that I consider the most useful for general use. It is called the Computer Management Console and contains most of the system tools that an average PC owner might use. A feature of management consoles is that they can  combine a variety of  system tools in one interface and this one contains a number of useful MMCs in a single package. It is accessed by entering “compmgmt.msc” (without quotes) in either the Run, Command, or Search box. The figure below shows the interface from Windows 7 or Vista but is very similar to the one in XP.

Computer management console in Windows

You can see from the figure that some commonly used utilities and functions are listed. For example, Device Manager, Disk Management, and the Services Console can be accessed here. More details about how to use these tools are given in the following references. These tools can also be opened as individual consoles and the file name to enter is listed.

There you have it—an easy way to access some handy system tools.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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