Great little Utility I use on all my servers - Production, Virtual and Demo (BGINFO.EXE)

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As you might remember from a couple of previous posts (post 1, post 2) – I was the initial creator of our Reference Network that is used for my teams national tours.  It has been refined, debated, changed and updated by everyone on the team in an effort to make it better and more representative of a network you would see in an IT Shop.  We add to it, take things away from it, patch it, upgrade it… you name it – we use it as we need to and keep it as “real” as we can. One challenge that came up last year was the inability of the audience to keep track of which machine was being displayed on the screen as we flipped between them during a demo.  In case you didn’t know, Virtual Server 2005 and it’s remote control client are very helpful in quickly starting (in Admin page with a ALT A, click on the thumbnail) and changing (right ALT and left or right arrow) which machine you are looking at.  Because it is so easy to flip around – we can loose track ourselves which machine we’re using.

My first solution to the problem was a simple BMP file that was made for each system with their computer name.  It worked, but not very dynamic and they had to be created manually. Then I remembered the SYSINTERNALS utility called BGINFO… Why didn’t I think of this before? I used to use it on all my servers when I was an IT Guy.  I went to www.sysinternals.com site, clicked on their utilities section, and downloaded their BGINFO utility.

SYSInternals is the “freeware” side of some powerful utilities that can do A LOT for saving time and making your life easier. I’ve been using their products for quite some time to help out getting programs to work as a regular user by identifying file (filemon) and registry (regmon) access issues, reading a dead NTFS drive, checking out more detailed processes with process explorer or catching and blocking apps that autorun all the time…  Have a browse around their site – it’s worth the visit.  I’ve met, talked and been onstage with Mark Russinovich at our IT Pro Community day last year. I haven’t had the opportunity to talk or meet with Bryce Cogswell – co-founder of Winternals and author of the BGINFO tool.

They have a detailed explanation of what the tool does and how it works on the download/info page for BGINFO… Have a quick read to understand what you can do with the utility.  Basically – it needs to be run with a command line switch and timer setting to update the background bitmap with the information/attributes you want to have displayed on the screen.  I created the “technet” version of info you see on your reference network in a couple of minutes.  I should spruce it up a bit, but I’ll save that till later. If you are interested in having a copy of my TECHNET.BGI file that I use on the reference network… here it is

All I do is copy the bginfo.exe, technet.bgi config file and a shortcut with the command line switches I use into the %windir% directory (c:\windows).  I then edit the “all users” start menu and drop the shortcut into the startup folder and that’s it. 

The command line I use is a shortcut with the following command line parameters. “bginfo c:\windows\technet.bgi /timer:0

By placing it in the All Users / startup folder, no matter who logs on gets the background updated. You could also schedule it to run on a regular basis with the scheduler.  You could drop it in a login script or startup script with a GPO object… you could also just leave it as a shortcut and run it manually… It’s quite flexible that way.

Check it out. I hope it helps you keep track of where YOU are in your server world.  It works GREAT in virtual environments, KVM server rooms, Remote IP KVMs – heck I even run it on my home PCs…

Do you have any great utilities you want to share? Post a comment.  If you wanted to write a guest blog post – drop me an email with the new Contact button!

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  • Hi Claus,

    BGInfo is really cool, but it has a little problem with the CleanType feature of Windows XP, you know what I mean? The bad font... do you have a solution for that?

    And I wondered if I can display the the current OU for the User and Computer with BGInfo (Ldap Query ... that would be very cool)

    My fav. Tools I want to share:

    1. User Profile Hive Cleanup Service:
    A must have tool in a cooperate network enviroment especially when working with roaming profiles:
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=1B286E6D-8912-4E18-B570-42470E2F3582&displaylang=en

    2. Debugging Group Policy problems is sometimes a tricky thing, most if you have a problem with a special client side extension. And often I have no time to study the userenv.log for hours. My solution for that:
    SysPro Soft Policy Reporter (look at that picture http://tinyurl.com/l63a4 and you know what´s all about)

    3. You cannot do everything with Group policies. But I prefer to manage my network from my admin workstation rather than ran around and type it manually. So I found a cool solution called Policymaker Registry Extension which is a new Client Side Extension for Group Policies to deploy Registry settings without right problems.

    BTW: Policymaker Registry Extension is only a small free tool out of the complete Product Policymaker Standard Edition, which brings imho 21 new extensions to group policy (printer & drive mapping, odbc settings, and so one… test it … it´s the best tool ever!)

    http://www.desktopstandard.com/PolicyMakerStandard.aspx

    http://www.windowsdevcenter.com/pub/a/windows/2004/12/14/auto_prof.html

    4. Second Tool from Desktopstandard GPO Vault:

    Event wanted a history of changes in Group Policy. Now you can have it look at GPOVault:
    http://www.gpanswers.com/solutions/?id=21

    You can create “managed group policies” see what´s and when something changed … you can easy delegate the control and lock it so no one can edit it…

    Regards Philipp Kohn
    http://blog.kohnonline.de &
    MOD @ www.mcseboard.de

    BTW: First Time I really read this blog… greetings to all Canadian IT Pro´s from Germany! ;-)