IP Configuration Management: Easier Isn't Always Better

I've received several emails asking whether Windows XP and Windows 2000 have a graphical IP configuration utility such as the one in Windows 9x. As users move off the Win9x platforms, they naturally want tools similar to those they had before, but XP and Win2K both lack a good graphical IP management utility.

The Windows 2000 Resource Kit (Server and Professional) contains a graphical IP management utility (wntipcfg.exe) that runs on XP and Win2K. You can download the tool from Microsoft's Web site; however, compared with the command-line ipconfig.exe utility, wntipcfg.exe is somewhat limited.

Most people use the information that wntipcfg.exe or ipconfig.exe provides to perform some form of diagnostic test, even something as simple as making sure that a computer has received proper configuration information from a DHCP server. But the information that wntipcfg.exe provides isn't as complete as the information that ipconfig.exe provides. Typing

ipconfig /all

at the command prompt returns a more detailed description of a computer's IP networking configuration than you'll get with the wntipcfg.exe tool. For example, on my desktop system, wntipcfg.exe reports my NIC as a 3Com Etherlink PCI adapter. However, 3Com makes several different NICs that return that description. Ipconfig.exe returns the description 3Com Fast EtherLink XL PCI Server Adapter (3C980-TX). If you need the configuration information to troubleshoot problems or to check for new drivers, ipconfig.exe's description is considerably more useful than wntipcfg.exe's description.

Much of the motivation for using a graphical IP configuration management utility is that network administrators want to simplify the process for getting IP configuration information from user machines. Telling nontechnical users to click an icon is easier than telling them to open a command prompt and type a command and a parameter. But easier isn't always better: If the information you receive is incomplete, you'll still need to go to the user's desk to retrieve the information you need. Using "ipconfig /all" displays the complete IP configuration information in an easy-to-read format. You can also use standard redirection (ipconfig /all >file.txt) to create and store a text file with the appropriate IP information on each computer. You can then compare the information in the file to the current information for diagnostic purposes.

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