In our early attempts to complete the work of 10 admins in the life of one, we first turn to the immutably useful utilities of old. The tacit need to automate these utilities soon pushes us to learn scripting, which, in turn, creates a need to abstract system properties at a high level. Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) is Microsoft's answer to this need. However, accessing and using WMI can be complicated, especially for those of us who aren't interested in becoming programmers. Fortunately, PJ Technologies offers WMIX 2.0, a GUI-based implementation of this technology. It targets admins who want the customizability of a homespun script with the ease of use proffered by a graphical interface.

Installing WMIX 2.0, which runs on Windows 2000 and later, is straightforward. It opens with a clean interface that presents you with a favorites list, a WMI browsing tree, and a tidy toolbar which gives you access to the script and report generation wizards (see Figure 1). Figure 1: WMIX's interface (click to enlarge)

Besides letting you manually select computers to query, the favorites list can grab computers from Active Directory (AD) containers or by scanning IP blocks. Once the computers are selected, you can add them to the tabbed WMI browsing window or run queries directly against them via the context menu. No special permissions are required until you begin performing queries on remote machines, at which point WMI has its own set of assignable permissions accessible from the WMI management console (wmimgmt.msc).

After populating the browsing window, you can begin to dig into WMI to get a better idea of its breadth. From Windows Product Activation (WPA) to command-line environment variables to connected disks and network adapters, the vast majority of remote monitoring and administrative features are exposed through WMI. Many of these objects already have built-in scripts attached to them, such as a set of scripts for enumerating and deleting registry keys. If you want to, say, change a network setting using one of these scripts, you'd export the script, at which point you can modify (if needed), test, and deploy it.

VBScript is still the primary language by which WMI is accessed, so that's the scripting language used by WMIX. VBScript runs via Windows Script Host (WSH), which has been included and installed with every version of Windows since Windows 98. Unfortunately, WMIX 2.0 doesn't support PowerShell. While this isn't a serious omission at the moment, many people are moving to PowerShell, so I hope to see it supported in the next release. 

Another improvement I'd like to see concerns the export function. It feels a bit rushed, given that it merely generates your script and dumps it into a Notepad document. I'd like to see a basic built-in editor to round out the experience. If done right, this would make WMIX feel more complete. As I see it, admins could then edit scripts and learn using the resources of WMIX's search functions without continually needing to switch in and out of the program. 

Scripts aren't all that WMIX outputs. You can easily generate and run one-off queries, which can be useful for troubleshooting. You can also create HTML-based inventory reports. It has never been easier to fire a data-backed response back to your boss that, for example, lists all of your computers that are already WPA activated and running version 12.x of your email client.

The more veteran WMI spelunker will be happy to know that WMIX has the ability to query WMI directly in addition to searching and browsing its information store by namespace and class. These capabilities make lighter work out of script development and modification for those with experience writing scripts. In addition, said scripter can use WMIX to create WMI Group Policy filters that permit dynamic, targeted deployment of policies based on WMI attributes.

No matter your background, if you plan on exploiting WMI to the fullest (and you should), WMIX is a steal at only $89 per license. It's a shoe-in given that it provides raw access to the API that powers far more expensive tools and it doesn't require a steep learning curve to use. If you want to get into WMI, then X marks the spot.


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