Windows NT in a Nutshell


Anyone who installs Windows NT, creates a user, or adds a printer is an NT system administrator (whether they realize it or not). This book organizes NT's complex GUI interface, dialog boxes, and multitude of DOS-shell commands into an easy-to-use quick reference for anyone who uses or manages an NT system. It features a new tagged callout approach to documenting the GUI as well as real-life examples of command usage and strategies for problem solving, with an emphasis on networking. Windows NT in a Nutshell will...

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Anyone who installs Windows NT, creates a user, or adds a printer is an NT system administrator (whether they realize it or not). This book organizes NT's complex GUI interface, dialog boxes, and multitude of DOS-shell commands into an easy-to-use quick reference for anyone who uses or manages an NT system. It features a new tagged callout approach to documenting the GUI as well as real-life examples of command usage and strategies for problem solving, with an emphasis on networking. Windows NT in a Nutshell will be as useful to the single-system home user as it will be to the administrator of a 1,000-node corporate network.

  • Covers both Workstation and Server versions of NT
  • Written primarily for NT 4.0, but still useful for 3.51
  • Presents the GUI hierarchy with callouts to provide easy-to-locate documentation of options, buttons, and dialogs
  • Covers the DOS-shell commands in great detail, as these come into increasing use by the experienced NT user when managing large and complex installations
  • Includes an extensive index that quickly directs you to both GUI and DOS-shell methods of accomplishing a task, without requiring you to wade through unrelated material
  • Examples demonstrate NT interoperating with UNIX, Novell Netware, and Apple Macintosh systems

Excellent quick reference, organized from the user's perspective. Introduces NT features and explains the control panel, administrative tools, accessories, remote access services and dial-up-networking. Shows specific management and configuration techniques, and for the old-timers tells how to bypass the GUI in favor of a command line interface. Appendixes contain NetBIOS, TCP/IP, server and workstation references. Familiarity with NT helpful, this is a recommended desktop quick reference, not a tutorial.

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Editorial Reviews

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Fatbrain Review

Excellent quick reference, organized from the user's perspective. Introduces NT features and explains the control panel, administrative tools, accessories, remote access services and dial-up-networking. Shows specific management and configuration techniques, and for the old-timers tells how to bypass the GUI in favor of a command line interface. Appendixes contain NetBIOS, TCP/IP, server and workstation references. Familiarity with NT helpful, this is a recommended desktop quick reference, not a tutorial.
Ray Duncan

Windows NT in Your Pocket

Windows NT is, as Gordon Letwin's expression goes, the all-singing, all-dancing operating system. It supports file sharing for a host of diverse clients, it can spool print jobs to every type of printer, it runs a gazillion network protocols, it slices, it dices, it makes Julienne Fries. There are, accordingly, a formidable number of configuration utilities and control panels that the Windows NT administrator must master. There is a GUI-based or command-line program (often both) for every eventuality -- sometimes several with overlapping capabilities -- and for those eventualities that Microsoft didn't foresee you can always take your life in your hands and edit the registry directly.

The documentation for Windows NT, alas, is not all-singing, all-dancing documentation. As Microsoft has grown ever larger, richer, and more arrogant, the printed manuals for Windows NT -- like all Microsoft products -- have become ever more meager and unreliable. I used to take the reference manual for a new system home with me and browse through it to get the lay of the land before tackling an install. In Microsoft's New World Order, this is hardly ever possible, or if the manual actually exists, it's rarely worth the trouble.* Of course, there's on-line documentation, but it's only suitable for isolated queries and the most desperate situations.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and book publishers have moved quickly to try and fill the gap. (In fact, a cynical person might speculate whether the deficits in microsoft documentation exist for exactly this reason -- Microsoft first sells you the software, then when you notice that nothing came with the 600 MB of software on CD-ROM except a "quick installation" guide, they reach into your wallet again again via their captive publishing house -- Microsoft Press.) Unfortunately, many of the trade books that are available as Windows NT system documentation surrogates are merely rehashes of the already-deficient Microsoft manuals, or are churned out by hack authors who can't write with the perspective and authority that derives from extensive practical experience.

O'Reilly's Windows NT in a Nutshell is one of the few books, among the dozens that have appeared on this topic over the last year, that will be useful on a continuing basis for NT system administrators and network managers. It's compact and portable, it includes fairly detailed coverage of programs that Microsoft mentions only in passing (such as the TCP/IP utilities, Windows NT Diagnostics, and Network Monitor), and it collects all the command line information into one place for easy reference. Best of all, it is relatively inexpensive -- at $19.95, you can afford to buy several copies, put one next to each NT workstation where you perform any administrative chores, and take one home.

I must confess that I nearly tossed this book into the trashcan on the basis of the first 100-odd pages, which are devoted to a collection of diagrams of GUI menu trees and restatements of each GUI menu item on a program by program basis. Someone might find this approach helpful, I suppose, but I really can't imagine who --there's useful information in the first section, but it's extremely fragmented. The rest of the book, however, atones for the ill-advised design of the first section. The chapter entitled "Uncommon Sense," buried in the back of the book next to the appendices, is a little gem -- it contains some especially valuable tips on system administration and network debugging.

Don't overlook the "Task Index" on pages 329-332. Here, at the very tail end of his effort, the author finally hits upon the organizational strategy that should have dominated the entire handbook. In future editions of Windows NT in a Nutshell, the task index should be moved to the front and drastically expanded, and the remainder of the book should be driven by its contents.
-- Dr. Dobb's Electronic Review of Computer Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565922518
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/28/1997
  • Series: In a Nutshell (O'Reilly) Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 361
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 8.99 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Pearce is an author and technical resource for O'Reilly & Associates. In addition to co-authoring this book, he is also responsible for developing CD-ROM companion disks for books produced by O'Reilly & Associates. Eric's interests include promoting public domain software, Internet connectivity, and network services. Before coming to work for O'Reilly & Associates, Eric worked as a systems programmer for Boston University, which he also attended as a student. His favorite activities include bicycling, snowboarding, rock climbing, and dangerous sports.

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 7: Uncommon Sense

Service Packs

Microsoft distributes patches and fixes for NT in the bussy/winnt/winnt-publicfixes directory on When a large enough group of patches is required, they are bundled in a service pack. in most cases, you will always want to install the latest service pack version. The service pack version is displayed during the boot process and is available online in the Version tab of Windows NT Diagnostics or the Help-About window of most tools. There have been problems with service packs, so it is probably wise to wait a week after a service pack. release and check newsgroups and mailing lists for feedback.

Note the following points about service packs:

  • The service packs released so far can be applied to either Workstation or Server.
  • Service packs are cumulative, which means you only have to install the latest version.
  • Service packs modify only the software that is currently installed. If you install optional software off the CD-ROM after a service pack has been applied, you must reapply the service pack.
As with the NT distribution, you may save time by keeping a local copy of the service pack on the system. This way, you can easily reapply the service pack after installing additional software over the life of the system.

Troubleshooting NT

When something is going wrong with your system, it can be hard to find out what is causing the problem. In most cases, this will be software, but it could also be hardware or the network connected to your computer.

Event Viewer

When something goes wrong, the first place you should lookis Event Viewer. it displays informational and error messages generated by the operating system, applications, and security-related events. The messages recorded in Event Viewer are sometimes cryptic or misleading, but you can usually figure out what is going on by using a combination of Event Viewer and other tools.

One really annoying feature of Event Viewer is that events are not displayed in real time. If you want to see events as they occur, you have to manually refresh the event display by repeatedly hitting the F5 key.

If you look at the security log and there are no recorded events, it is likely that you have not enabled the auditing of security events. Go to the Policies-Audit menu of User Manager and enable the events you want audited. From this point on, every time one of the selected events occurs, an entry will appear in the security log.

The first time you look at Event Viewer, it will likely be filled with events that you are not interested in. You can limit the event display to certain criteria using the View-Filter Events menu. Try turning off the display of information events first. If you are trying to locate a specific event that may be related to the problem you are having, you can match the Time field with the time frame during which you experienced the problem. By default, the order of the events is from the most to least recent events. You can spot machine reboots by looking for the informational events with the Source field set to Eventlog and the contents "The Event Log service was started." This is always the first event after a reboot, as no events can be recorded until the Eventlog service is started.

GUI Versus Commands

In general, if an application fails or hangs in the GUI, see if there is a command version available. For example, if you are trying to browse the network via Network Neighborhood, and all you get is an hourglass symbol, try using the net view command in the DOS shell. The shell commands may still hang for a while, but they generally give you more information about the problem than the GUI.

Task Manager

If the entire computer becomes unresponsive or just slow, Task Manager may help in determining the cause. Hit CONTROL-ALT-DELETE and select Task Manager or right-click on the Task Bar. Look in the Status field of the Applications tab for a task that is not responding. The End Task button will kill off the selected task. The Processes tab may display a process that is taking up much more CPU Time or Mem Usage than others. This may be the process that is running wild and slowing down the machine. The End Process button will kill off the selected process.

Performance Monitor

Performance Monitor can also indicate which subsystem is causing the problem, but it is very GUI-intensive, and may be too difficult to get running on a machine that is just crawling along. Performance Monitor is very useful for performance tuning and analysis of subtle system or network problems.


The Pmon utility gives a real-time display of processes and what resources they are using, similar to Task Manager. It is in the directory SUPPORT\DEBUG\1386 on the Windows NT CD-ROM.


The QuickSlice utility included with the Resource Kit is handy for spotting processes or services that are grabbing all your resources. It uses a bar graph to display resource usage, allowing you to spot a process that is getting more attention than others.

Stopping Services

You may also be able to use the net stop or net pause commands to stop or pause services to see what effect this has on performance. If the system is too sluggish to run the Services control panel, try running net start from the command line to get a list of currently running services.


If you just give up and reboot, you lose the opportunity to find out what is causing the problem and fix it. You also risk the wrath of everyone who is depending on the NT machine, if it is providing a critical function such as web serving, routing, or Internet connectivity.

Account Creation

The standard way to administer users and groups with an NT system or domain is with the User Manager application in the Administrative Tools menu.

Selection Methods

Since using a GUI interface can be mouse- and keyboard-intensive, User Manager has several methods of selecting multiple accounts (or groups) that will save time and effort when compared with administering accounts individually. Once a list of accounts is selected, options in the User menu take effect on all selection list members.

SHIFT-Click and CONTROL-Click

You can manually add accounts to the selection list by using the SHIFT and CONTROL keys while clicking the mouse.

To select a contiguous list of accounts, select the first account, and then hold down the SHIFT key while selecting the last account with the mouse. All accounts between the first and last will be selected.

To select a non-contiguous list of accounts, select the first, and then hold down the CONTROL key while clicking on any other accounts. The currently selected accounts will remain selected as you add more accounts to the selection list.


The User-Select Users menu option can be used to select users by group membership. If you are thinking ahead while adding new accounts, you can put them in groups that will aid the selection process later. For example, if you know a user is going to be working in a certain department, you can create a departmental group and put the user in it. When you need to perform some operation on all the department accounts, you will have a ready-made method of selecting all department members.

Account Templates

If you created several accounts with common attributes, such as group membership, password policies, and other account-specific information, you can speed up this process by using a template account, following these steps:

1. Create a template account with a username such as Template User and set all of the attributes that are common to the series of accounts that you are about to create...

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Using Windows NT 1
Ch. 2 The Control Panel 5
Ch. 3 Administrative Tools 58
Ch. 4 Accessories 140
Ch. 5 RAS and DUN 151
Ch. 6 Using the Command Line 181
Ch. 7 Uncommon Sense 274
App. A NetBIOS 303
App. B TCP/IP 307
App. C Server Versus Workstation 312
App. D NT Resources 315
Glossary 317
Task Index 329
Index 333
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If you have ever installed Windows NT, created a user, added a printer, or shared a directory, this book is for you. You may not think of yourself as an administrator, but you are if you have done something other than run Word and Pinball. Administrative tasks include creating accounts and groups, sharing files and printers, making backups, and installing software.

This book is intended to be used as a work reference. The first place you should look for something is the index. The book is designed so you can jump around, choosing between different GUI menus and commands. The book assumes that for the most part, you know what you are doing, but have not memorized where a menu option lives or what options a command takes. It does not document the obvious. It also skips games and applications that the administrator of an NT machine is unlikely to use to solve problems.


This book is organized in the same order as that in which you are likely to learn about NT. Everybody starts out using the GUI tools, but eventually learns that some things are easier or possible only from the command line.

Chapter 1, Using Windows NT

An introduction to some features of Windows NT.
Chapter 2, The Control Panel
You will be visiting the control panel to install new software or hardware and tweak system settings on the local computer.

Chapter 3, Administrative Tools

You will spend most of your administrative time with these tools, managing services that affect multiple computers on the network.
Chapter 4, Accessories
Describes a subset of the accessories thatare useful for NT administration.
Chapter 5, RAS and DUN
A Remote Access Service (RAS) and Dial-Up Networking (DUN) reference. Includes tutorials on debugging RAS sessions and writing DUN scripts.

Chapter 6, Using the Command Line

How to bypass the GUI.
Chapter 7, Uncommon Sense
Some specific examples of how to apply techniques to manage and configure NT.

Appendix A, NetBIOS

Reference for NetBIOS information, including Node Types and Name Types.

Appendix B, TCP/IP

Reference for TCP/IP information, including IP addressing, address classes, subneting, and TCP/IP-specific file formats.

Appendix C, Server vs. Workstation

A comparison of available NT services, protocols, and administrative tools for each version of NT.

Appendix D, NT Resources

Where to look for more information on NT, including books, magazines, web sites, and newgroups.


NT and networking terms are defined here. For example, what is a MAC address?
Task Index
A cross reference of tasks, GUI tools, and commands.


In some ways, the most important feature of the book. Start here to find what you are looking for.

Font Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:

Constant width

is used to indicate command-line computer output and code examples.
is used to introduce new terms, and to indicate variables, command-line commands, and user-specified file and directory names. It is also used for comments within examples.


is used to indicate program names, user input in examples, and button names and menu items.

Chapter Conventions

The chapters have a specific format for the type of information being presented. This is either a GUI map, tutorial, or command description.

GUI Chapters

Chapters 2, 3, and 4 describe the NT Graphical User Interface (GUI). Each accessory, control panel, and administrative tool is described in the following format:


The requirements sections lists the version of NT (Server or Workstation), and optional software components and hardware that are required to use this GUI tool or control panel.

Command-line equivalents

If there are commands that can do all or part of what a GUI tool does, they are listed here.


The summary provides a short description of the GUI tool, including the possible uses, how it fits into the overall administration of NT, and any special caveats or tricks to using it. If you want a quick overview of the NT tools for administration, read the summary section for each tool.

GUI map

The GUI maps explode the GUI menu structure, showing every menu option. Usually you are trying to find some option buried four levels deep within a menu. The map allows you find what you are looking for first, and then work backwards up the menu tree until you find familiar territory.
The callouts describe any menu item that is confusing, obtuse, depends on optional software, or requires further explanation. The syntax of the callout is as follows:

1 end-node [menu-path]
callout description

The callout number corresponds with the number in the GUI map. The end-node is the last menu item in the sequence of menus. The menu-path is the sequence of menus that must be traversed to reach the end node.

For example:

1 Install/Uninstall
Install or uninstall programs that are not part of the Windows NT operating system distribution. In most cases, you will use the installer/deinstaller that came with the optional software instead of this tool.

2 Add/Remove [install/Uninstall]
Remove programs or add components of incompletely installed programs. In most cases, you will be able to remove software only with the Add/Remove button.


Chapters 5 and 7 describe areas of NT that are neglected in other books or are poorly understood. The tutorial format tries to show you how you can use the tools, by giving real-life problems and example solutions.


Chaqpter 6 presents each command available on the NT command line as a separate topic and groups them by function. The topic format has the following fields:

Command name and synopsis

The command name as typed on command line and a short description of the main uses of the command.
Options that modify behavior and specify files.


Examples of command and option use.


Any caveats or special knowledge required to use the command.

See Also

Related commands.

GUI Equivalents

If the functionality of the command is also present in GUI tool(s), the name of the GUI tool and the specific menu selections are listed.


Lists NT version (Workstation or Server), optional software component, or hardware required by the command.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2000

    A great book for learning all of the things it takes to be a good NT administrator

    Great book that teaches you the nuts and bolts of Windows NT quickly and simply. I highly recomend it for someone who is just starting in the field of someone who a vet. It also gives some info that you can't find anywhere else.

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