Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Starting Out as a Computer Tech (part 2)

Previously I covered some basic tasks you may need for dealing with a domain and Active Directory. Now I would like to cover some more local tasks. Even if a computer is on a domain, there is some necessary local management that may be necessary. Common tasks while locally managing a computer may include adding/altering/editing local users, cleaning out files, installing/troubleshooting programs, managing printers, changing default applications, changing display settings, and so on. There are actually a lot of things you still need to do locally. Some of these things can be done remotely, but they alter the local computer, not the domain. As a result, we will consider this local administration.

In my current environment I work with, every year we inadvertently need to change local administrators for some higher privileged computers. By this, I mean we add the domain account to be recognized as a local administrator when they log in. This is not necessarily the best way to do things, but quick and dirty tends to be the go to for a lot of IT people on all levels. On Windows 10 you go to the settings cog on the start menu. The category we need to look in is Accounts. On the left-hand side, there will be "Other users." To add a domain account, you will click "Add a work or school user." For a domain user, we add the domain before a backslash (\), like this: example\some_user. You then select the level you want the user at, like Administrator. When a user is added, they will appear in a list below the option to add a user. When you click on the user, there is a "Change account type" and "Remove" option.

The same things can be done with Powershell. For this we need knowledge of four commands: Get-LocalGroup, Get-LocalGroupMember, Add-LocalGroupMember, and Remove-LocalGroupMember. We can list all the group names with Get-LocalGroup. After you have a list of the group names and decide which one you want, for example Administrators, you can check what users are in the group by doing something like Get-LocalGroupMember -Group Administrators. When we want to add a user to a group to make them an administrator, we run a command like Add-LocalGroupMember -Group Administrators -Member example\some_user. Much in the same way, we can remove users with Remove-LocalGroupMember -Group Administrators -Member example\some_user. As mentioned before, the big advantage of Powershell in a lot of cases is doing things remotely.

The Command Prompt also offers the same functionality as different commands, specifically through the net command. The quick translation would look like this:

Get-LocalGroup would be net localgroup

Get-LocalGroupMember -Group Administrators would be net localgroup administrators

Add-LocalGroupMember -Group Administrators -Member example\some_user would be net localgroup administrators /add example\some_user

Remove-LocalGroupMember -Group Administrators -Member example\some_user would be net localgroup administrators /delete example\some_user


 Cleaning out files is another common task you may need to do. The first general maintenance cleanup task will be using Disk Cleanup. You can get to it by searching in the start menu for Disk Cleanup or Windows+r and running cleanmgr.exe. Disk Cleanup is something you may want to use to keep free space clear from various temporary files and Windows updates. You may need to tell it to include system files after the first scan if Windows update files are not showing up. Just go and select anything on the list you do not think you need and let it clean up the space.

Sometimes stuff may glitch out and the hard drive will be out of space and no files seem to be found. The times I have run into this, it was temporary files that decided they were permanent. You may need to go to C:\Windows\Temp and manually delete those files. The same can be done with Powershell by doing Remove-Item -Path C:\Windows\Temp\* -Force -Recurse.

The last bit of cleanup of files I often need to do is for network profiles stuck locally. This requires two steps. The first is to delete the folder under C:\Users that needs to be removed. The second step requires deleting a registry key. To delete the registry key, the first thing you need to do is launch regedit through regedit.exe with either Windows+r or the start menu. Navigate the tree to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList to find where all the profiles are. When you click on the items in the ProfileList, there will be keys on the right-hand side. ProfileImagePath will be the value that points to the profile folder. Delete the item on the left-hand side with a ProfileImagePath that matches a user folder you deleted. Whenever you are done, be sure to restart the computer.

Installing and troubleshooting programs is fairly straight-forward. You may need to check when you right-click a program and select Run as administrator. You may also need to right-click, go to properties, select the compatibility tab and select a compatibility mode. Be sure if you do that, you go through the "Change settings for all users" button at the bottom.

Moving on to one of the most hated topics, printers. The nature of a printer containing mechanically moving parts, software/drivers, and in some cases networking makes them a very difficult animal to deal with. For now, let's talk about installing and setting default printers. The problem I run into with printers is their user specific nature. To be guaranteed a printer gets installed and setup correctly you should try to do it entirely while logged in as the user that needs it, add it, and set it to default. Some printers may need you to download a driver or run a CD, some may need you to add it via the network. I will not go into any more detail than that, I hate dealing with printers and wish you luck in doing as little as possible with them.

Changing default applications is a user specific task that will probably cause a brain aneurysm for most techs. What should be a simple task often confuses people and Microsoft seems to often make no effort to make this any easier. The easiest way to set a default application to run a file type, is to right click, select "Open with" and make sure when you pick the program the checkbox is selected with "Always use this app to open ____ files." Sometimes this is not an immediate option. For that we go to the Settings cog on the start menu. Go to the Apps category and select Default apps on the left. The first list is of the basics like what to open websites or emails with. Just click on the icon and pick the program you want. At the bottom, you have "Choose default apps by file type." This is the pain one. Click on it to see the massive list of files types. There is no easy way to jump to a specific point, so you scroll down to the file type you want to alter the program for and change it by clicking on the icon next to the file type. I have to frequently do this with PDFs because for some reason it breaks a lot and resets back to Edge from Adobe Reader DC.

Since I work in a school system, changing display settings is an every day thing. Computers are connected to projectors here and second monitors there and it always seems people want it set up differently. There are also "problems" people report because of it. So let's go over how to change things. The first, and easiest when at a computer, is to press Windows+p to bring up a quick display menu on the right-hand side of your screen. There are four options PC only, Duplicate, Extend, Second screen/projector only. Duplicate shows both displays the same, extend has two separate desktop spaces, and the other two should be self-explanatory. The catch is often that Duplicate almost always messes up the resolution and extend might have the wrong screen as the "primary" display, making for a difficult time logging in. To access more settings, you can go to the start menu cog wheel Settings, go to the System category and Display on the left-hand side. This will show you your displays and you can tell it to "Identify" with the button below to tell you which screen is which. After they are identified, you can then easily drag the screens around on the settings to align them how they are in real life, they do not have to be an even match, or can be on top of each other, all sorts of things. To make one of them a primary display, select the screen and at the bottom there is a check box for "Make this my main display." You can also adjust your resolution and change the same settings that you get when you press Windows+p. There are also ways to do things over a CLI, but I'll talk about those later.

So here's a scenario I get all the time. A work order will say "Computer not coming on" or "screen is black and I can't log in, but I can see the mouse." So what is the problem? The answer is it's connected to a projector that is off, the projector is marked as the main display, and it's extended. The quick solution is to turn on the projector, press Windows+p, and then select Duplicate. To a tech it may seem simple and obvious, but normal people do not think "display settings," they think "it doesn't work" and get stuck panicking most of the time.

This is just a brief overview of some basic points required for being IT. There is still a lot more to cover. I hope someone somewhere finds this helpful.

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