4.3 The DNS Console

To manage a Microsoft DNS Server and maintain your DNS data, you'll use a tool called the DNS console, a snap-in for the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). MMC is a general-purpose program that hosts administrative tools. Introduced in Windows 2000, MMC replaced the "one-off" administrative tools found in Windows NT 4.0, such as DNS Manager, WINS Manager, DHCP Manager, and the like. The DNS console has a graphical user interface and is capable of managing multiple name servers. The DNS console is located on the Administrative Tools menu, provided you've already installed the DNS Server. The DNS console communicates with the Microsoft DNS Server using a proprietary management protocol built on Microsoft's RPC (remote procedure call) mechanism. That means the DNS console is able to manage only Microsoft DNS Servers and not other name servers, such as BIND.

The main DNS console window looks like Figure 4-6 (or will look like it, after we've set everything up in the course of this chapter).

Figure 4-6. The DNS console main window

The left pane is called the console tree. It shows name servers, zones, and domains. The right pane shows either informational messages or resource records.

This particular DNS console knows about only one name server, terminator. That name server is authoritative for three zones: movie.edu, 249.249.192.in-addr.arpa, and 253.253.192.in-addr.arpa. The DNS console segregates forward-lookup zones (which hold primarily address records) and reverse-lookup zones (which hold primarily pointer records). If any of these zones had subdomains, they would show up as subfolders under the appropriate zone. For example, comedies.movie.edu would be represented as a folder called comedies under movie.edu.

Let's take a look at the menus at the top of the window. The File, Window, and Help menus control the MMC application itself and, to be honest, they're not that interesting. The File menu has just two choices: Options and Exit. Options has a single window that lets you reset any changes you've made to the DNS console's configuration. This window has no effect on the settings of any name servers managed by the DNS console, however; name server configuration is stored separately from DNS console configuration. The Window menu has the expected options to manage MMC subwindows, but you'll find that all the DNS administrative action happens in a single window for the DNS console. Choosing New Window produces another DNS console window; we haven't found a need to have more than one DNS console window open, but you might find multiple windows useful. Finally, the Help menu has the usual suspects: Help Topics brings up the MMC help system, which offers quick jumps to help with the MMC application and the DNS console.

The Action and View menus are included in all MMC snap-ins. The really important commands are in the Action menu: add new name servers, create zones and domains, and create resource records. You can also delete objects and view object properties. We'll explain the various commands throughout this chapter.

But let's take a moment to go over the choices on the View menu. Since this is a standard MMC menu, not all the options are useful with the DNS console. For example, Choose Columns allows you to customize the columns in the right pane. That's nice, except that they don't need customization. In our opinion, you'll always want to see all available columns in whatever DNS console view you're looking at. The next set of choices is Large Icons, Small Icons, List, and Detail, and the selection determines the display format in the right pane. We recommend choosing Detail when you first start the DNS console and leaving the view that way forever; otherwise, you don't necessarily see all the columns and the useful information displayed in them.

Next is Advanced, which toggles between a more basic, or beginner's, view and an advanced view more suitable for you DNS experts out there. Windows Server 2003 has fewer differences between advanced and nonadvanced views. The main difference is whether or not the DNS console displays some additional information in the console tree on the left. Advanced mode shows an icon allowing access to the name server's cache of records from previous lookups. We'll talk more about the name server's cache later in this chapter.

The Filter selection brings up a dialog box like the one shown in Figure 4-7. Filtering is handy when you've got a really large zone with hundreds or even thousands of resource records. Rather than displaying them all in the righthand pane, you can limit the display with this option.

Figure 4-7. Filter dialog box

Customize is another standard choice on the View menu. It controls which MMC menus and toolbars appear. We recommend leaving these options at their default settings, as shown in Figure 4-8, since those settings are optimal.

Figure 4-8. Customize dialog box

But enough about the DNS console's generic knobs and switches. Let's move on to some DNS administrative tasks.