Windows Admin Center (Project Honolulu) — Setup Guide

Windows Admin Center (WAC)is the new tool in the block. It is highly promoted by Microsoft as a free application for remotely managing and monitoring supported Microsoft OS. According to Microsoft: WAC is “the successor to traditional“in-box” tools like Server Manager” and; “the future of remote server management”! Wow! This article is just about to take us through the future, right to WAC.

Formally WAC is not supposed to substitute other Microsoft remote management tools such as RSAT, RDC, System Center, Intune and Azure Stack. Rather, WAC complements such tools, by supposedly adding value. 

For example, WAC is meant to replace Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins and the server experience in System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), but not its monitoring aspects. 

Surprisingly enough, WAC does “substitute” the Essentials Experience role in Windows Server 2019 Essentials, as this role is discontinued and no longer available in version 2019. Essentials 2019 is the last of it’s breed, as Microsoft says that 2019 is most likely the the last version of Essentials. RIP.

WAC is heavily dependent on PowerShell, as it achieves its capabilities by leveraging the PowerShell scripts and technology. In older versions of Windows Server, PowerShell is limited. Consequentially, WAC’s capabilities are limited in such systems. To diminish the GAP, on Windows 2012 / 2012 R2 WAC requires installation of Windows Management Framework 5.1. More about prerequisites, installation & deployment coming next. 

Among other things, WAC can be seen as collection of customizable PowerShell scripts, which are managed via a web-based GUI and implemented remotely. If you were just asking, yes, those scripts can be used independently just as well.

 

WAC is sometimes referred-to as a platform, a service, or as a gateway. In the bottom line, WAC is an installable application (63MB .MSI file) which provides web-based remote management & monitoring capabilities. Windows Server 2016 & 2019 can be managed remotely or locally, in an agentless manner, without any installation or configuration on their side. How cool is that!?

Now let’s get going! First let’s download and install WAC. Then we’d add remote servers in order to remotely manage.

 

Setting Up WAC as a Local Client (aka Desktop Mode)

Perhaps the simplest form of deployment of Windows Admin Center is called Local Client,aka Desktop Mode. In this non-agentless mode, WAC is installed on Windows 10, providing the capabilities listed below. Windows 10 version 1709 or newer are required.

WAC Local Client Capabilities:

  1. Remote management of Windows Server 2019, 2016 & SAC — Agentless!
  2. Remote Management of Windows servers & Win 10 (supported versions)
  3. Renders local machine remotely / locally manageable (supported versions)

Now that we gained general understanding of WAC local client, let’s install it! 

Step 1: Downloading WAC

The newest version of WAC can be downloaded from Microsoft here. Direct download link for version 1809 is available here.

 

Step 2: Executing WAC Installer 

Double-click the .MSI installation file.

As the installation begins, a popup window would appear: Preparing to Install… It would quickly be replaced by Welcome to the Windows Admin Center Setup Wizard window which would also go away on its own.

 

Step 3: Licensing Agreement 

Click the checkbox I accept the terms… then click Next

 

Step 4: Next

Click Next. This is just an informative window.

 

Step 5: Configuration Options

Click the 2nd checkbox, for a WAC desktop icon. 

Then click Install. Leave rest of the settings intact (as shown below).

 

Step 6: Installation & Completion

Windows Admin Center is now installing. If selected, a shortcut icon for WAC would now be created on the desktop:

 

Click Finish when installation completes.

 

Step 7: Loading WAC

Click the Windows Admin Center desktop icon.

Though WAC installation completed, it is not yet functional. The WAC service has to be turned on manually: Click the WAC desktop shortcut, or click Windows Admin Center in start menu.

As WAC is executed, a tray icon would appear, indicating its service is running. Now that the WAC service is running, the local machine can be remotely managed via WAC; or manage itself or other machines via a web browser.

 

Welcome to Windows Admin Center! Assuming Edge is the default browser, then it would now open, showing a quick 2-pages tour.

 

You can either click Skip Tour or click Next and Finish. Trust us, you won’t become a WAC expert via this tour :)

Congratulations, WAC has just been successfully installed in Local Client (desktop) mode.

 

Accessing WAC from Another Browser

To access WAC via another browser, type the following URL:

https://localhost:6516

If your web browser is other than Edge, a security warning may appear. Click OK to accept the self-signed WAC certificate.  

 

Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge are the only supported browsers by WAC. However, other browsers performed well in our lab testing. Internet Explorer is not supported though! However, it may be the default browser in operating systems which do not support Edge, e.g. Windows Server & Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC. In such a case, we recommend using Chrome.

 

Managing the Local Machine

As Windows Admin Center loads, it displays its main console page. Here you can add machines or select machines to manage. By default, only 1 machine will appear, the local machine:

 

To manage the local machine click the blue link representing its computer name, in the Name column. Then click Yes as the validation message appears. 

 

Depending on the settings of User Account Control, another confirmation may be required. If applies, click Yes.

 

Another tab would now open in Edge, showing the very same console as before. In that tab click your computer name again, just as you did before. 

 

A temporary Connecting message should appear. 

 

Shortly thereafter the computer management console would appear. Here you can monitor and manage your local machine.

 

That's it !! You’ve just succeeded setup WAC and start monitoring your Local Server,

Next article will explain step by step how can manage remotely Servers with Windows Admin Center.

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