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FAQ: Using Windows PowerShell commands to manage virtual desktops

Windows PowerShell commands aren't just for traditional desktops. Learn how to use PowerCLI, XenApp cmdlets and more to make VDI management a snap.

PowerShell can be a powerful management tool for IT pros if they know how to use it. In a virtual desktop environment, admins can use Windows PowerShell commands much the same as they would for physical desktops.

With PowerShell desktop management cmdlets, you can execute basic tasks such as retrieving virtual desktop configuration data, pooling PCs and getting user information. The command line is also an easy way for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) administrators to monitor performance and check remote activity.

If you're wondering how to use Windows PowerShell commands, VMware PowerCLI or Citrix XenApp cmdlets to manage virtual and remote desktops, this Windows PowerShell tutorial is a great place to start. You'll also learn how to manage Remote Desktop Services (RDS) sessions using scripts and commands.

How do I manage Windows desktops with PowerShell?

PowerShell is native to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and has become a cornerstone of Microsoft's management platform. If you know how to use Windows PowerShell commands to manage physical Windows desktops, why not use it for virtual desktops, too?

For example, one command provides you with performance measurements, and another takes software inventories. For admins who aren't so familiar with the command line, there are tools that can help you avoid long commands and even enter them for you.

What are some commands I can use to manage VMware View?

Through VMware's PowerCLI tool, you can use Windows PowerShell commands to manage vCenter-to-View connections, create virtual desktop pools, rebuild View environments and more. Creating manual or floating View virtual desktop pools with these cmdlets, for instance, can help you build a consistent View environment. You can save PowerShell cmdlets as .PS1 files and modify them easily, but be careful entering commands because there are a lot of parameters to include.

How can I use XenApp cmdlets to simplify tasks?

XenApp cmdlets let you manage your farm and make daily administrative tasks much easier. First, set up PowerShell for Windows Server and make sure the cmdlets are installed on a XenApp server. Then, you can use a wealth of cmdlets to get information about the XenApp farm, applications and users.

For instance, use the cmdlet Get-XAFarm to learn general information about the farm or Get-XAFarmConfiguration to get configuration information. XenApp server information is at your fingertips with the cmdlets Get-XAServer (for basic server information) and Get-XAServerConfiguration (for more detailed data).

What are some challenges with using PowerShell for remote desktop management?

Before you can manage remote desktops with PowerShell, you need to enable the Windows Remote Management Service and prepare the computers you want to manage. To test your ability to run Windows PowerShell commands, enter a command to return the computer name. If that works, you can use PowerShell to either run single commands or a series on any remote desktop, the same way you would for in-house virtual desktops.

But beware of snags: Sometimes antivirus software blocks PowerShell access, and you may encounter permissions or firewall issues. Make sure you know the remote computer's IP address; you might have to make the remote computer a trusted host in the event of authentication hang-ups.

Can I use Windows PowerShell commands to manage XenDesktop?

You can manage Citrix XenDesktop with more than 100 PowerShell cmdlets. These commands allow you to create snapshots, get a list of admin accounts, view task history for hosts, add Active Directory users and even disconnect virtual desktop sessions if you have to. Check out Citrix's command reference to see all of its XenDesktop PowerShell cmdlets.

How do I manage Remote Desktop Services with Windows PowerShell commands?

Microsoft RDS comes with a PowerShell module that includes built-in cmdlets. You can start the PowerShell RDS module from the Start Menu, or you can add it to another PowerShell module with the Import-module RemoteDesktopServices – verbose command. Then, use the Get-command cmdlet to look over what commands you have available for managing RDS.

What are some useful commands for managing RDS?

There are some great commands for the management of Remote Desktop Services. Use the Query Session command to get information about all your RDS remote sessions, whether they're active or not. You can use Reset Session to -- you guessed it -- reset a session; Query User offers information about users. Another important command is Change Logon, which helps you control which users can log into RDS sessions.

This was last published in August 2012

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