This past week as I was prepping and arranging for the deployment of some specialized network traffic capture systems a thought suddenly struck me; what happens if the power goes out?
These are “headless” desktop systems that are deployed along side our other network servers. We had already deployed seven or so around our service areas and had lots to go.
I suppose we could request a local site user to go in and punch the “on” button for us, but we really want to keep the systems low-key and blending in with the other items. And yes, they are on UPS units…but sometimes those don’t last for an entire outage period….
Wouldn’t it be nicer it there was a way they could “auto-on” if power was restored? And/or maybe enable “wake-on-LAN”? Or even auto-power themselves on (in the event of a extended power failure/recovery) at a particular time?
Turns out they can…via BIOS settings on these Dell systems.
I thus made the changes on those that were still on my desk waiting pickup for deployment.
But what about all those that were already deployed, or the many more sitting in a shelf already boxed up for deployment? I didn’t relish pulling them all out again, just do do BIOS tweaks. Nor did I want to drive all over the area, making BIOS tweaks on a single system.
Wouldn’t it be nice to update the BIOS remotely?
Guess what? Because they are Dell systems I could!
The DCCU tool is offered on the Dell Tools and Utilities page. It is a free administrative tool that allows you to “build” a custom executable package of BIOS settings and/or BIOS flash updates.
It supports Dell OptiPlex, Latitude, and Precision systems. It does require .NET be present on the administrator’s system you are installing/building the DCCU packages with. It does not need to be on the “client” systems you choose to deploy the packages on.
You can perform complex operations in each of the following BIOS areas:
- BIOS Update – Yep. Upgrade (or downgrade) your BIOS remotely.
- BIOS Inventory – Collect a survey of the BIOS settings on the machine you run the executable against. Import the results file into the DCCU to read.
- BIOS Settings – Make your changes/tweaks accordingly!
Once you have selected your options and rolled up the package, a single EXE file is generated which is custom to your choices. It is extremely intuitive but it helps to know a bit which BIOS options your particular hardware platform supports. Not all Dell BIOS options are the same from system to system.
However, if you don’t know, you can even use the tool to perform a “BIOS Inventory”
BIOS Inventory: No substantial changes from the previous version. This simple option creates an executable that you can run on the client. Running the executable creates a results file (TaskResult.xml) in the same directory as the executable that you can import into the DCCU to view the current settings and their various options. The only change now is that the executable file no longer self destructs, and this change allows you to run it multiple times.
Then, in my case, I just remotely copied the custom EXE package I built to each of the remote systems needing the BIOS tweaks. I created a “dell_BIOS” folder on the root of the systems for the file, then I ran the executable. It will unpack a load of files and then you can reboot the system.
Once the reboot happens, the BIOS changes are made and the system comes back up. The files are removed except for just a few and this is how you know the changes were done.
It is very easy to use and very powerful.
Here are some additional links I found to give you a sense of what to do and how to use it.
- Dell Client Configuration Utility 3.0 - The Dell TechCenter – With screen shots. Here is the
toyutility in all its power and glory!
- Configuring the BIOS using the Dell Client Configuration Utility (DCCU) - The Dell TechCenter – Earlier version than the current DCCU version 3.0 A00 dated 10/09/2008) but gives you an intro.
- Enable Wake On Lan with DCCU - The Dell TechCenter – This was one (of many) tweaks I did to improve system recovery and control in the event the system shuts down due to a power failure.
- Standardizing BIOS Settings in a Dell Shop – Windows IT Pro article contains a few deployment ideas and tips for DCCU BIOS update packages.
How cool is this!!!