How do you manage the BIOS settings on your computers? When I asked this question to a few friends, the response was the sound of crickets. One in our group spoke up. He walks around and manually configures them! While he is obviously in better shape than I am, I chose to blame genetics and not the fact that I would rather automate a task than physically do it.
To manage your Dell machines (and to automate some work), you can choose one of two routes to manage the Dell BIOS remotely. But first – let’s see what we need to configure and how we can do it.
What to Configure?
Not only should you update your BIOS versions on all of your hardware, but you should configure some basic BIOS settings. As a starter, you will want to configure these BIOS options:
- Setup (BIOS) Password
- Wake on LAN
- Boot Device Options
- Auto Power On
Setting a BIOS password should be a priority. If you have ever had a user configure a hard drive or startup password, you certainly understand why you should set a BIOS password. Configuring Wake on LAN is another option that should be universally configured. Being able to remotely power on a lab, building or even a single remote computer is a huge time saver!
Configuring boot options means only allowing approved devices to be booted from. In our environment, you can only boot off of the hard drive or the NIC. This keeps users from booting to a OS on a thumb drive or using a password cracker CD against our administrative accounts. If you, the administrator, need to use a USB or CD drive, you can easily enter the BIOS password when trying to use an alternative boot device.
Finally, configuring your computers to automatically power on before the day starts will cut down on your workload. Any Windows Update or software that you deploy will already be installed before the user even arrives at work. This means that users won’t have to wait for a computer to startup or see the “Apply Windows Settings” or “Install Managed Software” messages. As a warning, y0ur users will forget how to turn on their computers… seriously…
What tool will you use?
You will want to download the Dell Client Configuration Toolkit (CCTK) for Windows. It is a free tool that is also Windows PE compatible! The tool comes in a GUI and in a command line format. We are going to cover both methods, starting with the command line first so go ahead and install CCTK. After installation, browse to CCTK.exe. On a 64-bit OS, it can be found here: C:\Program Files (x86)\Dell\CCTK\X86_64\. Right click and start an Administrative Command Prompt in this folder. Type cctk.exe and press enter. You should see:
From here, you can see that configuring specific BIOS settings is actually quite easy. To show you some examples, here is how you could configure our four recommended BIOS settings from above:
- Setup (BIOS) Password: cctk –setuppwd=”NEWPASSWORD” –valsetuppwd=
- Wake on LAN: cctk –wakeonlan=enable –valsetuppwd=
Two things to note. First, each parameter has a double dash (–) preceding it. An example: cctk –setuppwd= . Second, –valsetuppwd= should be followed by your current BIOS password. The next two options require a bit more to configure. Here is how to manage them:
- Boot Device Options:
- On a machine, type cctk bootorder
- From the output above, you can see that only three devices are enabled. Using the device number, you can generate a new boot order. To do so, type cctk bootorder –sequence=1,3,6 –disabledevice=0,2,4,5 –enabledevice=1,3,6 . By adding device number 3 to the Sequence and Enabled Device list, we can now boot of the CDRom.
- Auto Power On:
- cctk –autoon=weekdays –valsetuppwd=
- cctk –autoonhr=6 –valsetuppwd=
- cctk –autoonmn=0 –valsetuppwd=
These three commands configured the BIOS to automatically turn on every weekday at 6:00 AM – meaning that your computers are always ready for your users!
In part 2 of our Manage the Dell BIOS Remotely series, we cover BIOS inventories and look at the GUI version of CCTK. If you have any questions or anything that you want me to cover specifically, just let me know in the comments!