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!
Thanks for the write-up. I looked at CCTK. I wanted it specifically to create a package that would change BIOS settings on my O780s from ATA to AHCI, but I can find no setting that would allow that. Has anyone discovered a way to do this?
Sorry, worked out one problem – you have to run the shell with elevated privileges.
Cool John – are you still having other issues?
Well, only that I don’t have time to get going with what the boss wants me to do 🙂
What is wanted is something that can cause our machines to report on individual BIOS settings – wake-on-LAN, startup-on-power-on, that sort of thing. I wanted to do it using WMI as I do quite a lot of Powershell scripting using WMI and it’s pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, Windows just doesn’t include that stuff in win32_bios nor win32_systembios – at least I haven’t been able to dig it out. What I am going to try to do is to use cctk -o to dump to a file, then let Powershell scan the file.
The difficulty is that, as far as I can see, the app has to be installed on each of our 1500 machines. I would love to be able to have the client machine execute cctk.exe from some central share – in other words, not installed on the local machine. Installing it on the workstations is going to be a real nuisance.
Joseph – I thought I had posted a (fairly long) reply to your answer here – but when I refresh the page, I don’t see it. Before I try to type the whole thing again, can you tell me if it got posted? Maybe posts have to be approved?
And now I see it did appear 🙂
I see I said 1400 machines in the first one, 1500 in the second. Turns out (from a scan in Active Directory) there are 1700 – though some may be AD entries for machines that don’t exist any longer.
You shouldn’t need to have cctk installed. If it is on a share, you should be able to call the command line directly. You may need the setup password included in the command though.
“You shouldn’t need to have cctk installed. If it is on a share, you should be able to call the command line directly. You may need the setup password included in the command though.”
Yes, I tried executing it remotely but it moaned about dlls.
Worked it out (I think). I need to make the remote machine CD to the correct directory.
I got it to work on one machine, but on another I get:
HAPI Driver Load Error
What I am trying to do is to create something that can query our 1400 Dell workstations and report to a database things like the WOL settings, the boot order, etc.
I downloaded the Dell CCTK but when I run the commandline version, it briefly throws up a cmd shell window with a lot of help stuff in it and closes it. I can’t get it to run properly.
Thanks for the clarity. I am attempting to remotely make bios changes to 780,790,9010 and 9020 models.
My goals is to remove all boot devices but hard drive and disable usb booting without disabling usb. I have made several attempts but if you plugin a usb stick. it is an option on the F12 menu. With the 9010, it request a password. Otherwise, we have to manually uncheck the usb in the boot order section of bios, then it will ask for a password. Will this uncheck devices that have been check in the boot sequence of the bios?
Hi Jerry – I don’t have access to those models so I can’t confirm those changes for sure. On past models, specifying only the devices allowed in the boot order prevented others from appearing. Let me know what you find out about these models though.
What I have discovered is, the software will not set the “No boot” option on the USB controller on any model of DELL and it will not disable the CDROM as a boot device unless you are physically in front of the machine (9010). It is great if you want to turn off things (usb controller, etc.) or set password. But all I wanted to do was only allow the hard drive as a boot device, without going to each machine. Dell Disappoints Again (DDA).
Good News! I gave up on CCTK and found DCCU powered by Altiris. Worked beautifully. Although, boot order does not change in bios. I am able to configure usb ports to “no boot”. Across numerous multiple platforms. Browser interface and compiles “.exe” file to save. Deployed with an error code “3”. The error code is because I am not rebooting pc. So when some one attempts to reboot to usb it will not display as an option.
Odd that DCCU worked and CCTK didn’t. But I’m glad that you figured it out!
And thank you for posting your solution!
I see it has been some time since anyone has posted.
Firstly I would like to say thank you and express my gratitude for your time and effort for putting up this resource, it has assisted me tremendously thusfar.
I am writing today because I would like to know if there is any way I can leverage the CCTK or any other Dell tool to query the BIOS of the laptops (Dell obviously, mostly Latitude E6430 and E5440) to check for a specific setting. We have discovered a certain power management setting which is enabled by default has been disabled on some of the laptops and we want to remedy that.
I would just create a BIOS setting exe that enables that setting. Then push that out to your laptops.
Thank you so much for your prompt reply!
I already thought of that however management is not too keen on my pushing out a package to literally thousands of laptops where in all likelihood only a relatively small number are affected.
please how can I access bios setup remotely ( e.g. from network ) ?
It depends on who makes your computers. This guide is for a dell computer.
When I switch my laptop on, it always demand for password but I don’t remember the password ! So what I should do?
You would need to call dell for that – they will occasionally give you a master reset code for your laptop.
I think I’m going to “put my big boy pants on” and try to get WOL to work. lol. I have been able to WOL on the same VLAN just not through the firewall or switches yet. Do you have any useful websites for configuring WOL? Thanks!
I don’t as it varies on the PC and the switch. Wake On LAN relies on UDP broadcasts. These broadcasts are not allowed to cross VLANs by default. You will need to find the command to allow UDP broadcasting to go across your VLANs.
I have tried using CCTK to configure auto on in the BIOS. I was successful on all except on the OptiPlex 755’s that we have. I update the BIOS to Dell A20 on a few machines and tried again with no luck.
Here is the message I error message I get.
— Start of Vendor Software Log —
[11/06/14 11:19:25] ASCII payload log file detected.
[11/06/14 11:19:25] 2014/11/06 11:19:22 cctk –
Option : autoon
2014/11/06 11:19:22 cctk – The option ‘autoon’ is not available or cannot be configured
through this tool.
2014/11/06 11:19:22 cctk – autoonhr=8
2014/11/06 11:19:22 cctk – autoonmn=0
CCTK STATUS CODE : SUCCESS
Our goal is to get computers to turn on at a certain time.
We have tried WOL but the magic packets won’t traverse our VLAN’s and our ARP tables reset frequently.
That option might have been removed or unavailable in that model (I don’t have one of those machines to test that theory though). Does the machine auto turn on with just the auto on hour/minute set? If not, run the GUI version of the tool – generate an inventory report and see if a similar/slightly renamed option is available. Let me know what you find.
I have been using DCCU on Dell workstation with great success.
I also have HP Z210 workstation and Acer Aspire 722 and V5 Netbooks.
Do you know of a utility that would be able to remotely update the BIOS on those types of workstations?
I don’t support either of those but a fellow MVP has an excellent guide for HP.
Great information! Are you aware of any way to get this to work on a PC that is running Citrix XenClient (with local Windows 7 images)? I am finding that our Windows 7 virtual machines are not able to set the BIOS settings due to running on a bare metal hypervisor, so it doesn’t have access to the hardware layer.
That is a tough question Toby! I will check with a few of my smarter friends. If you find an answer, post back here to let me know.
I am using a Dell studio 1558. Can I use this procedure to auto on this system? I could not find the power management option in the BIOS.
I don’t have one of those available to test. When you are manually looking in the BIOS, do you see those options?
doesn’t work on Vostro. FYI.
Hey Michael – thank you for the update. I wasn’t aware that Dell specifically excluded the Vostro from being able to execute CCTK commands: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/driverdetails?driverid=6JXMY
i’m happy i found the page and noticed the lack of support for Vostro. otherwise i would not have noticed them missing within Compatible Systems. any idea what whether and how Wake on Lan (WOL) could be enabled for Vostro 3460 (with the latest BIOS update, version A13)?
thanks for putting up this resource and resonding to comments and questions!
No problem at all YV!
I discovered your site on google and checked out a few of your early posts. keep up the good work!
Thank you so much! If you haven’t, you might want to subscribe to DeployHappiness.