Windows Management Instrumentation, or WMI, is a management framework which has been built right into every version of the Windows operating system since Windows 2000. It works over networks and lets users query remote systems to fetch information about them. However, to be of any value, one needs specialized Windows Management Information tools which know how to fetch the information from remote systems and present it in a useful and meaningful way. Many tools are available for that specific purpose. Perhaps too many. To help you pick the best tool, the one that best fits your needs, we’ve assembled this list of the best Windows Management Instrumentation monitor tools.
Let’s start off today’s discussion with some background information about the Windows Management Instrumentation. Without going too technical, we’ll do our best to explain what it is and what it can do. We will them specifically look at WMI in the context of monitoring. And since WMI is not the only technique used for monitoring, we’ll compare it to SNMP, possibly the best known and most popular monitoring technology. Armed with all this knowledge, you’ll be fully prepared for the core of our subject, the best Windows Management Instrumentation monitoring tools. We will briefly review each of the best product we could find, showing you their primary features.
An Introduction To WMI
The first question we’ll attempt to answer is pretty simple: what is the Windows Management Instrumentation? In its simplest form, it is Microsoft’s own implementation of the Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) standard from the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF). It supports the Common Information Model (CIM), which describes the different objects of a management environment. Don’t worry, this is about as technical as we’ll go.
Concretely, the Windows Management Instrumentation is Window’s internal management system which supports the monitoring and the control of system resources through a set of predefined interfaces. It offers a coherent and logically organized model of Windows’ status.
It allows Windows Scripting Host (WSH) scripts to manage Windows both locally and remotely. WMI is what lies behind the System Properties components of Windows, allowing it to display system properties of a local or remote computer. It’s been preinstalled on pretty much every version of Windows (workstation or server) since Windows ME.
WMI’s primary purpose is defining a set of environment-independent specifications allowing management information to be shared between applications and systems. It gives Windows management standards and technologies that can work with other management standards such as the Desktop Management Interface (DMI) and the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). It works as a complement to these standards by providing a uniform management model which represents the managed environment and through which management data from any source can be accessed in a common way.
Monitoring With WMI
WMI is powerful and flexible. If you know how to take advantage of it, it can deliver all the most important information about your computers, regardless of whether they are servers, workstations or notebooks. The information you can get via WMI can be as simple as IP addresses, MAC addresses, and other system-related information. It can also be more specific, hardware level information such as BIOS version, serial numbers of internal components, CPU temperatures, clock speeds, active cores and similar information.
Using the Windows Management Instrumentation, reports can be automatically created. They can provide detailed information about their local system and that of network-reachable machines. In the context of system monitoring, some WMI tools allow for the checking of system information in real-time via the WMI Framework. This can give you an impressive amount of information, should you want to see what is happening on any Windows computer or server on the network.
Concretely, WMI lets you access system performance data programmatically from objects in the performance libraries. This is the same performance data that appears in the System Monitor of the Perfmon utility. Furthermore, and this is why it is so interesting for monitoring, it can get this performance data from the local computer as well as from remote computers.
WMI vs SNMP Monitoring
When trying to compare WMI and SNMP, one quickly realizes that the two technologies are more like that they are different and they both have a lot in common. The Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMP, is rather old management technology that is still widely used for monitoring and management tasks. In fact, more than being widely used, it’s actually the most used technology for monitoring.
The main difference between the two is that unlike SNMP, WMI is a proprietary technology from Microsoft and it is specifically designed for Microsoft-based networks, servers and workstations. On the other hand, Like SNMP, WMI acts as the middle layer between management applications and scripts on one side, and configuration settings and operational parameters on the other. Another distinctive element of WMI is that it is designed from the ground up to support an infinite number configurations items which means that WMI can report on, and control, complex Windows configuration items like mount points.
The Top WMI Monitoring Tools
This list contains a variety of products. We have several true WMI monitoring systems. Actually, most monitoring systems on our list don’t just use WMI, many are multi-purpose or all-in-one systems which combine several monitoring technologies, giving you the best of everything. You could You’ll be able to monitor your Windows devices via WMI and your other devices via SNMP, for example. Our list also contains some WMI tools. While they are not monitoring tools per se, they’can help you remotely read and otherwise manage WNI parameters and explore what data is available. They can be useful when setting up WMI monitoring or as standalone troubleshooting tools.
SolarWinds is the publisher of some of the very best network and system administration tools. The twenty-year-old company has gained a solid reputation and its flagship product, the Network Performance Monitor, consistently scores among the top SNMP monitoring tools. Like that wasn’t enough, SolarWinds also makes several free tools, each addressing a specific need of network administrator. The Advanced Subnet Calculator and the Kiwi Syslog Server are two excellent examples of those free tools.
Among its huge product portfolio, SolarWinds offers an integrated monitoring solution that goes by the name of ipMonitor. This integrated tool offers essential up/down and performance monitoring for networks, servers, and applications. It uses many standard protocols including WMI and SNMP to provide agentless, monitoring of systems, devices and applications.
The ipMonitor has auto-discovery to quickly discover infrastructure components. It will also recommend SmartMonitor settings. These two features make setting up the product simpler and faster. Furthermore, it includes its own embedded web server and database for an even simpler, integrated installation experience without the need for installing separate components. The tool boasts an easy-to-use web interface and network maps which can give you a clear, at-a-glance view of your environment. It can send customizable alerts and reports to help ensure you are the first to know about issues or application failures. In addition to alerts, it also has automated remediation capabilities to minimize downtime.
The ipMonitor web-based interface offers centralized summary views that are fully customizable. It will provide much-welcome visibility into the health of your whole infrastructure. The tool’s dashboards make it easy to identify problem areas at a glance, letting you resolve issues quickly. The system’s user interface supports drag-and-drop, making it easy to add and remove elements from the views and helping ensure you have all the reports, statistics, and gauges that you need, right there at your fingertips.
Price for ipMonitor starts at $1 495 for up to 500 monitors. This one-time cost includes the first year of maintenance. If you want to give the product a test run before purchasing it, a free 14-day trial is available.
If you don’t want a complete, all-in-one monitoring solution, SolarWinds has another smaller-scale product called the SolarWinds WMI Monitor. This is a free tool from SolarWinds so don’t expect it to provide nearly as much functionality as the other monitoring tools on our list. However, if your needs are more limited or if you just want to see what WMI has to offer without a big investment, it could be a good introduction to the world of WMI.
- FREE Download: SolarWinds WMi Monitor
- Free Download Link: https://www.solarwinds.com/free-tools/wmi-monitor
Functionally speaking, what the WMI Monitor gives you is the ability to monitor real-time performance metrics on Windows servers and applications. It is rather limited and will only let you monitor one server at a time.
The best use you can get of such a limited tool is as a discovery and diagnostic tool. It will help you take the guesswork out of which WMI counters to use for monitoring applications such as Active Directory and SharePoint. The tool comes with several pre-built templates but even more are available through THWACK, SolarWinds’ community forum where you’ll find a huge number of community-developed templates. If what you’re looking for can’t be found, you can create your own scripts using the WMI Browser that is built right into the application.
3. PRTG With WMI Sensor
The Paessler Router Traffic Grapher, or PRTG, is another well-known integrated monitoring system. It is an enterprise-grade product which is among the quickest to set up. According to Paessler, it can be set up in a couple of minutes. While our experience shows that it can take a bit longer, it’s still pretty easy and quick to set up, thanks to the built-in auto-discovery process which won’t only find your monitorable devices a but also automatically add monitors.
This feature-rich product comes with several different user interfaces. There’s a Windows enterprise console, an Ajax-based web interface, and mobile apps for Android and iOS. One of PRTG’s most interesting features is how it can monitor almost anything by using specialized sensors. You can think of them as the product’s add-ons or plugins. But contrary to traditional add-ons, all the available sensors are already included in the package. One of these sensors is a WMI sensor that offers a solid foundation for WMI monitoring. In fact, you could install the tool and use only the WMI sensor. You’d be missing on a lot of great functionality, though.
PRTG is available in two versions. There’s a free version which is full-featured—including the WMI sensor—but will limit your monitoring ability to 100 sensors. When using SNMP, each monitored parameter counts as one sensor. For example, if you monitor two interfaces on a router, it will count as two sensors. Each instance of a specific monitoring sensor also counts as one so you’ll need one sensor for each WMI source too. If you need more than 100 sensors—and you most likely do, you need to purchase a license which starts at $1 600 for 500 sensors. A free, sensor-unlimited and full-featured 30-day trial version is also available.
4. Nagios XI
Nagios Core, an open-source monitoring platform has been relatively popular for many years. Nagios XI, a commercial version of Nagios, can be thought of as Nagios on steroids. It has a richer feature set, easier installation and setup, and an overall more finished feel. It is a true enterprise-grade monitoring system. It uses the same core engine as its open-source cousin while adding a very powerful, customizable GUI. Both versions of Nagios use WMI to gather data and present it to administrators.
Both versions of Nagios can be enhanced through the use of add-ons that are available for free from a very active user community. A number of these add-ons are related to WMI, further expanding the tool’s capabilities.
Nagios XI offers an all-inclusive, agentless monitoring solution for applications, services, operating systems, network protocols, systems metrics, and network infrastructure. And if that ain’t enough, third-party add-ons let you monitor virtually anything. Nagios can run on Windows or Linux. And although WMI is a Windows-specific feature, you’ll be able to fetch WMI data from a Linux Nagios installation.
Nagios XI is available in Standard and Enterprise editions. The latter has additional functionality and includes additional features to assist in large-scale configuration, forecasting, and scheduled reporting. If you want to try the product, a free version is available but it is limited to monitoring seven devices.
5. WhatsUp Gold
WhatsUp Gold is another household name in the field network administration. Years ago, the tool was just an up-or-down type of monitoring tool but it has evolved into one of the best full-featured system and network monitoring platform. It has everything you can expect from an all-in-one monitoring tool. This tool allows the monitoring of your systems and devices’ operational parameters while giving you a completely customizable alerting and reporting system that has made the product’s reputation.
WhatsUp Gold relies on several technologies to offer a comprehensive monitoring solution. Up and down monitoring can be done simply using ICMP while more advances monitoring of operational parameter uses a combination of WMI and SNMP, thereby enabling it to monitor most devices, regardless of their type or operating system.
WhatsUp Gold is easy to set up, in part due to its auto-discovery engine that will find your devices and add them to the monitoring console. The engine can find physical, virtual, and cloud servers, applications, and networking equipment. There’s a clickable drill-down map view where you can see the different component’s interconnections.
WhatsUp Gold is available as a free version which is limited to monitoring only five devices. Paid licenses are available in three levels of increasing functionality and pricing is based on the number of monitored devices. A free, time-limited trial version is also available.
6. Sapien WMI Explorer
The Sapien WMI Explorer can go somewhat deeper than most other tools on our list. The tool’s sole focus is WMI notifications. It is a true professional and very technical tool. Don’t expect a fancy dashboard and user-friendly interface. The product takes you right into the depths of WMI with an authentic hands-on experience. Using the tool requires some functional knowledge of PowerShell and WMI message structure. If you have that knowledge, the tool will do magic for you.
WMI Explorer will let you examine data from the local computer where it is installed but it will also let you access the WMI stores of other computers over a network connection. The tool caches messages from remote systems, allowing you to explore their WMI data even when they are no longer reachable.
The tool features a built-in VBScript and PowerShell script generator that you can use to create data gathering and formatting procedures. And if you are not too familiar with PowerShell, you can also opt to use some of built-in the templates that are provided. They are pre-written scripts that will automate data collection for you.
WMI Explorer will let you export data in HTML, XML, CSV, and plain text. Since the tool doesn’t come with a fancy user interface, you are probably expected to transfer data into other applications, such as Excel for further analysis.
WMI Explorer is not free, but at $59, it’s definitely not an expensive product. The price includes the first year of support, patches and updates. The product is available in both 32 and 64 bits version and a free trial of either version is available.
7. CodePlex WMI Explorer
The CodePlex WMI Explorer gets its name from the fact that it used to be available on the CodePlex platform. It has now been moved to GitHub and is simply called WMI Explorer yet many people still use its old name, mainly to differentiate from a few other tools with the same name. It is a free and open-source tool which was developed by a frustrated administrator who couldn’t find a tool that was a good fit for his needs.
The tool’s user interface is similar to the Windows File Explorer except that it is used to browse WMI data instead of files. One of the panels display’s the elements of the WMI Query Language. As you select options from each list, you are actually assembling a WQL query which is displayed at the bottom of the screen. The more you use the CodePlex WMI Explorer, the more familiar with WQL you’ll be.
Contrary to the previous product, the CodePlex WMI Explorer has a straightforward interface and you don’t need specialized skills to use it. You can explore any computer remotely over a network as long as you have the admin password for it. In addition to assembling a WQL query, the tool also generates a PowerShell script to deliver and execute the query in the WMI database and return the results. This tool handles all the programming work needed to fetch WMI data for you.