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BGInfo alternative: DesktopInfo

BGInfo has been around for ages and has been a long time favorite in Windows shops all over the world. While sometimes quirky it worked fine in Server 2003 shops. Since Server 2008 dropped 2 years ago BGinfo has had to be greatly tweaked to get it to display all of the same info due to system security enhancements in Windows Server. There are 3 parts to BGInfo: bginfo.exe bginfo.bgi and bginfo.bmp. The first two parts can be stored on a file server and pointed at through a startup shortcut or copied locally and shortcutted to that way. In the shortcut the EULA has to be accepted along with any other manipulations you need (timer=0). [The executable creates a bitmap that can be stored in a location of your choosing, but all users of the system must be able to modify it.] Each time a user logs into the server the bitmap will be recreated and reapplied to the desktop background. I have had to include custom VB scripts to get the IP address and OS/Service pack fields to display properly as well. You also end up having to copy the bits to each server which makes management difficult if you ever want to make changes to the layout. Too many moving parts for such a simple end result.

Looking for a better and easier way to display the same information more dynamically across a large environment, I ran across a utility called DesktopInfo by Glenn Delahoy. Desktopinfo is a simple exe with an ini configuration file. It can live happily on a network share with no EULA to accept or any other annoying shortcut path modification requirements. The executable is loaded into memory under the context of the logged in user and displays near REAL-TIME data of the machine it’s loaded on. It runs fine on x86 or x64 machines. There are no bitmaps and the display can be moved around by dragging or by modifying the ini file.

image

Resource usage is incredibly low.

image

The ini configuration file allows for enabling/disabling a number of fields along with changing their corresponding colors. Many fields have low/high threshold characteristics that can change the color of a field like RAM usage from green to red. Currently you cannot change the order of the fields displayed or make other text edits like bolding. I wrote Glenn to compliment him on his tool and added a few wish list items that are not currently supported:

  • Bolding or increasing the font size of an individual line like “Host Name” (bold and italics now available)
  • Changing the order in which items are displayed (fixed in v1.00)
  • Option to show the physical platform like "HP Proliant DL380..."
  • (longshot) ability to set a label like "production" or "dev" based on a specified domain computer object OU location

After testing this tool for a few weeks I have rolled it into my production environment completely replacing BGInfo. To implement, I used a simple GPO Preference item that creates a startup shortcut pointing to the exe on a file share that holds the two required files. Simple and beautiful. Good bye BGInfo, you had a good run. :)

Glenn has a bunch of other cool utilities to check out as well!

Links:

Desktopinfo

Glenn’s Eclectic Freeware

12 comments:

  1. BGInfo can store its bitmap in a location other than C:\Windows. Choose the Bitmap menu, Location item. I usually put the bitmap in the user's temporary files folder, a place that isn't part of roaming desktops.

    I like BGInfo's "run and then go away" architecture. A process that stays execting is less desirable, especially in a terminal services environment.

    On the other hard, live data is very useful.

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  2. TS environment would not work well but either solution gives non-admin users information they really don't need anyway so I prefer to scope them out. This alternative is ideal for me because as I left BGInfo I had 2 custom vb scripts and a WMI call just to display basic data in Server 2008/R2. DesktopInfo just works and is sooo much easier deployed.

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  3. I have to concur -- having access to live data on the desktop is pretty amazing. BGInfo has been used in my SOE for a while now, but has been a real pain in the ass in 2008 R2. The final straw has been that if you add and remove network adapters on virtual machines BGInfo doesnt detect they have been removed. Time to move on.

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  4. Not sure if anyone still monitors this page.
    I too have moved from bginfo to desktopinfo and love it. The only problem I'm hoping someone has an answer to....
    1) I have desktopinfo running on the top right of the screen.

    2) When I remote in to the computer with larger resolution screen, the desktop info shows on the top right perfectly from the computer I established a remote connection perfectly.

    3) BUT...when I log back in the original computer it retains the position of the computer I used remote desktop...therefore it's off the screen since the monitor was larger on the one I used remote desktop for.

    Not sure if that makes sense, but I've tried everything. I don't think there's a solution.
    Anyone?

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  5. Are you using the latest version of desktopinfo? You could try dropping the dev a note as well and see what he thinks.

    http://www.glenn.delahoy.com/software/files/DesktopInfo120.zip

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  6. It does not have netmask info...

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  7. I will try this alternative, as I have been using BGinfo for some years now, yes it can do strange things sometimes, but it has been pretty reliable.

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  8. Hello,

    you can try BGINFO4X (BGINFO for X).

    It is multiplattform: linux, unix, mac and windows.

    It's also open source. You can find it at : http://bginfo4x.sourceforge.net


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  9. Can you please describe how you configured your group policy preferences? was it under user or computer configuration? I seem to be experiencing event id 4098 - the system cannot find the path specified.

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  10. Because this runs as an exe in the user runtime, you'll need to use a user shortcut for your GPO pref. Where ever you choose to host the exe and configuration files must be accessible by everyone. Simple UNC path to a dedicated share should work or via DFS if you like. I can't recall but I might have had trouble using a hidden share (share$), so use a dedicated folder with an exposed share and give everyone read permission.

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  11. 2013-Apr: Note that, in a Windows domain, if you're using Group Policy to set the desktop background, Sysinternals' BGInfo will *NOT* be able to update the background image with its embedded data.

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  12. Any idea why Desktopinfo shows up within Windows 10 Data Usage - Usage Details as using a lot of network traffic?

    ReplyDelete

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