Managing Servers Running Windows Server 2012

  • 9/15/2012

Full-Server, Minimal-Interface, and Server Core Installations

Windows Server 2012 supports full-server, minimal-interface, and Server Core installations. Full-server installations, also referred to as Server With A GUI Installations, have the Graphical Management Tools And Infrastructure and Server Graphical Shell features (which are part of the User And Infrastructure feature) and the WoW64 Support framework installed. Minimal-interface installations, also referred to as Server With Minimal Interface Installations, are full-server installations with the Server Graphical Shell removed. Server Core installations have a limited user interface and do not include any of the User Interfaces And Infrastructure features or the WoW64 Support framework.

As discussed in “Changing the Installation Type” later in the chapter, the installation type can be changed at any time. With a full-server installation, you have a complete working version of Windows Server 2012 you can deploy with any permitted combination of roles, role services, and features. With a minimal-interface installation, you also can deploy any permitted combination of roles, role services, and features. However, with a Server Core installation, you have a minimal installation of Windows Server 2012 that supports a limited set of roles and role combinations. The supported roles include AD CS, AD DS, AD LDS, DHCP Server, DNS Server, File Services, Hyper-V, Media Services, Print And Document Services, Routing And Remote Access Server, Streaming Media Services, Web Server (IIS), and Windows Server Update Server. In its current implementation, a Server Core installation is not a platform for running server applications.

While all three installation types use the same licensing rules and can be managed remotely using any available and permitted remote-administration technique, full-server, minimal-interface, and Server Core installations are completely different when it comes to local console administration. With a full-server installation, you’re provided with a user interface that includes a full desktop environment for local console management of the server. With a minimal interface, you have only Microsoft Management Consoles, Server Manager, and a subset of Control Panel available for management tasks. Missing from both a minimal-interface installation and a Server Core installation are File Explorer, taskbar, notification area, Internet Explorer, built-in help system, themes, Metro-style apps, and Windows Media Player.

Navigating Server Core

With a Server Core installation, you get a user interface that includes a limited desktop environment for local console management of the server. This minimal interface includes the following:

  • Windows Logon screen for logging on and logging off
  • Notepad (Notepad.exe) for editing files
  • Registry Editor (Regedit.exe) for managing the registry
  • Task Manager (Taskmgr.exe) for managing tasks and starting new tasks
  • Command prompt (Cmd.exe) for administration using the command line
  • PowerShell prompt for administration using Windows PowerShell
  • File Signature Verification tool (Sigverif.exe) for verifying digital signatures of system files
  • System Information (Msinfo32.exe) for getting system information
  • Windows Installer (Msiexec.exe) for managing Windows Installer
  • Date And Time control panel (Timedate.cpl) for viewing or setting the date, time, and time zone.
  • Region And Language control panel (Intl.cpl) for viewing or setting regional and language options, including formats and the keyboard layout.
  • Server Configuration utility (Sconfig), which provides a text-based menu system for managing a server’s configuration.

When you start a server with a Server Core installation, you can use the Windows Logon screen to log on just as you do with a full-server installation. In a domain, the standard restrictions apply for logging on to servers, and anyone with appropriate user rights and logon permissions can log on to the server. On servers that are not acting as domain controllers and for servers in workgroup environments, you can use the NET USER command to add users and the NET LOCALGROUP command to add users to local groups for the purposes of logging on locally.

After you log on to a Server Core installation, you have a limited desktop environment with an administrator command prompt. You can use this command prompt for administration of the server. If you accidentally close the command prompt, you can open a new command prompt by following these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to display Task Manager.
  2. On the File menu, tap or click Run New Task.
  3. In the Create New Task dialog box, type cmd in the Open text box, and then tap or click OK.

You can use this technique to open additional Command Prompt windows as well. Although you can work with Notepad and Regedit by typing notepad.exe or regedit.exe instead of cmd, you can also start Notepad and Regedit directly from a command prompt by entering notepad.exe or regedit.exe as appropriate.

The Server Configuration utility (Sconfig) provides a text-based menu system that makes it easy to do the following:

  • Configure domain or workgroup membership
  • Change a server’s name
  • Add a local Administrator account
  • Configure remote management features
  • Configure Windows Update settings
  • Download and install Windows updates
  • Enable or disable Remote Desktop
  • Configure network settings for TCP/IP
  • Configure the date and time
  • Log off, restart, or shut down

When you are logged on, you can display the Windows Logon screen at any time by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete. In a Server Core installation, the Windows Logon screen has the same options as with a full-server installation, allowing you to lock the computer, switch users, log off, change a password, or start Task Manager. At the command prompt, you have all the standard commands and command-line utilities available for managing the server. However, commands, utilities, and programs run only if all of their dependencies are available in the Server Core installation.

Although a Server Core installation supports a limited set of roles and role services, you can install most features. Windows Server 2012 also supports the .NET Framework, Windows PowerShell 3.0, and Windows Remote Management (WinRM) 2.0. This support allows you to perform local and remote administration using PowerShell. You also can use Remote Desktop Services to manage a Server Core installation remotely. Some of the common tasks you might want to perform when you are logged on locally are summarized in Table 2-3.

Table 2-3 Helpful Commands and Utilities for Managing Server Core Installations



Cscript Scregedit.wsf

Configure the operating system. Use the /cli parameter to list available configuration areas.


Configure software RAID.

ipconfig /all

List information about the computer’s IP address configuration.

Netdom RenameComputer

Set the server’s name.

Netdom Join

Join the server to a domain.


Provide multiple contexts for managing the configuration of networking components. Type netsh interface ipv4 to configure IPv4 settings. Type netsh interface ipv6 to configure IPv6 settings.


Add or remove roles, role services, and features.


Install or update hardware device drivers.

Sc query type=driver

List installed device drivers.


Configure Windows Error Reporting.

Slmgr –ato

Windows Software Licensing Management tool used to activate the operating system. Runs Cscript slmgr.vbs –ato.

Slmgr –ipk

Install or replace the product key. Runs Cscript slmgr.vbs –ipk.


List the system configuration details.


Create and manage subscriptions to forwarded events.


View and search event logs.

Winrm quickconfig

Configure the server to accept WS-Management requests from other computers. Runs Cscript winrm.vbs quickconfig. Enter without the quickconfig parameter to see other options.

Wmic datafile where name=“FullFilePath” get version

List a file’s version.

Wmic nicconfig index=9 call enabledhcp

Set the computer to use dynamic IP addressing rather than static IP addressing.

Wmic nicconfig index=9 call enablestatic(“IPAddress”), (“SubnetMask”)

Set a computer’s static IP address and network mask.

Wmic nicconfig index=9 call setgateways(“GatewayIPAddress”)

Set or change the default gateway.

Wmic product get name /value

List installed Microsoft Installer (MSI) applications by name.

Wmic product where name=“Name” call uninstall

Uninstall an MSI application.

Wmic qfe list

List installed updates and hotfixes.

Wusa.exe PatchName.msu /quiet

Apply an update or hotfix to the operating system.