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Managing Servers Running Windows Server 2012

Managing System Properties

You use the System console to view system information and perform basic configuration tasks. To access the System console, double-tap or double-click System in Control Panel. As Figure 2-5 shows, the System console is divided into four basic areas that provide links for performing common tasks and a system overview:

  • Windows Edition Shows the operating system edition and version, and lists any service packs you applied.
  • System Lists the processor, memory, and type of operating system installed on the computer. The type of operating system is listed as 32-bit or 64-bit.
  • Computer Name, Domain, And Workgroup Settings Provides the computer name, description, domain, and workgroup details. If you want to change any of this information, tap or click Change Settings and then tap or click Change in the System Properties dialog box.
  • Windows Activation Shows whether you have activated the operating system and the product key. If Windows Server 2012 isn’t activated yet, tap or click the link provided to start the activation process and then follow the prompts.
Figure 2-5

Figure 2-5 Use the System console to view and manage system properties.

When you’re working in the System console, links in the left pane provide quick access to key support tools, including the following:

  • Device Manager
  • Remote Settings
  • Advanced System Settings

Although volume-licensed versions of Windows Server 2012 might not require activation or product keys, retail versions of Windows Server 2012 require both activation and product keys. If Windows Server 2012 has not been activated, you can activate the operating system by selecting Activate Windows Now under Windows Activation. You can also activate Windows by entering slmgr –ato at a command prompt.

You can change the product key provided during installation of Windows Server 2012 to stay in compliance with your licensing plan. At a command prompt, type slmgr –ipk followed by the product key you want to use, and then press Enter. When Windows finishes validating the product key, you need to reactivate the operating system.

Within the System console, you can access the System Properties dialog box and use this dialog box to manage system properties. Tap or click Change Settings under Computer Name, Domain, And Workgroup Settings. The following sections examine key areas of the operating system you can configure using the System Properties dialog box.

The Computer Name Tab

You can display and modify the computer’s network identification on the Computer Name tab of the System Properties dialog box. The Computer Name tab displays the full computer name of the system and the domain membership. The full computer name is essentially the Domain Name System (DNS) name of the computer, which also identifies the computer’s place within the Active Directory hierarchy. If a computer is a domain controller or a certificate authority, you can change the computer name only after removing the related role from the computer.

You can join a computer to a domain or workgroup by following these steps:

  1. On the Computer Name tab of the System Properties dialog box, tap or click Change. This displays the Computer Name/Domain Changes dialog box.
  2. To put the computer in a workgroup, select the Workgroup option and then type the name of the workgroup to join.
  3. To join the computer to a domain, select the Domain option, type the name of the domain to join, and then tap or click OK.
  4. If you changed the computer’s domain membership, you’ll see a Windows Security prompt. Enter the name and password of an account with permission to add the computer to the specified domain or to remove the computer from a previously specified domain, and then tap or click OK.
  5. When prompted that your computer has joined the workgroup or domain you specified, tap or click OK.
  6. You’ll see a prompt stating that you need to restart the computer. Tap or click OK.
  7. Tap or click Close, and then tap or click Restart Now to restart the computer.

To change the name of a computer, follow these steps:

  1. On the Computer Name tab of the System Properties dialog box, tap or click Change. This displays the Computer Name/Domain Changes dialog box.
  2. In the Computer Name text box, type the new name for the computer.
  3. You’ll see a prompt stating that you need to restart the computer. Tap or click OK.
  4. Tap or click Close, and then tap or click Restart Now to restart the computer.

The Hardware Tab

The System Properties dialog box’s Hardware tab provides access to Device Manager and Driver Installation Settings. To access the Hardware tab, open the System Properties dialog box and then tap or click the Hardware tab.

For installed devices, you can configure Windows Server to download driver software and realistic icons for devices. By default, Windows Server does not do this. If you want a computer to check for drivers automatically, tap or click the Device Installation Settings button and then select either Yes, Do This Automatically or No, Let Me Choose What To Do. If you want to choose what to do, you can specify the following:

  • Always install the best driver software from Windows Update
  • Never install driver software from Windows Update
  • Automatically get the device apps and info provided by your device manufacturer

The first two options do exactly what they say. The final option tells Windows Update that you want to get metadata and companion applications for devices. Tap or click Save Changes, and then tap or click OK to apply your changes.

The Advanced Tab

The System utility’s Advanced tab controls many of the key features of the Windows operating system, including application performance, virtual memory usage, the user profile, environment variables, and startup and recovery. To access the Advanced tab, open the System Properties dialog box and then tap or click the Advanced tab.

Setting Windows Performance

Many graphics enhancements were added to the Windows Server 2008 interface, and these enhancements are available in later releases as well. These enhancements include many visual effects for menus, toolbars, windows, and the taskbar. You can configure Windows performance by following these steps:

  1. Tap or click the Advanced tab in the System Properties dialog box, and then tap or click Settings in the Performance panel to display the Performance Options dialog box.

  2. The Visual Effects tab is selected by default. You have the following options for controlling visual effects:

    • Let Windows Choose What’s Best For My Computer Enables the operating system to choose the performance options based on the hardware configuration. For a newer computer, this option will probably have the same effect as choosing the Adjust For Best Appearance option. The key distinction, however, is that this option is chosen by Windows based on the available hardware and its performance capabilities.

    • Adjust For Best Appearance When you optimize Windows for best appearance, you enable all visual effects for all graphical interfaces. Menus and the taskbar use transitions and shadows. Screen fonts have smooth edges. List boxes have smooth scrolling. Folders use web views and more.

    • Adjust For Best Performance When you optimize Windows for best performance, you turn off the resource-intensive visual effects, such as slide transitions and smooth edges for fonts, while maintaining a basic set of visual effects.

    • Custom You can customize the visual effects by selecting or clearing the visual effects options in the Performance Options dialog box. If you clear all options, Windows does not use visual effects.

  3. Tap or click Apply when you have finished changing visual effects. Tap or click OK twice to close the open dialog boxes.

Setting Application Performance

Application performance is related to processor-scheduling caching options you set for the Windows Server 2012 system. Processor scheduling determines the responsiveness of applications you are running interactively (as opposed to background applications that might be running on the system as services). You control application performance by following these steps:

  1. Access the Advanced tab in the System Properties dialog box, and then display the Performance Options dialog box by tapping or clicking Settings in the Performance panel.

  2. In the Performance Options dialog box, tap or click the Advanced tab.

  3. In the Processor Scheduling panel, you have the following options:

    • Programs Use this option to give the active application the best response time and the greatest share of available resources. Generally, you’ll want to use this option only on development servers or when you are using Windows Server 2012 as your desktop operating system.

    • Background Services Use this option to give background applications a better response time than the active application. Generally, you’ll want to use this option for production servers.

  4. Tap or click OK.

Configuring Virtual Memory

With virtual memory, you can use disk space to extend the amount of memory available on a system by using part of the hard disk as part of system memory. This feature writes RAM to disks by using a process called paging. With paging, a set amount of RAM, such as 8192 megabytes (MB), is written to the disk as a paging file. The paging file can be accessed from the disk when needed in place of physical RAM.

An initial paging file is created automatically for the drive containing the operating system. By default, other drives don’t have paging files, so you must create these paging files if you want them. When you create a paging file, you set an initial size and a maximum size. Paging files are written to the volume as a file named Pagefile.sys.

You can configure virtual memory by following these steps:

  1. Access the Advanced tab in the System Properties dialog box, and then display the Performance Options dialog box by tapping or clicking Settings in the Performance panel.

  2. In the Performance Options dialog box, tap or click the Advanced tab and then tap or click Change to display the Virtual Memory dialog box, shown in Figure 2-6.

    Figure 2-6

    Figure 2-6 Virtual memory extends the amount of RAM on a system.

    The following information is provided:

    • Paging File Size For Each Drive Provides information on the currently selected drive, and allows you to set its paging file size. Space Available indicates how much space is available on the drive.

    • Drive [Volume Label] and Paging File Size Show how virtual memory is currently configured on the system. Each volume is listed with its associated paging file (if any). The paging file range shows the initial and maximum size values set for the paging file.

    • Total Paging File Size For All Drives Provides a recommended size for virtual RAM on the system, and tells you the amount currently allocated. If this is the first time you’re configuring virtual RAM, notice that the recommended amount has already been given to the system drive (in most instances).

  3. By default, Windows Server manages the paging file size for all drives. If you want to configure virtual memory manually, clear the Automatically Manage Paging File Size For All Drives check box.

  4. In the Drive list, select the volume you want to work with.

  5. Select Custom Size, and then enter values in the Initial Size and Maximum Size boxes.

  6. Tap or click Set to save the changes.

  7. Repeat steps 4–6 for each volume you want to configure.

  8. Tap or click OK. If prompted to overwrite an existing Pagefile.sys file, tap or click Yes.

  9. If you updated the settings for a paging file that is currently in use, you’ll see a prompt indicating that you need to restart the system for the changes to take effect. Tap or click OK.

  10. Tap or click OK twice to close the open dialog boxes. When you close the System utility, you’ll see a prompt asking if you want to restart the system. Tap or click Restart.

You can have Windows Server 2012 automatically manage virtual memory by following these steps:

  1. Access the Advanced tab in the System Properties dialog box, and then display the Performance Options dialog box by tapping or clicking Settings in the Performance panel.
  2. Tap or click the Advanced tab, and then tap or click Change to display the Virtual Memory dialog box.
  3. Select the Automatically Manage Paging File Size For All Drives check box.
  4. Tap or click OK three times to close the open dialog boxes.

Configuring Data Execution Prevention

Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is a memory-protection technology. DEP tells the computer’s processor to mark all memory locations in an application as nonexecutable unless the location explicitly contains executable code. If code is executed from a memory page marked as nonexecutable, the processor can raise an exception and prevent it from executing. This prevents malicious code such as a virus from inserting itself into most areas of memory because only specific areas of memory are marked as having executable code.

Using and Configuring DEP

You can determine whether a computer supports DEP by using the System utility. If a computer supports DEP, you can also configure it by following these steps:

  1. Access the Advanced tab in the System Properties dialog box, and then display the Performance Options dialog box by tapping or clicking Settings in the Performance panel.

  2. In the Performance Options dialog box, tap or click the Data Execution Prevention tab. The text at the bottom of this tab indicates whether the computer supports execution protection.

  3. If a computer supports execution protection and is configured appropriately, you can configure DEP by using the following options:

    • Turn On DEP For Essential Windows Programs And Services Only Enables DEP only for operating system services, programs, and components. This is the default and recommended option for computers that support execution protection and are configured appropriately.

    • Turn On DEP For All Programs Except Those I Select Configures DEP, and allows for exceptions. Select this option, and then tap or click Add to specify programs that should run without execution protection. With this option, execution protection will work for all programs except those you select.

  4. Tap or click OK.

If you turned on DEP and allowed exceptions, you can add or remove a program as an exception by following these steps:

  1. Access the Advanced tab in the System Properties dialog box, and then display the Performance Options dialog box by tapping or clicking Settings in the Performance panel.
  2. In the Performance Options dialog box, tap or click the Data Execution Prevention tab.
  3. To add a program as an exception, tap or click Add. Use the Open dialog box to find the executable file for the program you are configuring as an exception, and then tap or click Open.
  4. To temporarily disable a program as an exception (this might be necessary for troubleshooting), clear the check box next to the program name.
  5. To remove a program as an exception, tap or click the program name and then tap or click Remove.
  6. Tap or click OK to save your settings.

Understanding DEP Compatibility

To be compatible with DEP, applications must be able to mark memory explicitly with Execute permission. Applications that cannot do this will not be compatible with the NX processor feature. If you experience memory-related problems running applications, you should determine which applications are having problems and configure them as exceptions rather than disable execution protection completely. This way, you still get the benefits of memory protection and can selectively disable memory protection for programs that aren’t running properly with the NX processor feature.

Execution protection is applied to both user-mode and kernel-mode programs. A user-mode execution protection exception results in a STATUS_ACCESS_VIOLATION exception. In most processes, this exception will be an unhandled exception, resulting in termination of the process. This is the behavior you want because most programs violating these rules, such as a virus or worm, will be malicious in nature.

You cannot selectively enable or disable execution protection for kernel-mode device drivers the way you can with applications. Furthermore, on compliant 32-bit systems, execution protection is applied by default to the memory stack. On compliant 64-bit systems, execution protection is applied by default to the memory stack, the paged pool, and the session pool. A kernel-mode execution protection access violation for a device driver results in an ATTEMPTED_EXECUTE_OF_NOEXECUTE_MEMORY exception.

Configuring System and User Environment Variables

Windows uses environment variables to track important strings, such as a path where files are located or the logon domain controller host name. Environment variables defined for use by Windows—called system environment variables—are the same no matter who is logged on to a particular computer. Environment variables defined for use by users or programs—called user environment variables—are different for each user of a particular computer.

You configure system and user environment variables by means of the Environment Variables dialog box, shown in Figure 2-7. To access this dialog box, open the System Properties dialog box, tap or click the Advanced tab, and then tap or click Environment Variables.

Creating an Environment Variable

You can create an environment variable by following these steps:

  1. Tap or click New under User Variables or under System Variables, whichever is appropriate. This opens the New User Variable dialog box or the New System Variable dialog box, respectively.
  2. In the Variable Name text box, type the variable name. In the Variable Value text box, type the variable value.
  3. Tap or click OK.

Editing an Environment Variable

You can edit an environment variable by following these steps:

  1. Select the variable in the User Variables or System Variables list.
  2. Tap or click Edit under User Variables or under System Variables, whichever is appropriate. The Edit User Variable dialog box or the Edit System Variable dialog box opens.
  3. Type a new value in the Variable Value text box, and then tap or click OK.
Figure 2-7

Figure 2-7 Configure system and user environment variables in the Environment Variables dialog box.

Deleting an Environment Variable

To delete an environment variable, select it and tap or click Delete.

Configuring System Startup and Recovery

You configure system startup and recovery properties in the Startup And Recovery dialog box, shown in Figure 2-8. To access this dialog box, open the System Properties dialog box, tap or click the Advanced tab, and then tap or click Settings in the Startup And Recovery panel.

Figure 2-8

Figure 2-8 Configure system startup and recovery properties in the Startup And Recovery dialog box.

Setting Startup Options

The System Startup area of the Startup And Recovery dialog box controls system startup. To specify the default operating system for a computer with multiple bootable operating systems, select one of the operating systems listed in the Default Operating System list. These options change the configuration settings used by the Windows Boot Manager.

Upon startup of a computer with multiple bootable operating systems, Windows Server displays the startup configuration menu for 30 seconds by default. You can change this by performing either of the following actions:

  • Boot immediately to the default operating system by clearing the Time To Display List Of Operating Systems check box.
  • Display the available options for a specific amount of time by selecting the Time To Display List Of Operating Systems check box and then setting a time delay in seconds.

On most systems, you’ll generally want to use a value of 3 to 5 seconds. This is long enough for you to make a selection, yet short enough to expedite the system startup process.

When the system is in a recovery mode and booting, a list of recovery options might be displayed. As you can with the standard startup options, you can configure recovery startup options in one of two ways. You can set the computer to boot immediately using the default recovery option by clearing the Time To Display Recovery Options When Needed check box, or you can display the available options for a specific amount of time by selecting Time To Display Recovery Options When Needed and then setting a time delay in seconds.

Setting Recovery Options

You control system recovery with the System Failure and Write Debugging Information areas of the Startup And Recovery dialog box. Administrators use recovery options to control precisely what happens when the system encounters a fatal system error (also known as a Stop error). The available options for the System Failure area are as follows:

  • Write An Event To The System Log Logs the error in the system log, allowing administrators to review the error later using Event Viewer.
  • Automatically Restart Select this option to have the system attempt to reboot when a fatal system error occurs.

You use the Write Debugging Information list to choose the type of debugging information you want to write to a dump file. You can use the dump file to diagnose system failures. The options are as follows:

  • None Use this option if you don’t want to write debugging information.
  • Small Memory Dump Use this option to dump the physical memory segment in which the error occurred. This dump is 256 KB in size.
  • Kernel Memory Dump Use this option to dump the physical memory area being used by the Windows kernel. The dump file size depends on the size of the Windows kernel.
  • Complete Memory Dump Use this option to dump all physical memory. The dump file size depends on the amount of physical memory being used, up to a maximum file size equal to the total physical RAM on the server.
  • Automatic Memory Dump Use this option to let Windows determine which type of memory dump is best and create the dump file accordingly.

If you elect to write to a dump file, you must also set a location for it. The default dump locations are %SystemRoot%\Minidump for small memory dumps and %SystemRoot%\Memory.dmp for all other memory dumps. You’ll usually want to select Overwrite Any Existing File as well. Selecting this option ensures that any existing dump files are overwritten if a new Stop error occurs.

The Remote Tab

The Remote tab of the System Properties dialog box controls Remote Assistance invitations and Remote Desktop connections. These options are discussed in Chapter 4.