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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Installing a Clean Version of Windows Server 2012 Operating System

The setup GUI for Windows Server 2012 is very similar to the installation process for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. After the installation software loads into memory, the configuration setup pages have a consistent look and feel. Each step outlined in the following sections also has integrated links to relevant Help topics. Many of the choices and options that were historically part of the pre-installation setup process in Windows 2000/2003 are now relegated to post-install configuration after the base OS installation has completed. Therefore, the steps required during initial installation are minimized, allowing for a faster installation and more streamlined initial process, consolidating operations pertaining to settings specific to the final role of the server to the post-installation phase.

The following sections outline the elements that must be entered during a clean installation of Windows Server 2012.

Customizing the Language, Time, Currency, and Keyboard Preferences

The first element when installing Windows Server 2012 is to choose the language to install on the server. Usually, the language selected is English; however, the language selections vary based on a region. Examples of languages include English, Arabic, French, Dutch, Spanish, and many more. The next element to be specified is the time and currency format. This setting dictates how the server will handle currencies, dates, and times, including daylight savings. The final element is the keyboard or input method. Specify the country code, such as US, Canada, or China, and click Next to begin the installation.

The Install Now Page

The next page in the installation process prompts you with an action to Install Now. Click Install Now to commence the Windows Server 2012 installation. In addition, this screen provides access to the new Windows Server 2012 repair console via the Repair Your Server link.

The repair console includes a link to a group of troubleshooting tools:

  • System Image Recovery—Initiates a wizard-driven process to restore the system from a previously created system image
  • Command prompt—A conventional command prompt including access to useful tools such as diskpart, bcdedit and xcopy. This command prompt can be a useful tool for troubleshooting installation problems and even problems with existing servers that won’t boot.

Selecting the Type of Operating System to Install

The next page in the installation process is Select the Operating System You Want to Install. One of the first items that needs to be addressed on every new installation of Windows Server 2012 is which edition and type of operating system will be installed. The options include a Full installation or a Server Core installation. A Full installation is a traditional installation of Windows and includes all the user interfaces and supports all the server roles. As mentioned earlier, a Server Core installation is a scaled-down installation of Windows Server 2012 with the intent to reduce the attack surface and management.

Thanks to the new ability of a Windows Server 2012 server to transition quickly from a Full installation to a Server Core installation, the operating system type can be changed at a later time.

In addition to the server type, the operating system edition must also be selected. Here, again, Windows Server 2012 simplifies the choices with two editions: Standard and Datacenter. There are no longer any feature differences between the editions, only a difference in hardware and virtual systems supported.

Accepting the Terms of the Windows Server 2012 License

The License Terms page is presented next. Review the license terms and check the I Accept the License Terms check box if you comply with these terms. Click Next to continue.

Selecting the Type of Windows Server 2012 Installation

On the Which Type of Installation Do You Want page, you can either select to upgrade an existing Windows server or install a clean copy of Windows. Because this is a clean installation and a legacy operating system does not exist, the upgrade selection will present a message to this effect and prevent the installation from proceeding. Therefore, in this scenario, select Custom: Install Windows Only (Advanced) to perform a clean installation of Windows Server 2012. Click Next to continue, as shown in Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1. Specifying whether to upgrade or install a clean copy of Windows.

Selecting the Location for the Installation

On the next page, the Install Windows Wizard asks where you want to install Windows. You need to specify where you want to install the OS and then click Next to continue, as illustrated in Figure 3.2. At this point, you can supply additional disk drivers, or add, delete, extend, or format partitions in preparation for the install. Once any required operations are done, select the partition for the new operating system installation and click Next.

Figure 3.2

Figure 3.2. Specifying the location for the installation.

Finalizing the Installation and Customizing the Configuration

After the Windows Server 2012 Install Windows Wizard collects the information and installs the Windows operating system, the system restarts. The administrator must set a password before logging on to complete the installation process. When logged on, Server Manager is automatically invoked and presents the Dashboard view, which provides a quick-start series of steps to getting started with the server. By selecting the first link, Configure This Local Server, the Local Server view is activated and presents basic information about the server as well as links to common core configuration tasks, as shown in Figure 3.3. These tasks are commonly used to initially configure the server:

  • Computer Name/Workgroup—Both links allow the configuration of the computer name and workgroup or domain membership as well as primary DNS suffix.
  • Last Installed Updates/Windows Update/Last Checked for Updated—These sections display the configuration and recent activity for the Windows Update client. All three links open the Windows Update control panel.
  • Windows Firewall—Shows the state of the firewall. The link opens the Windows Firewall control panel.
  • Remote Management—Shows whether Remote Management is enabled. The link allows the option to be configured.
  • Remote Desktop—Shows whether Remote Desktop is enabled. The link open the System control panel to the Remote tab.
  • Network Adapter Teaming—Shows whether NIC teaming is enabled. The link opens the NIC teaming configuration console
  • Wired Ethernet Connection—Shows the status of the network connection. The link opens the Network Connections control panel
    Figure 3.3

    Figure 3.3. The Local Server view.

  • Windows Error Reporting/Customer Experience Improvement Program—Shows participation setting for each program. The link allows participation to be configured.
  • IE Enhanced Security Configuration—Shows the state of the IE protection mechanism. The link opens the configuration dialog for the mechanism.
  • Time Zone—Shows the current time zone. The link opens the Date/Time control panel.
  • Product ID—Shows the configured product ID. The link opens the Windows Activation Wizard.

Selecting the Administrator Password

The first configuration task to perform after installing Windows Server 2012 is to set an administrator password. This must be done before you can log on the first time. The installation process automatically creates the default administrator account called, surprisingly enough, Administrator. This account has local administrative privileges and enables you to manage all local configuration settings for the server. For security reasons, it is a good idea to rename the account after the installation.

Enter and confirm the selected administrator password. As in earlier Windows operating systems, the password is case sensitive and can contain up to 127 characters. As a best practice, always use a strong password for high-privilege accounts such as this one. A strong password should be at least eight characters long and include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and non-alphanumeric characters.

Choose your password carefully to ensure the security of the system. You can change both the administrator account name and password in the Change Password dialog box, which can be opened the Ctrl+Alt+Del menu.

Providing the Computer Name and Domain

Once the administrator password has been set, initial configuration tasks can be executed using the Local Server view in Server Manager, starting with the computer name and domain or workgroup membership.

Use the current computer name and workgroup name links to open the System Properties dialog and click the Change button to specify a new computer name and to change your workgroup name or join a domain. If you are joining an existing domain, you need the logon name and password for an account with appropriate domain permissions. Alternatively, you can have the administrator of the domain add your computer name into the domain so that your server can connect. If you do not know the name of the domain that the server will be a member of, or if you do not have the administrative rights to join the server to the domain, you can still change the computer name and you can always join the server to a domain later.

Enabling Automatic Updating and Feedback

Next, the link next to the Windows Update label can is used to configure how your system maintains its health and security by automatically downloading and installing software updates.

Although you can select the default configuration that will install updates automatically by clicking the Turn On Automatic Updates button, server administrators click use the Let Me Choose My Settings link to open the advanced configuration dialog and select the desired options.

Options for deployment of important updates include the ability to not check for updates, only check for updates and notify the administrator, to check and download updates before prompting the administrator to install the patches, and the final option (the default option) is to automatically install updates. Servers are usually configured using the second or third options to strike a balance between timely patch deployment and administrative control.

Additional options include the ability to include recommended updates in the automated process and, if the automatic updates option was selected, the option to configure the maintenance window for automated installation.

When patching enterprise environments, it is a best practice to control software updates via a patching solution, such as System Center Configuration Manager 2012 or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

Downloading and Installing Updates

Even though you might have selected the option in the previous steps to automatically configure server updates, it is still possible to download and install updates manually by clicking the links next to Last Installed Updates and Last Checked for Updated. When these are clicked, the server connects to the Microsoft Windows Update site. Before configuring roles or features or making your server available to users on the network, it is a best practice to install the latest updates and patches from Microsoft. If your environment uses an automated tool such as WSUS, tested and approved patches might already be installed by your update and patching infrastructure if the system was joined to the domain and is configured to do so.

Configuring Windows Firewall

By default, Windows Firewall is turned on when the base OS is first installed. Although the firewall only protects the server from inbound and outbound access (as opposed to compromises from within the OS, such as a virus or other malware), this is usually adequate protection on a newly built machine until the system is patched and loaded with antivirus software or any other protective systems.

Unless you configure exceptions to the firewall, users cannot access resources or services on the server. Exceptions to this are roles and features installed using Server Manager or PowerShell. Many roles and features automatically create the required exceptions for their own workload, enabling you to leave the firewall on while allowing access to specific functions on the server, if desired. With Windows Server 2012, it is possible to configure incoming and outgoing firewall rules on each network connection using the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security console available from the tools menu in Server Manager.

Enabling Remote Management and Remote Desktop

The links for Remote Management and Remote Desktop provide a quick way to configure the server for remote administration. Remote Management allows remote connections to the server using tools such as Server Manager, PowerShell, and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).

By enabling Remote Desktop, you can connect to the server using a remote desktop (or Remote Desktop Protocol [RDP]) session. An important security option is configured when the component is enabled. The two choices for allowing Remote Desktop access are Allow Connections from Computers Running Any Version of Remote Desktop (Less Secure) and Allow Connections from Computers Running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication (More Secure).

Using Remote Desktop to manage systems greatly eases administration of servers but does open another door into each system; therefore, consider restricting access via Remote Desktop to users who have a need to access those systems. Access to RDP sessions is controlled using the membership of the Remote Desktop Users group.

Configuring Networking

Windows Server 2012 introduces network interface card (NIC) teaming as part of the operating system. Click the Network Adapter Teaming link to open the NIC Teaming configuration dialog, from where you can create and manage teams on local and remote servers.

Links for each network connection are available to configure network settings. By default, Windows Server 2012, as with earlier versions of Windows, installs Client for Microsoft Networks, File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks, and TCP/IPv4. In addition, Windows Server 2012 installs Microsoft Network Monitor 3 Driver, QoS Packet Scheduler, Internet Protocol version 6 (TCP/IPv6), Link-Layer Topology Discovery Mapper I/O Driver, and Link-Layer Topology Discovery Responder.

The client, service, and protocols that are installed by default will meet most companies’ needs and require little manual configuration. You will, however, likely want to change the TCP/IPv4 and TCP/IPv6 settings and assign a static address for the server.

For more details on configuring TCP/IP and the new protocol stack, review the chapters in Part III of this book, “Networking Services.”

Sending Feedback to Microsoft

Two core configuration options configure the ability to participate in Microsoft programs designed to improve Windows Server product. Although it is easy to dismiss these features, the tools do provide you an easy way to submit your experience with Microsoft products with very little or no effort. Anonymous information gathered from users shapes Microsoft products and technologies, so if you don’t have corporate policies that prohibit sharing technical information outside of your organization, give some thought to participating. If selected, the following options can be configured:

  • Windows Error Reporting—Windows Error Reporting, by default, prompts you to send detailed information to Microsoft when errors occur on your server. You can turn this function off or configure it to automatically send the error information to Microsoft. You can further configure whether detailed or summary reports are sent. Reports contain information that is most useful for diagnosing and solving the problem that has occurred.
  • Customer Experience Improvement Program—The Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) gathers anonymous information and periodically sends it to Microsoft. CEIP reports generally include information about the features and general tasks performed by a user as well as any problems encountered when using the Microsoft product.

Configuring Browser Security

Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration (IE ESC) is a default application configuration on servers that greatly reduces the potential for the server to be infected with malware when browsing the web. This is accomplished by disabling many components and interfaces in Internet Explorer, which makes the browser experience more secure and extremely limited. Because the best practice is to avoid browsing websites directly on a server, this is a welcome protection layer that should be maintained.

Certain server workloads, most typically Remote Desktop Services, might require disabling IE ESC for users. Even in those environments, it is still recommended to keep the setting enabled for administrators as a security precaution.

Setting the Time Zone

The Time Zone link is used to open the Date and Time dialog box. On the Date and Time tab, set the time zone where the server will operate by clicking the Change Date and Time button. In addition, click the Change Time Zone button to configure the time zone for the server. The next tab, Additional Clocks, as displayed in Figure 3.4, should be utilized if there is a need to display the time in another time zone. Up to two clocks can be configured on this tab.

Figure 3.4

Figure 3.4. Configuring additional clocks.

Activate Windows

The last link, labeled Product ID, opens the Windows Activation Wizard. As with other Microsoft operating systems, Windows Server 2012 must be activated within a set number of days. In the Windows Activation dialog box, enter the product key, which will be validated once complete. Click Activate to complete the activation.

Adding Roles

Once the basic configuration steps are completed, you can install server roles from the Manage menu, such as Active Directory Domain Services, Active Directory Rights Management Services, DNS Server, and much more to your server. The process also adds dependent services and components as needed (alerting you along the way). This ensures that as you are setting up your system, all the necessary components are installed—alleviating the need to use multiple tools to install, secure, and manage a given server role—and that the roles are set up securely, meaning that only the required components and configurations are implemented and nothing more. Although it’s critical to understand dependencies for whatever role or function the server might hold, getting the system set up quickly, efficiently, and accurately is always paramount, and these setup tools help accomplish just that.

Adding Features

Features are added from the same wizard as roles, using the Manage menu. Features are secondary to roles but contain powerful and useful tools that can be installed on the server. Features such as RPC over HTTP Proxy (for Exchange), Multipath I/O, .NET Framework 3.5 features, Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), and SMTP Server can be installed and configured. Backup and other management tools can also be installed using this tool.

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