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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Understanding Server Core Installation

Windows Server Core, an installation option, was one of the most innovative and anticipated features of Windows Server 2008. The Windows Server Core installation provides a minimal environment for running a specific server role, including, but not limited to, a domain controller, web server, or DHCP server. In this situation, only a subset of the Windows Server 2012 binaries is utilized. The Server Core installation is so stripped that traditional installation components, such as a desktop shell, GUI, Windows Explorer, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), are not included. Therefore, the server must be fully managed and configured via the command prompt or by using remote administration tools from another server.

By maintaining a minimized installation footprint, stripping out many typical components and only supporting specific roles, the Server Core installation reduces maintenance, attack surface, management, and disk space required to support the installation.

Supporting a Server Core installation, particularly for administrators who do not understand scripting commands and who heavily rely on the GUI tools to manage a server, is possible by enabling the ability to remotely manage the Server Core installation through the MMC and other remote consoles.

Windows Server 2012 includes the following new features and functionality for Server Core:

  • Support for additional roles—Core installations now support more server roles than ever before. Newly added support for Remote Access (Routing and Remote Access Service [RRAS]), Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), and several role services for Remote Desktop Services, among others, now make core installations more versatile and useful.
  • Support for SQL Server—Probably the most important new functionality is the support for SQL Server 2012 databases on a Server Core installation.
  • Easy migration between Core and GUI—Using a single command, a Windows Server 2012 server can be migrated from a core installation to a GUI installation and vice versa.
  • Minimal server interface—Graphical Management Tools, Desktop Experience, and Server Graphical Shell are now features that you can install or remove independently, resulting in a Minimal Server GUI installation, a new mode between a Server Core installation and a full GUI installation. This provides even more flexibility in balancing security, manageability, and functionality.

Installing Server Core

When installing Windows Server 2012 Server Core, the actual installation process is very similar to a regular server install, which was conducted in the earlier sections of this chapter. To recap, an administrator agrees to the licensing terms, supplies configuration responses, and the Windows Server 2012 Setup Windows Wizard copies the files and configures the server. However, unlike a traditional installation of Windows, when the installation is complete and you log on, there isn’t a GUI to configure the server. The server can only be configured and managed via the command prompt.

The Server Core installation reboots your machine or virtual server a couple of times when device detection and the installation takes place. Eventually, the logon screen appears.

Follow these steps to complete a Windows Server 2012 Server Core installation:

  1. Insert the Windows Server 2012 media and boot the system from media.
  2. Specify the language to install, time and currency format, and keyboard or input method, and then click Next.
  3. Click Install Now to begin the installation process.
  4. On the Select the Operating System You Want to Install page, select the Windows Server 2012 Server Core. Click Next to continue.
  5. Review the license terms and select the I Accept the License Terms option, and then click Next.
  6. On the Which Type of Installation Do You Want Page, select Custom: Install Windows only (Advanced), as shown in Figure 3.7.
    Figure 3.7

    Figure 3.7. Selecting a custom installation.

  7. On the Where Do You Want to Install Windows page, select the disk where you plan to install the Windows system files. Alternatively, you can click the Drive options (advanced) to create, delete, extend, or format partitions. In addition, click Load Driver to install drivers for the Windows Server 2012 installation that are not available on the media.

The installation process commences by copying the files, installing the Windows operating system, and configuring features. After this process is complete, the server automatically reboots itself and require the installer to change the administrator password for the system. Enter and confirm the administrator password to change the password and log on. You will now be presented with a command prompt window, the only GUI available in Server Core.

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