Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Windows Server 2012 - installation, GUI to Server Core to GUI

Windows Server 2012 - Installation features


Introduction

After a good number of posts on Exchange 2010, I'm going to take a look at Windows Server 2012. This is a new server OS that system administrators will have to learn and Exchange administrators in particular, at least if they want to become certified in Exchange 2013. Passing Microsoft exams 70-410, 70-411 and 70-412 is a pre-requisite for certification in Exchange 2013. 
 
I'll start with the installation then. This first post will cover the basics of a Full (GUI) installation which is essentially a matter of following the prompts.
 
So, to make the post a little more interesting, I'll explore one of the new Windows 2012 features that allows the admin to convert a Full installation into a Server Core installation and vice versa.

Full installation


I'm working in a virtual environment (VMware workstation 9) and I'll boot from an .iso image:



First, we have to select the language and regional settings - we'll go with the defaults:




Click on "Install now" (and "Next" as necessary - very simple "follow the prompts").
 
We then have a combination of choices: Datacenter or Standard and Server Core or Full (GUI) installation. I'll opt for the Full installation and then demonstrate later how we can move from one to another.



Some notes:

As was already the case for Windows Server 2008 R2, there is no 32 bit version of Windows Server 2012, so no choice is neceessary there.

In fact, there are 4 editions of Windows 2012 (all 64 bit):

  • Datacenter. This version (OEM only) comes with unlimited licensing for virtual machine clients and offers features such as the ability to add hardware without turning the machine off.
  • Standard. This version has the same "native" features as Datacenter but with only 2 licenses for virtual clients and without the special OEM hardware associated with Datacenter.
  • Essentials. This version has most of the features of the Standard edition except for Server Core, Hyper-V and Active Directory Federation Services. It is also limited to 25 users.
  • Foundation. Limited to 15 users, this edition is for customers requiring only very basic services, such as file and print services.
All editions may not be included on the same media however, hence the absence of Essentials and Foundation in the screenshot above.
 
 
 
On the next screen (not shown), we accept the license agreement (if we want to continue the installation) and on the screen after that, we select the second option (custom) since this is a new (fresh) installation:
 




We'll install Windows 2012 on a small 36 GB partition which would not be enough for a production environment but more than enough to examine the various install options:





Note: minimal hardware requirements for Windows 2012 are of little concern since it would be difficult to find servers with such limited resources today:

  •  Processor: 1.4 Ghz (64 bit only)
  • RAM: 512 MB (maximum = 4 TB)
  • Disk space: 32 GB

When the installation process completes, the server will reboot and we'll be prompted to enter a password and then press Ctrl-Alt-Del to logon.






As with Windows 2008, the Server Manager (Dashboard) interface displays once the admin logs on (although the format of the interface is quite different from W2K8).





Let's click on "Configure this Local Server"

The elements that can be configured are shown.

We'll configure the server name and IP address. We can add the server to a domain later as needed.




First the name change:




We need to restart for changes to take effect but we'll restart after we configure the IP address.


Note that the NIC is now called "Ethernet" instead of "Local Area Connection".


We'll right click on the icon, select properties and then open the IPv4 properties.




Configure the IP settings as appropriate for your environment (what follows is a simple example):







To restart, I'll open Powershell and type shutdown /r (there is no start button to restart the server):








Conversion to Server Core


Now that the full (GUI) installation is complete, we can convert the installation to Server Core.


In the upper right-hand corner of Server Manager, click on "Manage" and then select "Remove Roles and Features":





Select a server from the server pool, in this case SVR-1 (the only one):




Skip the "Roles" section and proceed to the "Features" page. Uncheck "Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure" and "Server Graphical Shell":






Remove dependent features as needed:






Confirm the operations and click on Remove (button in lower right-hand corner, not shown in screenshot):




If you did not check the "restart" box (in screenshot above), you have to restart the server manually after the the features have been removed:




Server Core


When the server restarts, we are in "Server Core". There is nothing but a command prompt:




We can configure just about everything at the command line - if we know the commands. Many (most) administrators will prefer to manage the server remotely using Server Manager. Even so, it is useful to know how to complete some basic operations at the command line.

We can see the server's name and IP address with the following commands:

- hostname
- ipconfig






We can even change these settings at the command line:


Computer Name

netdom renamecomputer SVR-1 /newname:SVR-CORE-1

Confirm the operation when prompted and restart the server.


IP address

We can change the IP address of the various network interfaces.

To see the interfaces (without ncpa.cpl), enter this command:

netsh interface ipv4 show interfaces

Idx     Met         MTU          State                Name
---  ----------  ----------  ------------  ---------------------------
  1          50  4294967295  connected     Loopback Pseudo-Interface 1
 12          10        1500       connected     Ethernet


To configure a static IP address, enter this command (adjust as appropriate for your network):

netsh interface ipv4 set address Ethernet static 10.1.1.12 255.0.0.0 10.1.1.2


C:\>ipconfig

Windows IP Configuration

Ethernet adapter Ethernet:
   Connection-specific DNS Suffix  . :
   Link-local IPv6 Address . . . . . : fe80::81d[...]
   IPv4 Address. . . . . . . . . . . : 10.1.1.12
   Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . : 255.0.0.0
   Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . : 10.1.1.2


Conversion to GUI


If we manage the server remotely, from a workstation, using Server Manager (or even Remote Powershell), the Server Core interface will not be a problem.

Even so,  some admins may prefer the GUI.

So how do we convert the Core interface to the GUI?

In theory, we should be able to enter the cmd "sconfig" and select the option to "Restore Graphical User Interface (GUI)"

However, for some reason, this option is missing:





Let's use DISM instead.

What is the state of the feature (one example)?

C:\>dism /online /Get-featureInfo /featurename:Server-Gui-Shell
[...]
State : Disabled
[...]

How do we restore the features?

C:\>dism /online /enable-feature /featurename:Server-Gui-Shell /featurename:Server-Gui-Mgmt /featurename:ServerCore-FullServer

(Restart required).

I'll spare the reader a duplicate screenshot and simply state that the GUI will look just like it did above when it was first installed initially.




Final notes


For those that like Powershell, even with the GUI, Powershell can be used to change installation types.

I did encounter some problems however.



Conversion from GUI to Server Core

I try these two commands but the result is the same: an apparent success but in reality a failure: the operation completes in a couple seconds but only in appearance. The GUI is still present after reboot.



PS C:\> Remove-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell,Server-Gui-Mgmt

PS C:\> Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell,Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra

Success Restart Needed Exit Code      Feature Result
-------    --------------               ---------       --------------
True        No            NoChangeNeeded {}


Let's try just one...
PS C:\> Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra
Success Restart Needed Exit Code      Feature Result
------- -------------- ---------      --------------
True    No             NoChangeNeeded {}


No, it does not work.


This does work but removes the features entirely:


PS C:\> Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell,Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -Remove






We need a Internet connection (or other source) to replace them.





Conversion from Server Core to GUI



PS C:\> Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra,Server-Gui-Shell

Success Restart Needed Exit Code      Feature Result
------- -------------- ---------      --------------
True    Yes            SuccessRest... {Graphical Management Tools and Infras...

 














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