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Windows Server 2012 Installation Options

More flexibility and better supportability

Server with GUI

This installation option is the familiar one by most IT pros. It installs the user interface and all server tools. In Windows Server 2012, the interface although with Metro-style looks and feels, it however does not support Metro-style applications without adding Desktop Experience feature.

One important deployment feature in Windows Server 2012 is that the ability to convert from a Server with GUI deployment to a Server Core installation, and vice versa, with PowerShell. This is different from that in Windows Server 2008 release where one cannot change the installation option of a server, once installed. To convert an installation from Server with GUI to Server Core, run the following PowerShell command:

Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -Restart

And the installation will take minute to reconfigure followed by rebooting into Server Core with all settings removed from User Interfaces and Infrastructure.

Notice the above converting from a Server with GUI to Server Core installation does not completely remove all the files associated from the local disk. Such that to re-install the GUI components from this state, simply run:

Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell -Restart

This will convert this Server Core installation back to Server with GUI with settings. To completely remove all associated files and dependent components of a role or feature, use the –Remove flag. This brings the feature to a state called “disabled with payload removed.” And to reinstall a role or feature disabled with payload removed, one will need to have an installation source and use the –Source for specifying the path. And the component sources must be from the exact same version of Windows for the reinstallation to work. Without the –Source option, PowerShell will use Windows Update by default. This ability to remove and reinstall a component of Windows Server 2012 is presented as “Features on Demand.”

Minimal Server Interface

This is new. In Windows Server 2012, with a Server with GUI installation one can remove the Server Graphical Shell (which provides full GUI for server) to set a full server installation with the so-called Minimal Server Interface option with the following PowerShell comlet.

Unstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell -Restart

This basically provides a Server with GUI, but without installing Internet Explorer 10, Windows Explorer, the desktop, and the Start screen. Additionally, Microsoft Management Console (MMC), Server Manager, and a subset of Control Panel are still in place. Minimal Server Interface requires 4 GB more disk space than Server Core alone. Figure 1shows the user experience of Minimal Server Interface in which the server boots with the shown settings:

Figure 1. User Experience of Minimal Server Interface of Windows Server 2012

Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure is the set of features providing a minimal server interface for supporting GUI management tool. Uninstalling Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure at this time will further convert the server to a Server Core installation with the settings.

There is an apparent inheritance relationship between Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra and Server-Gui-Shell as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Dependnecy Between GUI Components in Windows Server 2012

[This is a cross-posting from http://aka.ms/yungchou.]

More Stories By Yung Chou

Yung Chou is a Technology Evangelist in Microsoft. Within the company, he has had opportunities serving customers in the areas of support account management, technical support, technical sales, and evangelism. Prior to Microsoft, he had established capacities in system programming, application development, consulting services, and IT management. His recent technical focuses have been in virtualization and cloud computing with strong interests in hybrid cloud and emerging enterprise computing architecture. He is a frequent speaker in Microsoft conferences, roadshow, and TechNet events.

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