Server 2012: More Than Meets The Eye

When I was a kid, I loved getting up on Saturday mornings and watching a TV to a show called “The Transformers”.  Giant robots that can transform into vehicles, how could I not watch that!  Luckily in 2007, they brought back the franchise with a full length motion picture.  Explosions, alien robots, and Megan Fox, what more could I ask for?  My need for watching things transform into other things was fulfilled.  At least I thought it was…

Enter Windows Server 2012.  This beauty of a Operating System can be changed from a simple Command Prompt, to a server with a minimal interface, or even a full blown Graphical User Interface (GUI) within a few clicks.  Better yet, it can do all of this without hiring Michael Bay.

It’s extremely easy to transform a full 2012 Server installation into a Server Core Installation and vice versa.  Depending on what you want to do, you can either use Server Manager, or PowerShell.  Lets fist start by transforming a Full Server installation into a Core installation.

Transform Server 2012 GUI into Server 2012 Core:

1. Open “Server Manager” and select  “Remove Roles and Features

Server Manager

2. On the “Remove Features” screen uncheck “Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure”.  Doing so will automatically remove “Server Graphical Shell” as well.

Remove Role

3. On the next screen select “Restart the destination server automatically if required”. After which, hit the “Remove” button.

Restart Server

4. After reboot and you log back on, you’re presented with the Server Core installation.

Server Core

You can also remove these features with Windows PowerShell.  Like before, if you would like to transform your GUI installation into a Core installation via PowerShell use the following command.

PS C:\>Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra –restart

Transform Server 2012 Core into Server 2012 GUI:

So now you have transformed your Server GUI installation into Core.  Core is great in my opinion.  Less resources to take up, less patching, and less of a security risk.  However, lets say you are unhappy for some reason, and you need the GUI back.  Is it possible?  Heck yeah it is!

1. Open “PowerShell.exe” from within the Command Prompt.

Server Core

2. Within PowerShell type the following command, and hit the enter key.

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

3. You will see the installation of the GUI begin.

Server Core

4. After reboot and you log back on, you’re presented with the Full GUI installation.

Server Manager

Transform into the Minimal Server Interface

Okay, so what if you’re not happy with either the GUI interface, or the Core interface?  Let me introduce you to the Minimal Interface.  What’s missing from it?  Internet Explorer 10, Windows Explorer, the desktop, and the Start screen are not installed with the Minimal Interface.  It’s more like Server Core with Server Manager built in.

1. Open “Server Manager” and select  “Remove Roles and Features

Server Manager

2. On the “Remove Features” screen uncheck “Server Graphical Shell” only.

Server Manager

3. On the next screen select “Restart the destination server automatically if required”. After which, hit the “Remove” button.

Server Manager

4. After reboot and you log back on, you’re presented with the Minimal Server Interface.

Server Manager

The Minimal Server Interface is a good option if you want the value of a Core installation, but at the same time allowing you the ease of configuring your server with Server Manager.  You can also configure the Minimal Server interface with PowerShell.

From a GUI interface, open PowerShell and enter the following command.

Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell –Restart

From a Core interface, open PowerShell and enter the following command.

Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra –Restart

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