Windows Server 2008 Server Core Installation and Management

With release of Windows Server 2008, Micrsoft Windows team made some major improvements to overall architecture to make Windows operating system more stable, secure and reliable. Keeping the Windows 2003 tradition alive, Microsoft ships Windows 2008 in four versions – Web Server, Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter. But one major feature addition to 2008 is the ability to do the minimal installation of Windows 2008 without any graphical utilities which most of the admins don’t need. This feature is known as “Server Core” and its basically provides a minimal environment for running a specific server role. Admins can select to perform Server Core installation during the Windows 2008 installation. The result will be a stripped down installation of Windows without any traditional components installed such as desktop shell, GUI, Windows Explorer, IE and other MMC which otherwise get installed while doing full installation. With Server Core installation, all the management and configuration tasks will be performed using command line utilities.

You must be thinking, why would someone use the Server Core installation? Everything to be configured from command line…. that sounds like going back to era of DOS? Well, there are multiple advantages when using Server Core:

  • Reduced maintenance
  • Reduced attack surface
  • Reduced management
  • Less disk space required for installation as footprint is very small
But don’t get disappointed, Microsoft does allow you to manage Server Core installation using your favorite MMC from remote server or workstation.
The installation of Windows 2008 with Server Core is same as regular installation except you select “Server Core Installation” instead of “Full Installation” during the installation. Below screenshot shows the install wizard screen where you can select to perform “Server Core Installation
Once the installation is finished and server is rebooted, you will get to the login screen where you can configure the administrator password. After the successful login, you will be presented with single command line window from where you can perform all the initial configuration and management tasks as shown in below screenshot.

Initial Configuration using Command Line

In case you closed the command line by mistake and wondering how you can bring it back, follow the below steps:
  • Press Ctrl+Alt+Del keys.
  • Select Start Task Manager.
  • On the Windows Task Manager screen, select File and then New Task (Run) option.
  • In the Create New Task dialog box, type cmd.exe, and then click OK button.
With command prompt available, lets jump onto the initial configuration tasks.

Changing the computer name

By default, Windows installer automatically generates a computer name and assign it to computer during installation. The command line syntax to change the computer name is as follow:

Follwing the above syntax, to change the computer name to “servercore”, use the below command line

Configuring network settings

The next configurationt task after installation will be to bring the server on network. Before you can start configuring the network interface, you need to figure out the names and unique ID of each of the network interface installer on the server. To display a list of network interfaces along with their uniquie IDs, run the following command:

The output will be something similar to following screenshot.

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