Windows Server 2008 Core Installation[COMPLETE]

Xavier Mustin

Staff member
Windows Server 2008 Core Installation

Table of contents
  • 1.Windows Server 2008 Core Installation
  • 2.Installation Of The System
  • 3.The First Login
  • 4. The "Desktop"
  • 5. Graphical Elements In The Core Installation
  • 6. Network Facilities
  • 7. Establishing The Network (continued)
  • 8. Installing Server Roles
  • 9. Uninstallation Of Server Roles
  • 10. Remote Access In The Console
  • 11. Remote Configuration With The mmC
  • 12.Screensaver Switched Off
  • 13.Activating The System
  • 14.Comparison: Core Installation Vs. Normal Installation
  • 15.Conclusion: A Server Installation For Professionals

The typical server manager in the IT industry hails from the DOS era, and thus still sees the world without windows and colors. Consider that most of the procedures associated with server administration are controlled by the command console, and there is no way to even attach a mouse. Microsoft has tried to recognize the nature of many server admins in its development of Windows Server 2008; as you install, you see a new option: Core Installation. The term "core" is used here to indicate clearly what this Server is all about: an installation of the core components that provide a minimal environment for running specific server roles.Strictly speaking, the Core Installation does not make use of graphical elements from the Windows operating system. (There are exceptions, but few of them.) After registration, the administrator is confronted with merely a command console - there is no Start Button, no program lists, no Explorer and no Server Manager.The obvious question is: What is the sense in such a platform? The answer is equally obvious: a server that only carries out certain administrative tasks simply does not need redundant components that will never be used. The leaner core installation means the server is more resistant to hackers, because there is less to attack. The performance of the server also increases, because it requires less working memory, and less hard disk space is used as well.So, 2008 brings us full circle, back to server administration with a command prompt. What’s it like, though, and how well does it really work? This article from Tom’s Hardware will tell you.

Installation Of The System

The Server Core Installation works just like a "normal" installation: the computer boots up and setup loads from the DVD. Just as in Windows Vista, the graphic interface shows up immediately.

Loading files

Selecting the keyboard layout
The correct setting of the keyboard language is important, since the Core Installation can only be controlled by command prompt. Of course, you can always change the setting later.

Starting Installation
Next comes the step where you select the core installation.

Selecting the core operating system
After confirming the license agreement, you can now only select the partition on which the server should be installed. No other options are available.

Selecting the hard drive and partition
After copying the files, the computer is automatically restarted and the installation is complete.

The First Login

Administrators will be quite surprised by the new installation. After hitting Ctrl+Alt+Delete for protection, the login screen appears entirely in one window: "Other User".

Empty login screen

Input of the username "Administrator"
The login must now take place with the user name "Administrator", and an empty password. Even before registration is completed, though, the administrator will be asked to provide a password.

The password will have to be changed immediately

Entering the new password
The security of the server depends on the password, so stricter rules are imposed here. The password must include both upper and lower case letters, as well as digits or special characters; it will not be accepted if it does not have the proper mix of symbols.

The password rules prevent administrators from choosing easily-compromised passwords

The "Desktop"

After setting the admin password, personal settings are loaded and the user is presented with the "desktop" - this word is in quotes because there really is no desktop here in the sense that most users would expect; it is merely a command prompt. There is no Windows Explorer, no Start Menu and no quick launch icons - the administrator must perform the whole configuration using just the keyboard.

Blank: the "Desktop" after installation
There are, however a few graphical elements. The task manager is available, and can be accessed in the usual manner with the Ctrl+Shift+Esc key sequence. The task manager is necessary, for instance, if the administrator closes all the command prompt windows by mistake. Using the menu option File -> New Task in the task manager, with the command cmd , will cause a new command prompt to appear.

"Execute" in the Task Manager as a crash rescue mechanism
If a second prompt is used, you just need to type the command start and another window will open automatically.

"Start" entered in the Core Server opens a new command prompt

Graphical Elements In The Core Installation

In addition to the task manager, the Core Installation of Server 2008 has a few other programs that make life easier for the administrator.
A simple text editor is an indispensable aid for administrators. To that end, the familiar Notepad was once again integrated into the final version of Windows Server 2008 (after numerous complaints during beta testing). It can be launched by entering the command notepad.

An indispensable aid: the Windows editor "Notepad"

Country Settings
If you forgot to select the correct language during the installation, you won’t have to live with incorrect key mappings. Microsoft has adopted the system control applet "Region and language options" in the Core Installation, which lets you easily change the settings. The window can be opened with the command control intl.cpl.

Keyboard properly installed

Date And Time
The system control applet for the date and time is also available in Server 2008. You can launch it with the command control timedate.cpl.

Setting the system time
Alternately, it is also possible to set the system time with the well-known DOS commands time and date .

The good old DOS commands work too

Network Facilities

In the Core version of Windows Server 2008, the network settings are only accessible via command prompt. During installation, the default settings are fixed: the IP address is obtained from a DHCP server, or if none is found, set using the APIPA standard (in the range 169.254.nnn.nnn). In the latter case, a random computer name is also generated, according to the formula "WIN-0123456789ABCDEF".
Setting The Computer Name
The computer name can be queried with the command hostname, while the command netdom is used to change the computer name. For example:netdom renamecomputer WIN-0123456789ABCDEF /NewName:NEW_NAME

A new name for the server

Setting The IP Address
If the IP address is not dynamically configured by a DHCP server, the administrator must specify it using the command netsh. Before changing an IP address, the index number of the network adapter is required. This can be selected using the command:netsh interface ipv4 show interfacesNext, we set the IP address:netsh interface ipv4 set address>

Setting the IP address

Establishing The Network (continued)

Adding A DNS Server
DNS server addresses must be added one at a time, also using the netsh command. Here’s an example:netsh interface add dnsserver>

Adding a DNS server

The DNS settings are listed in the correct order

Resetting And DCHP Autoconfiguration
If the configuration is once again set to automatic allocation of addresses by DHCP, the source output is set using DHCP . In this way, the IP addresses and the DNS entries are removed, and set by the server:netsh interface ipv4 set address>

Resetting DHCP

Installing Server Roles

In the default installation of Windows Server 2008, the installation of server roles is performed in the Manager that is automatically launched upon system startup. In the Core Installation, though, it has a more spartan look:

The server role display is reminiscent of the DOS command "tree"
As in good old DOS, OCList brings up an overview of the available roles in a tree structure. In addition, the program also shows which server roles have been installed.A server role is installed using the Ocsetup command, using as a parameter the name of the server role that the user would like to install. Here’s an example of what this looks like for the DHCP server:

Installation of a server role, in this instance a DHCP server
Note that the command start/w ensures that the command prompt waits until the end of the command.Generally speaking, if there is no alert after execution of the command, then everything is fine.After the installation of a server role, a few more steps are required. In particular, the DHCP server is still not active after installation, and needs to be switched on, and there is no Management console to assist you with this.

Enable the server role to start: setting the configuration on automatic start
In order to start the designated role, the server’s configuration must be changed from deactivated to automatic .sc config dhcpserver start= autoIt is important to include the space after the term start=. If the space is left out, the command will not execute properly.

Uninstallation Of Server Roles

In principle, the uninstallation of server roles works exactly like installation; the parameter /uninstall merely needs to be appended to the command.

Uninstalling a server role
If a restart is required, a dialog box will appear to request it. For this reason, the uninstallation of server roles should be done from the remote desktop, and not a remote shell.

The uninstallation procedure should not be done from the remote shell, but rather on the remote desktop

Remote Access In The Console

Access from the remote desktop in Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 can be unlocked with the following command:

Access from remote desktop enabled
cscript c:\windows\system32\scregedit.wsf /ar 0Once complete, access can be established with the remote desktop.

Establishing the connection

Remote desktop is active
Access from Windows Remote Shell can also be activated using the command winrm quickconfig on the server.

Activating access in the Remote Shell
Note that only the prompt CMD.EXE can be used; the Windows Powershell is not available, as it is accessed through the .NET framework. The .NET framework cannot be used in the Core Installation.

Remote Configuration With The mmC

By default, the Windows Firewall is activated and configured so that no incoming connections are possible. The Windows Firewall can also be used to prevent remote configuration. With the netsh command, though, remote configuration can be enabled for the firewall:netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group="remote administration" new enable=yes

Enabling remote configuration by MMC-Snapin
The server can now be configured by Computer Manager, compmgmt.msc. To do this, Computer Manager must be connected to the server; then, right-click on the root element, and select connect with another computer.

Connecting Computer Manager

Name of the target server
The console of the remote system is then loaded into Computer Manager, and the server can be easily configured. This works not only on a server system, mind you, but also on Windows Vista.

Configuration of the System in Computer Manager

Screensaver Switched Off

In the default configuration of Windows Server 2008, the screensaver is activated and is switches on after 10 minutes. This can be particularly irritating when starting to configure the server, since every time the screen saver becomes active, you have to enter your password again.

After 10 minutes of being idle, the administrator is thrown off the system
The screensaver in the core server can only be configured in the registry. The registry editor is also accessible in the Core Installation; it can be started with the command regedt32.

Turning off the screensaver in the registry
The setting for the screensaver is in the path HKCU\ControlPanel\Desktop\ScreenSaveActive - a value of 0 switches off the Screensaver, while the value 1 turns it on.
Deactivate Firewall
As mentioned earlier, Windows Firewall is activated by default in the standard configuration of the Core Installation. If you already use an alternative firewall solution for Internet access and do not require one for your intranet, then the firewall can be deactivated.netsh firewall set opmode disable

Complete deactivation of the Windows Firewall

Activating The System

The Windows Server 2008 Core Installation must also be activated through the Internet. To do this, enter the command slmgr.vbs -ato in the console.

Activating the server
If no other message appears, the activation was successful; otherwise, a dialog box with an error message is shown. To ensure that you can see any errors, activation should be done from the remote desktop and not from the remote shell.

Errors in activating

Comparison: Core Installation Vs. Normal Installation

While there is only a slight gap in terms of memory use, the difference in the number of files on the hard drive is huge: the core installation requires less than half the disk space of the standard installation.

Conclusion: A Server Installation For Professionals

The Windows Server 2008 Core Installation is a very unfamiliar environment, even for experienced administrators. Configuration is extremely protracted, particularly for the less experienced administrator; even the simplest tasks that normally take two clicks can suddenly mean you have to dig into the manual.

Cryptic Commands that no administrator can memorize: IIS-Installation with components
For example, 923 characters must be entered to install the Internet Information Server, including all the components - no administrator can possibly remember anything so convoluted. (And we did not think up this example ourselves; it appears in a Whitepaper by Microsoft!) Even worse is that fact that only very scanty information is available from Microsoft about the Core Installation. Adequate documentation is still in short supply at the moment, though this will change as use of the server becomes more widespread.(Compare Prices on Top Servers)All of that said, the troubles with the configuration pay off in the form of a stable and well-performing system. In particular, the Core Installation is a worthwhile alternative for servers that are past their prime, but still suitable for specific tasks. Our only warning is that administrators should already have experience in administering systems using the command prompt, and should enjoy working with the console. Otherwise, they will quickly find themselves disappointed, and eager to return to the conventional window-based version of the OS.