Windows Server 2012 – Moving between GUI, CORE and MINIMAL server interface

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SWITCH FROM SERVER 2012 CORE TO GUI

If you install Server Core, the binaries to add the GUI aren’t present (resulting in a smaller footprint). This however means you either need to grab it from a local source, or use Windows Update. The binaries can be quite large, so I suggest you grab them from a local source if you can.

I’m using Hyper-V and have mounted the Server 2012 install media ISO to the guest, which inside Windows is the D drive.

We first need to see which WIM index is required (the SKU/SKU version):

DISM /GET-WIMINFO /WIMFILE:D:\SOURCES\INSTALL.WIM

We’re using the Datacentre edition, so we’ll use index 4.

There are a couple of ways to specify the source, some people mount the wim to a local folder, but this one liner simplifies the process and achieves what we’re after, to get the binaries from the install.wim and install the required features. The server will restart after the installation is complete as we’ve specified –restart:

INSTALL-WINDOWSFEATURE SERVER-GUI-MGMT-INFRA,SERVER-GUI-SHELL -RESTART - SOURCE:WIM:D:\SOURCES\INSTALL.WIM:4

This process should take around 5-10 minutes, after the server has restarted you will be presented with the GUI. If you find the installation process gets stuck on 68%, chances are you haven’t entered the source or index correctly and the binaries are being pulled down from Windows Update. You can always disconnect/disable the NIC at this stage to test.

SWITCH FROM SERVER 2012 GUI TO CORE

There are two easy methods for removing the GUI and getting back to Core.

With Powershell:   

REMOVE-WINDOWSFEATURE SERVER-GUI-SHELL,SERVER-GUI-MGMT-INFRA -RESTART

With Server Manager:

•    Select Remove Roles or Features
•    Untick the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure and the Server Graphical Shell from the features page
•    Reboot the Server with shutdown /r /t /0 or winkey+i -> Power -> Restart

SWITCH FROM SERVER 2012 GUI TO MINIMAL SERVER INTERFACE

In Windows Server 2012, you can remove the Server Graphical Shell, resulting in the Minimal Server Interface. This is similar to a Server with a GUI installation, but Internet Explorer 10, Windows Explorer, the desktop, and the Start screen are not installed. Microsoft Management Console (MMC), Server Manager, and a subset of the Control Panel are still present.

With Powershell:

REMOVE-WINDOWSFEATURE SERVER-GUI-SHELL -RESTART

With Server Manager:

•    Select Remove Roles or Features
•    Untick Server Graphical Shell from the features page
•    Reboot the Server with shutdown /r /t /0 or winkey+i -> Power -> Restart

SWITCH FROM SERVER 2012 CORE TO MINIMAL SERVER INTERFACE

With Powershell:

INSTALL-WINDOWSFEATURE SERVER-GUI-MGMT-INFRA -RESTART -SOURCE:WIM:D:\SOURCES\INSTALL.WIM:4