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How do you work with Microsoft's new headless server?

Without the traditional Windows Server GUI, what are the steps involved with a Nano Server installation?

Windows Nano Server is a headless server that debuted in Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 2. Microsoft developed...

the smaller Windows Server footprint for Hyper-V and container deployment. Although Nano Server can be deployed to a physical machine, it is geared for virtual machine use.

As of this writing, Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 5 is available for evaluation in either Standard or Datacenter editions. However, prospective adopters can also opt to download just a Nano Server VM for deployment and evaluation as a virtual hard disk (.vhd) file.

The process used in evaluation typically starts by copying script files from the Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview ISO file, available from Microsoft's TechNet Evaluation Center, to a folder on the target evaluation server's hard drive.

Remember that Windows Server 2016 and Nano Server are currently in development, and there will undoubtedly be limitations to features, performance and stability.

Administrators can use PowerShell to execute a script to import the Nano Server image file. Create a .vhd for the Nano Server; this will add a computer name, Hyper-V drivers and set other details for the VM. Now create a new VM and deploy the Nano Server .vhd. Boot the new VM and connect to the VM normally, then log onto the Nano Server Recovery Console and get the IP address of the new VM. This allows the use of PowerShell remoting or other tools to connect and manage the Nano Server VM remotely.

This abbreviated overview is one of many possible installation permutations for Microsoft's new headless server. Evaluators can find detailed instructions and examples for preparing, modifying, installing and using Nano Server in Microsoft's online documentation. For example, evaluators can customize the Nano Server image file to accommodate well-defined server roles such as Hyper-V, failover clustering, file server, web server, DNS server and other use cases. These roles can be installed using PowerShell while the Nano Server image is prepared.

Remember that Windows Server 2016 and Nano Server are currently in development, and there will undoubtedly be limitations to features, performance and stability. It's important to review the system requirements and release notes before installing any version of the Technical Preview. Also note that the Technical Preview 5 is slated to expire on December 31.

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This was last published in June 2016

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