Installing Server Core for Windows 2008 the easy way

Attention GUI haters! Server Core for Windows Server 2008 is quicker and easier to install then you think. This tip takes you through the process, step-by-step.

With Windows Server 2008, you have the option of performing a Windows Server Core installation, which offers you...

the minimum set of tools required to run Windows.

You are provided with a kernel and a command line to manage the server. It is slim and bare bones and allows you to configure Windows concisely. This type of installation is perfect for the data center, and I am really excited about this feature.

Installing Server Core

When you first run through the installation of Windows Server 2008, you have two installation options:

  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise (Full installation)
  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise (Server Core installation)

The following eight screen shots walk you through the installation process of Windows Server Core, which takes approximately 10-15 minutes to install. Simply, choose your language, time and currency formats, along with your Keyboard layout (Figure A) and click Install Now (Figure B).

Figure A

Figure B

Next, enter your serial number provided by Microsoft or leave it blank to take advantage of the 30-day free trial (Figure C). You are now ready to choose the version of Windows Server 2008 you want to install, as shown in Figure D.

Figure C

Figure D

Next, accept the license terms (Figure E) and choose Custom to install a fresh copy of Window Server 2008 Core (Figure F).

Figure E

Figure F

Click Next and your installation will begin (Figures G and H). 

Figure G

Figure H

After this, the main window for your new installation appears and you are ready to login, as shown in Figure I. The initial login is Administrator with a blank password (Figure J). You are required to change this and set an Administrator password on initial login.

Figure I

Figure J

Once you are logged in (Figure K), you are ready to configure the date, time, and time zone. In the command line, type controltimedate.cpl and set the options accordingly (Figure L).

Figure K

Figure L

If you need to configure and change the keyboard layout or settings (Figure M), type the following in the command window:

control intl.cpl

Figure M

Let's move on and change the server name. The default name is a bunch of random letters and numbers, so you'll want to change the name to a local standard. You can view the current hostname by typing the following:


Now let's use the name ssw-svr15. This option is performed in the command line (Figure O) by typing the following:

c:\windows\system32\netdom renamecomputer %computername% /NewName:ssw-svr15

Figure N

After choosing to proceed, the task completes successfully. You now need to reboot the server using the shutdown command:

shutdown /?

After reviewing the syntax (Figure N), type the following: shutdown /r (switch for shutting down and restarting the computer) /t 10 (wait 10 seconds to shutdown and restart) /c "Changed Server Name" (add comment of max 512 characters). The total (Figure O) syntax will look as follows:

shutdown /r /T 10 /C "Changed Server Name"

Figure O

Let's now configure our networking so we can join this server to a domain. In order to see what interface you have to configure (Figure P), type:

netsh interface ipv4 show interface

Figure P

The Local Area Connection that we are going to configure has an index value of two. Let's proceed and configure TCP/IP for this connection (Figure Q). Type the following command to set the TCP/IP information:

netsh interface ipv4 set address name="2" source=static address= mask= gateway=

Figure Q

Follow the same example to configure DNS (Figure R):

netsh interface ipv4 add dnsserver name="2" address= index=1

Figure R

If you type ipconfig /all, you will see the newly added information (Figure S).

Figure S

We can now join it to a domain! In order to perform this function, let's take advantage of the netdom.exe (Figure T). The syntax is as follows:

netdom join ssw-svr15 /domain:watchtower /userd:Administrator /passwordD:Password01

Note: Do not forget to reboot the server using the following command:

shutdown /r /T 10 /C "Added to domain"

Figure T

As a final step, don't forget to activate the server (Figure U) by typing the following:

slmgr.vbs –ato

Figure U

This doesn't even scratch the surface of what you can do with a Windows 2008 Server Core installation, but it should still show you how powerful the command line is with a small Windows kernel. With the popularity of virtualization and server consolidation, having the ability to virtualize a Server Core installation and attach a single role should become very popular within the data center. These beginning steps should get you well on your way to mastering the Windows Server 2008 core configuration.

Steven S. Warren, is a freelance writer with a passion for learning. He is the author of The VMware Workstation 5 Handbook and is a Microsoft MVP. When he is not writing, he is spending time with his family and friends. You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This was last published in August 2009

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