Server Core was introduced in Windows Server 2008, but was confusing to a lot of administrators. This was mainly due to the fact that you as an administrator was restricted to a command line and needed to know the commands for doing your tasks. One of the main problems with it, was that if you installed your server as a Server Core, you would need to reinstall it if you wanted the GUI.
This has changed in Windows Server 2012. Now it’s possible to install your server with a GUI and remove the GUI once you’ve set everything up. It’s also possible to install your server as a Server Core and then add the GUI if needed, by just entering a simple Powershell command..
Adding the GUI to a Server Core installation
Enter this command in to a Powershell prompt, running as Administrator. To enter Powershell, simply type Powershell from the Command Prompt
Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell, Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra
Once installed, you need to restart the server. Use this command:
If you do not have Internet connectivity, the installation will hang at 68% and after a while display an error message to you:
Install-WindowsFeature : The request to add or remove features on the specified server failed.
This means that the source files for the GUI installation cannot be located.
To solve this, follow these steps:
Start by creating a mount directory (i.e C:\Mount)
Get the index number of the WIM file for the GUI (if WS2012 media is on D:). Since all of the Windows Server 2012 installations are stored in the same *.wim, we need to specify what version we want to mount. In this case, we’ll be using the Datacenter version with GUI, which is Index #4
dism /get-wiminfo /wimfile:d:\sources\install.wim
Mount the WIM file:
dism /mount-wim /wimfile: d:\sources\install.wim /Index:3 /mountdir:C:\Mount\ /readonly
Install and specify the source:
Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell, Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -Source C:\Mount\Windows\SXS
Removing the GUI from a full installation, using the GUI:
Open Server Manager, open the Manage menu and go to Remove Roles and Features
Press Next until you reach the Features page
There are two different features that you can choose:
- Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure (server-GUI-mgmt-infra) basically provides Powershell, MMC and Server Manager.
- Adding the Server Graphical Shell (server-GUI-shell), will add the rest of the GUI experience. This feature is dependent on the first, so you can’t just add this one.
Note that if you remove Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure, you will also remove Server Graphical Shell.
Once deselecting one of the features, you will get a popup. Here, press Remove Features.
The final step is to confirm the removal process. Press Remove and select Restart the destination server automatically if required.
Removing the GUI from a full installation, using Powershell:
Enter this command:
Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell, Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra