Windows Server Installation

Windows Install graphic

Windows Server Installation

With Windows Server Installation for Server 2016 offers a couple of different choices depending upon which product version you intend to install. Like in Windows 10 you have a couple of choices are Server Standard and Datacenter editions. And for both of these you have the option of using the desktop experience or core installation. The desktop experience is another name for the good old GUI, and core means all tasks will be preformed from the command line. Windows has been pushing the PowerShell interface now for sometime and the core installation is now the recommended method. We are going to go over a couple of the deference’s between these two methods of installation. We will also touch on newer editions and options.

Some features/differences between Standard and Datacenter

Windows Server installation can be done with the Standard or Datacenter editions. Windows Datacenter offers unlimited virtualization instances plus the ability to create a soft-ware defined datacenter. Standard edition offers all the bells and whistles but only limited virtualization rights. There is also the Essentials edition which is the replacement for Small Business 2011 edition. Let’s take a look at the features of the two server choices.

Features Standard Dataceneter
Core Functionality yes yes
OSEs/ HyperV Instances 2 unlimited
Server Containers unlimited unlimited
Host Guardian Service yes yes
Storage Feature(Replica) no yes
Shield VMs no yes
Software Defined Networking no yes

Windows Server Install Options

Server Core: This is now the recommended option. As I mentioned Microsoft is really hot for you to use PowerShell as the go-to tool for server administration.
Desktop Experience: The standard GUI interface is installed to provide the drag and click old fashioned, tried and true, administration interface.
Something to keep in mind when using the core install is that once you have installed this server you cannot upgrade or modify the install to the GUI. If you change your mind on using the core install you will be forced to do a completely fresh install of Windows Server 2016. If you are using either the 1803 or the 1709 versions you will only have the core as your installation choice.

Windows Server Installation for 2016 Core

Before starting your server install be certain you have planned it out well and know which version you prefer. Do a little research, understand licensing and the limitations or abilities of the product you will be using. Remember you cannot install the Server Desktop Experience from an conversion or upgrade from the core version, you will have to do a fresh install if that is the case. Be sure you know if the Essentials version, Standard edition or Datacenter edition is what you’ll need. For the experienced systems admin this is not such a big deal you should already have an understanding about the choices. But for the small business, or the first time server installers this is important. And not only because of the difference in cost of licensing. Will you want a static update enabled version or will you want to go with the new Semi-Annual Channel? There are many things to consider and as technology moves forward that list is sure to grow. All I am suggesting is that you choose carefully and spend wisely.

The following Windows Server installation information is applicable to the core installations for Standard and Datacenter editions for both static update or semi-annual channel. Also applies to 1709 as well as 1803 versions. So what are the advantages of doing a core install? First it requires less overhead as the install is smaller and uses less resources because of the no graphical interface. Because it is all command line driven management is carried out remotely using PowerShell for the most part. Unlike previous versions of the core install Server 2016 cannot be upgrade to the GUI.

Some specifics about the core install

The user interface is command line driven with PowerShell. Locally configured server roles accomplished via command prompt using PowerShell. Remote configuration uses Server Manager RSAT from Windows 10 version of MMC you can also use PowerShell and Windows Admin Center. The MMC is not locally available for use with core installation. Server roles available from the core install are:

  • Server Roles
  • Active Directory Certificate Services
  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • DHCP Server
  • DNS Server
  • File Services
  • AD LDS
  • Print and Document Services
  • Streaming Media Services
  • Web Services
  • Windows Server Update Server
  • AD Rights Management Server
  • RRAS and associated roles
  • RDS Connection Broker
  • Licensing
  • Virtualization (Hyper-V)
  • Volume Activation Services

Windows Server Installation with Desktop Experience

If you have ever installed Windows Server before then you are familiar with the graphical user interface install wizards. The important thing to know is that if you don’t make the choice to use the GUI then the default is the core install. I get the feeling that Microsoft has come to a point where they are willing to admit the power of using the command prompt as the tool of choice for systems administration as well as Windows Server administration. Linux users and Linux server admins have been using the shell forever and now it is being encouraged by Microsoft too. As a matter of fact most of the common shell commands found in Linux and Unix have been included into PowerShell. This includes the powerful tools such as ‘grep’ and ‘ls’ and so many of the normal Linux commands are useful now to preform system admin duties on a Windows Server Install. The point to make is even if you install using the GUI you will still be able to accomplish all administrative tasks with the command prompt. If you are not yet familiar with Windows PowerShell this would be a good time to look into it.

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