Making Core a bit less “hard”core

With the introduction of Windows Server 2008 the option has been introduced to do a Core installation. On a Core installation you will have no graphical interface and only limited roles and functions are supported.
Why would you choose a Core installation?

Reduced maintenance. The amount of supported roles is limited, there for the installation has less components. This is also the reason why a Core installation requires slightly less disk space, about 1 GB less.
Reduced attack surface. With just the core functionality working, there is less support for applications running on the server, which decreases the attack surface.
Reduced management. Because fewer applications and services are installed on a server running a Server Core installation, there is less to manage. According to Microsoft a Core installation will require approximately 30% less patches.

All good stuff you would think, but installing a Core installation can be a bit tricky, especially when you don’t do it on a daily basis.

After installation of a Core installation you will be greeted by a blinking cursor, nothing more:

This is where the manuals and Google come in play for most administrators. The last week I’ve been asked a two times about configuring Core installations. I’ve pointed them to Core Configurator. Originally I’ve found this tool on a Microsoft blog; the download isn’t available anymore though.

Core Configurator is now supported by Smart-X and has arrived now at version 1.5.0.1. It’s still free for personal use, but a site license is only $99.

Installation is easy, just install the msi and follow the instructions. Don’t forget to run: Ocsetup ServerCore-WOW64 if you are running an x64 edition before installing. (This is mentioned in the manual, but hey… who reads manuals).

Most important tasks can now be done by a, for most administrators, more familiar interface. Perfect for preparing the server for use and to set it up for remote administration.

For example configuring the firewall:

Promoting the server to Domain Controller:

Core Configurator works on both Windows Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2 and can be downloaded here

I hope this makes life a bit easier for some of us.

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