From the Windows Features under the Server Manager, you will notice the following 3 features are identifying the Windows installation types.
The Graphical Management Tool and Infrastructure include the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), Server Manager, and a subset of Control Panel functionalities.
The Desktop Experience allows Server to perform like a desktop computer. It added features like Desktop Themes, Video for Windows, Sync Center, Sound Recording, and some utility tools.
The Server Graphical Shell comes with Windows 8 Start screen user interface, Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, and Control Panel utilities.
Windows Server 2012 is supporting three installation types:
- Server With A GUI. Also known as Full Installation. The Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure, Server Graphical Shell, and the WOW64 Support framework are installed.
- Server Core. The Windows default installation does not include any Graphical features and WOW64 Support framework.
- Server With Minimum Interface. This installation type is not available during the Windows Server 2012 installation. You can convert into the Minimum Server Interface by removing the Server Graphical Shell feature from Windows Server Manager after the full server installation.
All these Windows installation types can be converted after the Windows is deployed without re-install the Windows.
The Windows Server installation type conversion can be done either using the Server Manager interface or through Windows PowerShell.
Converting Windows Server Installation Type
To convert Windows Server installation type with Server Manager simply clicks on the Server Tab and select Add Roles and Features if you are planning to add additional feature. Or, selects Remove Rules and Features to remove the installed features.
Under the Features group, expand the User Interfaces and Infrastructure. From here, you can check and uncheck the feature that you are planning to add or remove. Click [Next] to confirm and Windows restart is required to fully complete the process.
To use Windows PowerShell to convert in between the Windows installation types, you need to know the Windows Features’ PowerShell names.
|Features Name||PowerShell Name|
|Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure||Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra|
|Server Graphical Shell||Server-Gui-Shell|
The following are the examples of installing and removing the Windows Features by using the Windows PowerShell.
Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell –restart
The PowerShell command instructs the Windows to uninstall the Server Graphical Shell and restart the server to finalize the removal process.
Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra, Server-Gui-Shell –restart
The PowerShell command instructs the Windows to install the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure and Server Graphical Shell, then restart the server to complete the installation process.
Do keep in mind that when installing the Windows Features, the Windows binary files and any other dependency files are available and stored locally. Otherwise, Windows will download the files from the Internet through Windows Updates. This might take a longer time to complete the installation. If the Windows Features had been installed previously, the binary files should be stored at the local C:\WindowsWinSxS folder. You can also run the PowerShell installation command with a –Source parameter to specify the source of the binary files.
Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra, Server-Gui-Shell –restart –source c:mountdirwindowswinsxs
The PowerShell command instructs the Windows to install Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure and Server Graphical Shell from the mount-drive path c\:mountdirwindowswinsxs. The Windows will install both Features and restart the server to complete the installation.
The c:mountdir is mounted from the Windows installation media, under the folder “sourcesinstall.wim”. At first, you need to get the correct index number for the installation package. Insert the Windows installation media, run the following instruction from Command Prompt.
Dism /get-wiminfo /wimfile:e:sourcesinstall.wim
Then, mount the correct image files index with the following command.
Dism /mount-wim /wimfile:e:sourcesinstall.wim /index:<n> /mountdir:c:mountdir
Where the <n> is the index number, “e:” is the media drive, and c:mountdir is a local folder.