Deploying and Configuring Server Core VMs on Hyper-V (Part 2)

by [Published on 21 April 2011 / Last Updated on 21 April 2011]

This article continues the discussion of Server Core by demonstrating how to perform a Server Core installation and answering a few basic questions about interacting with a core server.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to

Introduciton

In the first part of this article series, I began explaining how server cor

e deployments could be advantageous to organizations that have chosen to virtualize their servers. However, as I also pointed out server core deployments can be a bit intimidating because of the fact that the server must be configured from the command line. In this article, I will try to reduce the intimidation factor by showing you how to deploy a server core virtual machine, and how to begin configuring it.

Installing the VM

Most large organizations choose to perform automated server deployments rather than setting servers up manually. For the sake of education however, I wanted to walk you through the process of manually installing Windows Server 2008 R2 as a Server Core deployment in hopes of demystifying the process.

In this section, I am going to show the entire deployment process, even though the process is very basic. I am doing this for the benefit of anyone who may be new to Windows Server 2008 R2.

The process of setting up a Server Core deployment is nearly identical to the procedure used in setting up any other Windows 2008 deployment. You must begin the process by creating a new virtual machine in Hyper-V, inserting the Windows Server 2008 R2 installation DVD, and then booting from that DVD.

Upon doing so, Windows will take a moment to load the installation wizard. As you can see in Figure A, the wizard’s initial screen prompts you to specify your language and the regional settings that you want to use.


Figure A:
The installation wizard prompts you to select your language and regional settings.

After specifying your language, click Next and you will be taken to a screen similar to the one shown in Figure B. As you can see in the figure, this screen allows you to choose to either install windows or to repair your computer. As you would expect, you should choose the Install Now option.


Figure B:
Click on the Install Now button.

At this point, the installation wizard will ask you which operating system you want to install. As you can see in Figure C, the list of available operating systems is broken down into full installations and server core installations. For the purpose of this article series, I will be installing Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise (Server Core Installation).


Figure C:
Select a Server Core Installation.

After you have chosen the operating system that you want to install, click Next and you will be prompted to accept the license agreement for your chosen operating system, as shown in Figure D.


Figure D:
Accept the license agreement for the operating system that you are installing.

When you click Next, you will be taken to a screen similar to the one shown in Figure E. This screen asks you if you want to perform an upgrade or a custom (advanced) installation. The odd thing is that this screen is always displayed, even if you are performing a clean installation and there is nothing to upgrade.

If you choose the Upgrade option when you are performing a clean installation, the installation wizard will simply perform a clean installation without asking you any more questions. Personally, I prefer to use the Custom (Advanced) option because it gives you a little bit more control over the installation process. With that in mind go ahead and click Custom (Advanced).


Figure E:
Choose the Custom (Advanced) installation option.

The next screen that you will see asks you where you want to deploy Windows. In Figure F, you can see a couple of partitions that I set up ahead of time. Normally if you are using a brand new virtual machine you will only see unpartitioned space. You can use the Drive Options link (shown in the figure) to define the partitions in any way that you want, but you don’t have to. You can instead just select the unpartitioned space and click Next, and Windows will create the necessary partition for you.


Figure F:
Select the location in which you want to install Windows and click Next.

At this point, the installation process will begin, as shown in Figure G. Server core deployments do not usually take as long to install as a full Windows installation does. As such, the installation should only take a few minutes.


Figure G:
The installation process should complete quickly.

Using Your Server Core Deployment

When the installation completes, you will see a screen telling you that your password must be changed before you log in for the first time. Click OK, enter and then re-enter your new password, and click OK again. After doing so, you will be taken to the Windows desktop, which you can see in Figure H.


Figure H:
This is what the Server Core desktop looks like.

As you can see in the figure above, the Server Core desktop only contains a Command Prompt window. There is no Windows Start menu, nor are there any desktop icons.

In Windows Server 2008 (as opposed to Windows Server 2008 R2, which we are using now) Microsoft provided you with two Command Prompt windows. Although I have never heard any official explanation as to why Microsoft did this, it was presumably because it is easy to accidentally close the Command Prompt window, and if you did accidentally close a window you still had another one to fall back on.

Of course this raises an important question. What happens if you accidentally close your one and only Command Prompt window? It’s not like you can use the Start menu to get it back.

If you accidentally close the Command Prompt window, all is not lost. The Task Manager still exists in Server Core, and you can use it to open a new Command Prompt window. To do so, all you have to do is choose the Ctrl+Alt+Delete option from the virtual machine’s Action menu. When you do, Windows will give you an option to open the Task Manager.

If you look at Figure I, you can see that there is presently one task running (C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe). You can also see that the Task Manager’s File menu contains an option called New Task (Run). If you choose this option, you will be prompted to enter the name of the new task. Simply type CMD.EXE and Windows will open a new Command Prompt window.


Figure I:
You can use the Windows Task Manager to open a New Command Prompt window.

Conclusion

Now that we have Server Core up and running, we have to configure it. I will begin showing you how to do this in Part 3. If you need to get your Server Core deployment up and running more quickly though, you can cheat by running a free third party utility called Server Core Configurator.


Figure J:
Server Core Configurator provides a GUI for initially configuring your Server Core deployment.

The Server Core Configurator, which is shown in Figure J above, provides a GUI that you can use for the initial configuration process. Even though this utility makes short work of the configuration process, I want to show you how to configure your Server Core deployment using the command line. I will begin doing so in Part 3.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to

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