Question : Install Server Core

You have decided that Server Core is exactly what you need in your environment. What is involved in installing Server Core?

Answer : Install Server Core

Installing Server Core is simple. The real work is what comes after you perform the installation and have to configure the server to function through the command-prompt interfaces rather than the typical GUI interfaces that you have become so used to. Before we address those concerns, let’s get Server Core up and running.

The minimum requirements are your initial concern. You want to ensure that you hardware meets the following requirements:

  • RAM: 512MB RAM (which is the same minimum for the full installation of Windows Server 2008), although 1GB or more is always appreciated, especially if Hyper-V will be utilized.

  • Processor: 1GHz for an x86 processor or 1.4GHz for an x64 processor

  • Disk space: 10GB

You certainly want to be prepared with your Windows Server 2008 installation media and with a valid product key, although you can evaluate a server for quite some time by extending the grace period (see the section “Extend the Evaluation,” later in this chapter).


You may be wondering whether your existing servers can run Windows Server 2008 or whether you need to purchase new systems. Each server in your environment may be a little different, depending on when you purchased those servers and what they are. There is a tool called the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP) that you can use to inventory your servers and generate a report to help determine which servers will work for your Windows Server 2008 installations. At the time of this writing, the tool is located at

Server Core Installation Options

When you are confident that you have a system capable of running Windows Server 2008 Server Core, perform the following steps:

Insert the disc, and when the auto-run Install Windows dialog appears, confirm the language, time and currency format, and keyboard or input method. Then click Next.

When you see the Install Now screen, click the blue and white arrow button.

In the Select the Operating System You Want to Install screen (shown in Figure 1), note that there are three Full Installation choices and three Server Core Installation choices. Select one of the Server Core options and click Next.

Figure 1. Choosing the flavor of Server Core that you require.


Server Core comes in Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter editions for i386 and x64 platforms. You will probably opt for the Standard edition because most of the differences found in the Enterprise and Datacenter editions are not especially relevant in Server Core. The Enterprise Server Core does, however, get you more processor and memory support, as well as clustering. Datacenter provides the hardware program and 99.999% reliability, but you may not require these guarantees.

When you see the license terms, read or scan the terms and then select the I Accept the License Terms checkbox and then press Next.

When asked Which Type of Installation Do You Want? select Custom (Advanced).


Server Core requires a clean installation. You cannot upgrade from an earlier version or convert from a full installation to a Server Core installation. There is no upgrade to or from Server Core. So, if you install an incomplete version of Server Core, you cannot later upgrade to the full version. You have to start with a clean installation of the full version of Windows Server 2008.

On the next screen, which asks, Where Do You Want to Install Windows? either choose some advanced options such as Load Driver or Drive Options (Advanced) or select the disk you want to use for the installation files. Click Next. The Installing Windows screen will appear, indicating that the system is copying files, expanding files, installing features, installing updates, and, finally, completing installation. Your system may reboot several times.

When you see the login screen, type Administrator for the username and leave the password blank. Click OK.

Provide and confirm a new password and then click OK. The system says Preparing Your Desktop, and you eventually see a simple command prompt, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The Server Core cmd.exe desktop.

Server Core is not much to look at to begin with. At this point, you have installed a server with very little happening on the desktop.

Extend the Evaluation

Evaluating Windows Server 2008 software does not require product activation or entry of a product key. Any edition of Windows Server 2008 can be installed without activation and evaluated for an initial 60 days. If you need more time to evaluate Windows Server 2008, you can reset (or re-arm) the 60-day evaluation period three times, extending the original 60-day evaluation period by up to 180 days, for a total possible evaluation time of 240 days. After this time, you need to uninstall the software or upgrade to a fully licensed version of Windows Server 2008.

There is a support article from Microsoft, located at the time of this writing at, that should put your mind at ease that this isn’t a trick that will get you in any kind of trouble with the Microsoft policy. Microsoft gives you a tool, called slmgr.vbs, to extend the evaluation.

To start with, as your initial 60-day evaluation period comes to an end, you are going to want to check the number of days you have left. From the command prompt, type slmgr.vbs -dli to see the current status of the evaluation period. To reset, or re-arm, the period for another 60 days, you type slmgr.vbs -rearm. Remember that you can do this three times.

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