Switching Between Core and Full Installation in Windows Server 2012

Before you start

Objectives: Learn how to switch from Core to full Windows Server 2012 installation, and vice versa, using PowerShell and Server Manager.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: Core, Full, installation, switching, mode, PowerShell.

 Switching from Core to Full Installation

There are several tools which can be used to switch from Core to Full Windows Server 2012 installation. We can use the DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) tool, which is often used for deployment purposes. We can also use the Remote Server Manager to connect to the Core installation and in that way use the UI (user interface) to remove and add features to the Core version. We can also use the PowerShell, either on the local console or remotely, to install or remove Windows features.

In this demonstration we will use PowerShell to switch from Core to the Full Windows Server 2012 installation. We will do this locally. So, the first thing we have to do is to start PowerShell. To do that, we will simply enter the powershell command.

 1 PowerShell

PowerShell Command

The next thing we have to enter is Import-Module ServerManager. That’s because not all modules are automatically loaded, so we have to load them manually. The reason is to keep the top performance of the machine.

 2 Import-Module ServerManager

Import-Module Command

Once we are in the ServerManager module, we can use the command to install windows GUI feature. The whole command is: Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra, Server-Gui-Shell -Restart.

 3 Install-WindowsFeature

Install-WindowsFeature Command

When we press enter, the installation will begin. We entered the -Restart flag in order for our machine to restart. If we didn’t, we would get a prompt asking us if we want to restart our machine or not.

Switching from Full to Core Installation

We can use the Server Manager to remove the GUI from our installation. To do that, in the Server Manager we can go to “Manage” and select the Remove Roles and Features option.

 4 Manage

Remove Roles and Features

On the “Before You Begin” screen we can click on the Next button. On the next screen we have to select the server from which to remove roles and features. In our case we only have one server to select.

 5 Server Selection

Server Selection

The next thing is to choose Features (we can skip Server Roles). We have to scroll down and find User Interfaces and Infrastructure. In our case we currently have Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure and Server Graphical Shell selected. We have to deselect those two options.

 6 GUI Options

User Interface and Infrastructure Features

When we deselect the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure, we will be asked to remove additional features that require GMTI.

 7 Additional Removal

Remove Dependent Features

Notice that it will ask us to remove PowerShell ISE. ISE provides some user interface options, like hints or options to fill in some options, or similar. Server Graphical Shell provides the full Windows graphical user interface, including File Explorer and Internet Explorer, so it will also be removed. So, when we confirm our options and click on the Remove button, we will get the Server without the GUI interface (command line only mode, or core installation).