Windows Server 2012 – Convert Full GUI server to CORE to increase security and performance

Published on 08/07/2013 by Wouter Makkinje

Filed under Microsoft Windows Server 2012

Last modified 08/07/2013

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Introduction

Windows Server 2008 introduced the concept of Windows Server Core. The ability to install a server with minimal gui and basically only the necessary administrative tools.

One of the more interesting new features in Windows Server 2012 is the ability to switch between a Full (GUI enabled installation) and a Core (Minimal GUI installation). What’s so special about that? Well now you can installa server with Full GUI and set it up the way you want and later remove the GUI part to increase the servers performance and security. If need be you can always activate the GUI again. This was not possible in Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2.

The way this switching back and forth is done is by removing or adding the feature labeld: User Interfaces and Infrastructure > Server Graphical Shell.

Connect to your Windows Server 2012 server.

  1. Open Server Manager.
  2. In the top right corner select Manage > Remove Roles and Features.
  3. The Remove Roles and Features wizard pops up. Click next on the Before you begin page.
  4. Select the server that this applies to.
  5. Click next on the Roles step.
  6. On the features step, scroll down to User Interfaces and Infrastructure and expand it to display the 3 sub choices.
  7. Now if you uncheck the first one “Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure” it will automatically remove the last one “Server Graphical Shell”. This will leave you with a server with only a command prompt upon reboot.7587.ServerManager02_thumb_45816A11
  8. If you wish to have a server manager as well as a command prompt simply uncheck the last choice “Server Graphical Shell”.
  9. Click Next.
  10. Check the checkbox for “Restart the destination server automatically if required” and click Remove.
  11. Once done the server will restart and you will be left with a command prompt and a server manager.4265.ServerManager01_thumb_3183C37C
  12. If you want to be even more extreme, you remove both and will be left with a powershell command prompt ONLY upon reboot.
  13. If you removed it all and what to return to full GUI setup you simply add it back with the following command: Add-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell and reboot the server.
  14. Once rebooted you will have a full GUI server again. Notice that this does not format the server or anything You can easily switch between modes when you need to.