What you can and cannot do in Server Core

To get a good look at Server Core, I installed Server Core for Server 2008 Enterprise Edition, Beta 3 (build 6001), into a fresh Virtual Machine running on Virtual Server 2005 R2, with the Virtual Machine Additions. The host system was Windows Vista Ultimate.

Server Core gives you a bare-bones version of Server 2008 Standard, Enterprise, or Web versions, and it's available on both x86 or x64 platforms. Server Core doesn't give you the familiar GUI operating system shell, with Start button, taskbar, and desktop; when you start Server Core, you see a command prompt window on a plain background and that's it.

Here are some other things you don't get on a Server Core installation as of the Beta 3:

• Internet Explorer (but you can still configure Windows Update with the included SCREGEDIT.WSF script)

• Server Manager

• Microsoft Management Console (and all its snap-ins)

• Dot-Net Framework (parts of it work, but much of it breaks; Microsoft says they're working on producing a subset of the framework for Server Core but it will be released after the release of Server 2008, if ever)

• PowerShell (although you can run this remotely to manage Server Core)

• DirectX (you don't play games on servers anyway, right?)

• Media Player (...or play MP3s and videos?)

• Sound card drivers

• Modem drivers

• Printer drivers (you actually can add these, but you must do so remotely)

• Windows Mail (the new version of Outlook Express)

Trimming all of these items saves something like 4GB of binaries, according to Microsoft. (My installation required about 5.7GB.) It also is likely to save something approaching 60% of the patch requirements, if we can use Windows 2000 Server as a guide.

Below is a partial list of functions that you can perform or that do exist on Server Core:

• Product activation (use the phone, a KMS server, or the command "slmgr.vbs -ato")

• Change the password (ctrl-alt-del)

• Join a domain (using NETDOM)

• Rename the computer (again, using NETDOM)

• Add a server role (using the OCSETUP tool)

• Install Active Directory and promote to a domain controller (using DCPROMO)

• Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (formerly known as ADAM, Active Directory Application Mode)

• Configure IP address, add DNS server, etc. (using NETSH)

• View event log (run Event Viewer remotely from another system)

• View performance counters (run Perfmon remotely from another system)

• View performance counters (run Perfmon remotely from another system)

• View Device Manager (remotely, and in read-only mode)

• Plug and Play (works silently with included drivers)

• Windows Installer Service (you can install MSI files)

• Windows File Protection

• Active Directory

• DHCP

• DNS

• File and print sharing

• IIS 7 (but no asp.net)

• WINS

• Clustering

• Network Load Balancing

• Subsystem for UNIX

• Backup

I'll have more info on Server Core in the next several blog posts. 

 See all Server 2008 posts:

Server Core - A minimalist approach to managing WS2008

Command Prompt Interface and other cool tools on WS2008

How to setup Features in WS2008

Configuring a Role in WS2008: NOT as easy as can be

Adding a role to WS2008: Easy as can be

The purpose of roles in Windows Server 2008

Meet Windows Server 2008 'Server Manager' -- your new management cockpit

The Look and Feel of Server 2008

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