Getting started with server core. Part1 – Basic Configuration

The server core installation option for Windows Server 2012 can be intimidating, especially for IT Pros that are used to working with the GUI and don’t have any experience with the command line or PowerShell. The fact that there is no Windows Explorer shell, Start Menu, Task bar and other familiar administrative tools can be quite daunting! All you get is a command prompt after logging in, which means that you need to know some basic commands to be able to configure the system. The benefit of this stripped down installation is that server core has a smaller attack surface and requires less resources. You can always switch to a different installation option later and you can still use GUI tools on your workstation when managing the server remotely.

In this series, I’m going to take you through the configuration of a new installation of Windows Server 2012 R2 – Server Core. We’ll start with the basics and work our way up to promoting the server to become a domain controller. I encourage you to install an evaluation version of Windows Server 2012 R2 on a spare computer or virtual machine and follow along with me. You can download the trial from I’m not going to cover the installation of the operating system in this post, but make sure you select the Server Core Installation option during setup. It is the default installation option.

After the installation is complete, you will be prompted to change your password, which really means create a new password.

After you have signed in you’ll be presented with the Windows command prompt.

Command Prompt
The Command Prompt. Windows Server core doesn’t include the Windows Explorer shell, desktop or taskbar.

There are 5 basic configuration tasks that I generally need to perform when I deploy a new server.

  1. Check that the date and time are correct and adjust if necessary.
  2. Configure the network settings
  3. Configure the name of the server
  4. Download Windows updates
  5. Finally, join the server to a domain, or promote it to become a domain controller

I didn’t mention enable Remote Management because this is enabled by default in Windows Server 2012 R2.


You can use the Server Configuration tool (Sconfig.cmd), a powerful text based menu system, to perform several common configuration tasks. Type sconfig and then press ENTER.

Server Configuration tool (Sconfig.cmd)

Command Prompt & PowerShell

You can also accomplish the basic configuration tasks using command line tools and windows PowerShell.

  • Date and Time settings

    Type timedate.cpl and press ENTER. Look familiar? Some control panel applets are included. Intl.cpl is also available and can also be used to configure regional settings. You can issue the above commands at a regular command prompt or in PowerShell. For a completely command line approach you can also type date and time.

  • Configure network settings with PowerShell

    • Type powershell and the press ENTER. Note that your command prompt is now proceeded by “PS”.
    • Let’s start by getting a list of network adapters installed in your system


    • Now that we know the interface alias (Name) is “Ethernet”, we can configure an IP address for the adapter:

      If your interface alias is more than one word, for example Ethernet 2, you’ll need to enclose the name in quotes like “Ethernet 2” Also, take note that the network mask is specified in CIDR notation. /24 means and /16 would be etc.

    • We’re not done just yet. We still need to configure the DNS servers that the system should use for name resolution:

  • Configure the name of the server

    • To check the current server name simply type hostname
    • Configuring the computer name using PowerShell is quite straight forward:

    • After you have configured the computer name you will be prompted to restart the computer which can be done with the following command:

  • Download Windows updates

    • To verify the current Windows Update settings type cscript scregedit.wsf /AU /v
    • To force windows update to immediately detect and install any available updates run Wuauclt /detectnow

In part 2 I’ll cover joining the server to a domain or promoting it to become a domain controller.





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