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How to Install Windows Server 2012 / 2012 R2

Updated on May 19, 2016

Introduction - Installing Windows Server 2012 / 2012 R2

Windows 2012 is the latest incarnation of the Microsoft Windows operating system. It is a powerful server operating system. This article will go through the steps of how to install Windows Server 2012 / Windows Server 2012 R2 .

Booting from the Windows 2012 DVD

Available Editions of Windows 2012

There are now four editions of Windows 2012 :

  • Windows Server 2012 Foundation
  • Windows Server 2012 Essentials
  • Windows Server 2012 Standard
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter

Windows Server 2012 Foundation

Has limited features. Available as OEM only.

Supports 1 physical processor, and one environment. No virtualized environments supported. Allows up to 15 users but there is no requirement for a user or device CAL.

Windows Server 2012 Essential

Has limited features.

Supports 2 physical processors, and one environment. No virtualized environments supported. Allows up to 25 users but there is no requirement for a user or device CAL.

Windows Server 2012 Standard

Has all the key features.

Supports up to 64 physical processors, one physical environment and 2 virtual instances.

Windows Server 2012 Datacenter

Has all the key features.

Supports up to 64 physical processors, one physical environment, and unlimited virtual instances.

Hardware Prerequisites

The following, according to Microsoft are minimum requirements. If you have less than the minimum then it will not work.

Minimum: 1.4 GHz 64-bit processor

Minimum: 512 MB

Disk Space:
Minimum: 32 GB

Installing Windows Server 2012/Windows Server 2012 R2

To install Windows 2012/2012R2, place the DVD into the drive and restart the computer from the DVD.

Installing Windows 2012 / Windows 2012 R2 in Server Core mode

You have a choice of installing Windows Server 2012 in Server Core Installation or Server with a GUI. For our exercise, we will select Server Core Installation as I will take you through the steps of converting that installation to a Server with a GUI installation after the fact.

Choose Custom Install

Creating a New Drive Partition

While it is simple to accept the hard drive that appears during setup and select the whole drive to be created as a partition, it is often useful to create an OS partition and a DATA partition. In the below example, I will go through the steps in creating a new partition during the setup.

You just highlight the drive, and click New . Enter the size of the new partition and click Apply .

Hit Next

Installation Complete

When the installation is complete, you will get to the Ctrl Alt Delete screen.

Logging in for the First Time

Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete, then click on the Administrator account to log in. Change the password as requested.

The next part of this hub will show how to log in and convert the Server Core mode to the Full GUI mode.

Why Server Core Mode ?

It's ideal for a server running the Hyper-V role to be setup in Server Core mode. This way, a lot of memory and resources is saved by not running a Full GUI mode because the server will essentially just run as a host, and all the functionality of a Server is running on the Guest OS.

Server Core Mode

The server core mode has just a very basic GUI. You can manage the server via the following methods :

  • Command prompt - locally. You can use the Windows command-line tools and Powershell commands directly on the server core installation.

  • Command prompt - remotely using Terminal Server. You can RDP to a server running a Server Core installation. The Terminal Server session shell will be the command prompt.You can then use the Windows command-line tools and Powershell commands.

  • MMC snap-in - remotely. From another computer running Windows Vista and above, including Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2, and 2012/2012R2, you can run MMC snap-ins and connect to the server core installation just like any other server.

  • Server Manager - remotely. You can run Server Manager from a Windows 2012/2012 R2 server and connect to the Server Core installation and manage it.

  • Full GUI mode - You can convert the server core installation to a Full GUI mode

Some Server Core basic Navigation

Once you have logged in, you will be presented with a command prompt.

However, if you accidentally close out of that command prompt Window, you can easily do a Control Alt Delete and a familiar screen will come up. You can choose Task Manager which will come up and from there you can choose to open up the command prompt again, or other utilities/scripts on the server.

To convert from Server Core mode to Server with a GUI mode when the server was initially installed in Server Core mode

Determine the Index Number of the Server with a GUI image

  1. At the command prompt on the Server Core installation, type PowerShell and hit Enter.The Windows PowerShell will run (you can see it's name come up in the next line and the command prompt change to PS .

  2. You need to determine the index number for a Server with a GUI image (for example, SERVERSTANDARD, not SERVERSTANDARDCORE). This will be used later in another follow up command.

    Type in:

    Get-WindowsImage -ImagePath <path to wim>\install.wim

NOTE: The <path to wim> is the location of the install.wim on your installation media e.g. D:\Sources

Installing the Full GUI

  1. Once you determined the index number (see screen shot above), type the following as one command :

    Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra, Server-Gui-Shell –Restart –Source wim:<path to wim>\install.wim:<Index # from step 2>

    Let it run and complete.

NOTE: Alternatively, you can have the install point to Windows Update to install the GUI by typing the following instead :

Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra,Server-Gui-Shell –Restart

Removing the Full GUI mode and Converting to a Server Core Installation

To remove the Full GUI mode and to return to the server core mode, you need to type the following at the PowerShell prompt :

uninstall-windowsfeature server-gui-mgmt-infra -restart


As you can see, the process to change to the Full GUI is quite simple.

Installing Windows Server 2012/Windows Server 2012R2 server to the Full GUI mode right from the beginning will be straight forward but going through this path via the Server Core mode at least makes it a bit more interesting and make the Server Core installation something you might want to consider in future.


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