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Server Core and Full Server Integration Overview

Published: February 29, 2012

Updated: February 29, 2012

Applies To: Windows Server 2012



In Windows Server 2012, the Server Core installation option is no longer an irrevocable selection that is made during setup. In Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008, if your requirements changed, there was no way to convert to a full installation or a Server Core installation without completely reinstalling the operating system. An administrator now has the ability to convert between a Server Core installation and a full installation as needed.

There are several scenarios in which this capability is especially useful:

  • An administrator installed and is running a full installation option of Windows Server 2012, but exclusively using the roles that run on a Server Core installation. The administrator can convert the servers to Server Core installations to reduce the image size and increase servicing advantages without having to reprovision all of their servers.

  • An administrator installs a Server Core installation and now needs to make a change or troubleshoot something that is not possible with the remote GUI. The administrator may not know how to make the change from the command line or cannot find a command-line equivalent. The administrator can convert the server to a full installation, perform the changes, and then convert it back to a Server Core installation to reduce the image size and maintain servicing advantages.

  • An administrator wants to use the GUI for all of the initial configuration steps to make the initial configuration experience as easy as possible, yet wants to reduce the image size and maintain the servicing advantages that a Server Core installation provides. The administrator can install a full installation, configure the server as needed, and then convert it to a Server Core installation.

  • An enterprise mandates a single server operating system image, so it cannot use a Server Core installation because it requires two images. Windows Server 2012 integrates the Server Core installation and the full server installation options. Now the enterprise can use a single server operating system image to deploy full installations of Windows Server 2012 and then convert them to Server Core installations to reduce the image size and provide the servicing advantages that it offers.

You need a Server Core installation or a full installation of Windows Server 2012. No special hardware is required.

In Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008, the Server Core installation and the full installation options were selections that an administrator made at the time of installation.

Figure 1  Earlier Windows Server installations

Figure 1   Earlier Windows Server installations

In Windows Server 2012, the installation options are integrated, and three large optional features are provided. An administrator can install or uninstall these options to move between Server Core and full server installations.

Figure 2  Windows Server 8 installation

Figure 2   Windows Server 2012 installation options

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