As promised, we begin our Windows Server 2008 series with Server Core. Server Core is a new 2008 Server installation option which installs a minimal operating system environment, thereby reducing the attack surface and the disk space, servicing, and management requirements of the server.

The Server Core does not include a GUI, Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, or an MMC. All system management tasks are performed using the command prompt or remote administration tools from another server.

The installation of Server Core is pretty straightforward and can be completed in roughly 8 steps. I’ll assume most of you know how to install Windows so I’ll skip that part of it. Suffice to say, when you are prompted to select the operating system to install, choose the appropriate version of Server Core:

After the installation completes, the server can be managed locally using the command prompt and remotely using:
1. The command prompt
2. The Windows Remote Shell
3. MMC
4. The Terminal Services Client

Common post-installation tasks include:
1. Changing the server name using NETDOM
2. Assigning an IP address and DNS Servers using NETSH
3. Adding the server to the domain using NETDOM

Once these tasks are complete, you are ready to perform a server role installation. The following roles are installed using the OCSetup command line utility:

-File Server
-Print Server
-Active Directory Lightweight Directory Server
-Windows Deployment Server
-Web Server (IIS)
-Streaming Media Services

As an example, the syntax to install DHCP would be: start /w ocsetup DHCPServerCore

Initially, I wanted to see if a Windows Server Core could be installed as a Domain Controller in a Windows Server 2003 AD domain.

Before a Server 2008 domain controller can be installed in a 2003 based AD environment, the forest and domain must be prepped using adprep on the Server 2008 installation CD. Once Active Directory is prepared, AD Services can be installed onto the Server Core using DCPROMO. However, since Server Core does not support any GUIs, dcpromo must be run using a lengthy command line or an unattend.txt file.

I logged into the server core console and created the unattend.txt file shown below:

To install AD using the text file, enter the command: dcpromo /answer:c:\unattend.txt

When prompted for domain credentials, specify a user account with permissions to install new domain controllers:

When dcpromo completes, the server will reboot itself and you will have a Windows 2008 Server Core domain controller!