A few days ago, Microsoft's Open Source tool Core Configurator 2.0 was released. It allows you to manage Server Core with a nice GUI. I also reviewed Core Configurator 1.0/1.1 a while back. The old version is still valuable because it also runs on Sever 2008 Core, whereas version 2.0 only supports Windows Server 2008 R2.
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Core Configurator 2.0 is a completely new tool, as it is based on PowerShell and .Net 2, which are not officially supported on Server 2008 Core. However, there are ways to install PowerShell on Server 2008 Core. Thus, it is perhaps possible to get Core Configurator 2.0 running on R2. The other question is if you really want to install unsupported software on a server. Note that you don't have to enable PowerShell and .Net before you install the Core Configurator 2.0 on R2 Server Core because its setup program (Start_CoreConfig.wsf) does this for you.
Another main difference to version 1.1 is that 2.0 has a nice GUI whereas Core Configurator 1.1 only has "DOS-like" menus. The most noteworthy new feature is probably the support for Hyper-V, although the management capabilities are somewhat limited. You can only start/stop virtual machines and you can see the thumbnails of running virtual machines.
I also like the feature that allows you to install third party apps. Of course, it is not a big deal to launch a setup program on a command prompt, but with Core Configurator, you can just browse to the corresponding program just as you are used to under the window-based Windows. Moreover, you can display and uninstall applications with the GUI. Of course, it is also possible to enable server roles and features with the tool.
This is the main downside of the built-in sconfig tool, which also lacks the ability to configure Firewall settings. Of course, sconfig has the advantage of not having to be installed. Core Configuration Console, another tool I reviewed before, looks a bit old-fashioned compared to Core Configurator. The most interesting additional feature of the commercial SmartX CoreConfigurator (without space) is probably that you can manage user accounts with it. This also works with the former free version of CoreConfigurator, which you can still download at 4sysops.
Thus far, Core Configurator 2.0 is my favorite Server Core management tool. Since Core Configurator is now built on PowerShell, it is more likely that third parties will extend the tool with new features. Nevertheless, the available features in this release are already quite extensive:
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- Product licensing
- Networking features
- DCPromo Tool
- ISCSI settings
- Server Roles and Features
- User and group permissions
- Share creation and deletion
- Dynamic firewall settings
- Display | screensaver settings
- Add & remove drivers
- Proxy settings
- Windows updates (including WSUS)
- Multipath I/O
- Hyper-V including virtual machine thumbnails
- JoinDomain and computer rename
- Add/remove programs
- Complete logging of all commands executed