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Managing a Server Core installation from the command line may be rewarding when you’re a command line aficionado, but most admins I know prefer using their graphical tools to manage servers, and they prefer doing so in the comfort of their office seats rather than in the cold of the datacenter. There’s good news for these people: Server Core installations of Windows Server 2012 offer many of the remote capabilities found in Server with a GUI installations.
To remotely manage Server Core from a Windows client such as Windows 7 or Windows 8, the following remote management methods can be used:
- Computer Management
- Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT)
- Remote Desktop
- Remote PowerShell
- WinRM and WinRS
Using Computer Management remotely
The Computer Management Snap-in (compmgmt.msc) is a powerful tool for managing Windows client installations in terms of events, shares, users, groups, devices, services, and storage. This tool also allows you to connect to a remote computer.
In Windows 7, you can start the Computer Management Snap-in from the Start Menu by typing its filename compmgmt.msc or by right-clicking Computer in the Start Menu and selecting Manage from the context-menu.
In Windows 8, to start the Computer Management Snap-in in the new Windows 8 Start Screen, do one of the following:
- Type compmgmt.msc in the Start Screen.
- Press Win+X and select Computer Management from the Power User Start Menu.
- Type computer in the Start Screen, right-click the Computer Management icon and select Manage from the App bar.
Start Computer Management in Windows 8
With the Computer Management Snap-in on your screen, right-click the Computer Management node in the left pane and select Connect to another computer.
Connect to another computer
Next, type the hostname of the Server Core installation and click OK. You can now use the Computer Management Snap-in to remotely manage users, groups, and group memberships from your Windows installation. Also, Event Viewer and Performance Monitor might shed some light on any issues you might have with your Server Core installation.
You will not be able to use the Device Manager and Disk Management tools remotely.
When you’d rather use the separate tools, the Connect to another computer option is available in most of them, like the Event Viewer (eventvwr.exe) and the task scheduler (taskschd.msc).
Although not all of the tools work, most of the tools you use on a daily basis to troubleshoot Windows installations can be used remotely with Server Core, allowing you to troubleshoot Server Core within a Graphical User Interface (GUI).
Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT)
The Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) are available as a separate download for Windows 7 and Windows 8. These tools work with Server Core and Server with a GUI installations of Windows Server, and they allow you to manage Server Roles and Features on those installations from a Windows client.
If you have Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 installed, you can download the RSAT for Windows 7 here. RSAT for Windows 8 is available here.
Select the language and architecture (x86 or x64) of your Windows client installation carefully, or you might encounter “This update does not apply to your system” errors and you will need to clog your Internet connection twice.
After you’ve successfully downloaded the package, run it to install the Features. Select Yes because you’re sure you want to install the update, and then select I accept to accept the license for the Remote Server Administration Tools.
On Windows 7, you will not be ready to use the tools after you install the update, since you need to install the Remote Server Administration Tools of your choice from the Turn Windows features on or off Control Panel applet. The steps are:
- Go to the Control Panel and select Programs and Features. Or, begin typing Progra... in the search field of the Start Menu.
- Select Turn Windows features on or off in the task pane.
- Scroll down to Remote Server Administration Tools and select the features corresponding to your remote management wishes.
Turn RSAT Features on or off in Windows 7
After you click OK and wait for Windows to install the Features, you’re ready to use the tools. They are present in the Administrative Tools folder in the Start Menu. They can also be located by searching from the Start Menu. Or, you can get them displayed by way of Options on the Start Menu.
On Windows 8, however, all the features will be installed by default and are available to you right away. They are accessible through the Administrative Tools shortcut to the far right in the Start Screen.
When you click the shortcut, you will be presented with the Remote Server Administration Tools:
Administrative Tools in Windows 8
The Remote Server Administration Tools can also be located by searching their filename from the Start Screen. When you right-click a shortcut a tool from the Administrative Tools folder, you can select Pin to Start to make the tool available directly from the Start Screen.
One of the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 8 is particularly useful. It’s Server Manager.
On GUI installations of Windows Server 2012, Server Manager starts automatically and provides access to the basic configuration steps for every new Windows Server installation. It also provides options to add and remove Server Roles and Features.
You can use Server Manager from Windows 8 to manage Server Core installations of Windows Server 2012, so it’s no wonder this RSAT tool is pinned to the Start Screen by default.
You run Server Manager by typing either part of its name or its entire filename (servermanager.exe). By default, on a Windows client, it’s empty. On the top right, from the Manage menu, choose Add Servers. Use the Active Directory or DNS discovery methods or the text import method to add servers. To add servers to Server Manager from the left pane to the right pane, use the vertically arranged button with an arrow depicted on it. The server will now be available for management from the All Servers group from the left pane.
When you right-click the server, Server Manager allows you to add Server Roles and/or Features, restart the server, launch Computer Management, launch a Remote Desktop session to the server, start a Windows PowerShell session on the server, configure Network Interface Card (NIC) Teaming, configure Windows Automatic Feedback, and start Performance Counters. The beauty of Server Manager, beyond this, is that you can also use many of these commands on multiple servers and server groups at once, straight from this single console.
In this first part of managing Server Core installations remotely, we’ve looked at the Computer Management Snap-in and the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT). In my next post, we’ll dive into the remaining three remote management tools
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