Step-By-Step: Enabling and Disabling the GUI in Windows Server 2012

Today Pierre Roman and I are conducting the latest edition of the #CANITPRO Windows Server Camp in St.John's Newfoundland.  Our good friend, Rick Claus who now hangs his hat at Microsoft Corp, has been giving us tips on places to visit while here as St.John's is one of his favorite spots.  Another favorite of Rick's is running Windows Server 2012 in core mode.  This is because when running Windows Server 2012 in core mode provides additional benefits such as reduced servicing, reduced management, reduced attack surface, less disk space required and less memory (RAM) required.  One of the caveats is that some applications still require the GUI to install.  Microsoft has taken this into consideration as has provided a way to enable and disable the GUI via a few steps.

Disabling the GUI

In Server Manager go to Manage and select Remove Roles or Features.

Click next to skip the "Before you begin" page, select your server from the server pool and click next.

Since the GUI is not a Role, click next to skip past the Roles section.

In the Features page, uncheck the box located beside the “User Interfaces and Infrastructure” option, then click next.

Click the “Restart Destination Server” box, then click remove.  This will save time as it will allow the server to reboot without administrator input.

The GUI removal process will now begin.

Once the binary removal is completed the server will automatically reboot.

Login once the server has completed rebooting and the server will now produce the command line as an interface.


Enabling the GUI

The process of enabling the GUI begins with typing SConfig into the command line and hitting enter.

Amidst the selection provided, type “12” to Restore the GUI and hit enter.

Click "Yes" to allow the server to reboot to enable the GUI.

DISM will then  start adding the required binaries for the GUI Shell.

Once completed, the server will prompt again for a reboot. Type “y” and hit enter to reboot.

Enabling and disabling is now easier because the GUI in Windows Server 2012 is a feature.  Organizations can now easily take advantage of the benefits provided by running Windows Server 2012 in core mode without worrying about getting the GUI back.

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