Switch between Full and Server Core in Windows Server 2012 using PowerShell 3.0


In Windows Server 2008 R2, during installation you can choose either Full or Server Core installation. There is no option to switch between Server Core and Server Full installation.

Considering Microsoft Hyper-V Best Practices, Server Core Installation is recommended. However, I prefer to put the ball in customer's court. Asking how comfortable are they with command prompt or CLI Mode when it comes to server management or troubleshooting. Based on customer expertise, I recommend installation option. I was a big fan of Core Configurator 2.0 tool when it comes to server core local management.

First understand the Server Core and Full installation.

The Server Core installation install operating system in non-GUI with minimal footprint and help to secure the server running Hyper-V role. The benefit of using core server is to reduced attack surface, reduced maintenance, consume fewer hardware resources than traditional FULL GUI Server and offer increased stability due to lesser running application and smaller attack surface.

The Server Full Installation install operating system in full GUI allow you to  perform all administration and Hyper-V related operations locally on the server.

Now lets get started with Windows Server 2012. What's new in core or full installation?

In Windows Server 2012, An administrator now has the ability to switch between a Server Core and a full as needed. The scenarios in which this capability is useful:

· Initially, administrator install  a Server Core installation and now need to make changes or troubleshoot that is not possible in local command prompt or with the remote GUI. Administrator can now convert the server to full installation and perform the changes and later switch back.

· Administrator wants to use Non-GUI but require tools and utilities to locally managed Server core without running services like Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, the desktop or the start screen

· The administrator can install a full installation, configure the server as needed, and then convert it to a Server Core installation to reduce the image size.

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 switch between Server Core and full server installations.

· Full Server

· Server Core with GUI Management (Minimal Server Interface)

· Server Core

I'll start from top to bottom approach to convert from Full Server to Server Core with GUI Management to Server Core:

· Full Server



Import-Module ServerManager


Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell -Restart



Reboot the Server


· Server Core with GUI Management (Minimal Server Interface): Windows Server 2012 Core with Server Management GUI Shell


Launch the PowerShell Window. Type Start Powershell  in command prompt and hit Enter.



Uninstall-Windowsfeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -Restart


Press Enter and uninstall begin..


Reboot the Server.


· Server Core (non-GUI Server)


Happy Reading!

Please feel free to post your feedback and comments.

Comments (4)

  1. Also, if you use -remove option on Uninstall commandlet, you delete binary files from local disk.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow, i never thought this kind of function. good shot.

    only the pics are a little small, haha.

  3. _Emin_ says:

    There's not need to load a built-in module as you've the module preloading feature turned on by default in Powershell V3.

    See http://www.powershellmagazine.com/…/cmdlet-discovery-and-module-auto-loading

  4. To bring back the gui, type sconfig and select option 12.If option 12 is not present in the sconfig menu, you may have to use 'dism /online /enable-feature /featurename:ServerCore-FullServer /featurename:Server-Gui-Shell /featurename:Server-Gui-Mgmt

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