Welcome to the Server Core blog…

Now that Longhorn Server beta 2 is out, I figured I would try this blog thing as a way to share information and answer common questions about Server Core.


For my first post I’ll provide a brief summary of what Server Core is and why we are creating it. Server Core is a minimal server installation option for Windows Server “Longhorn”. It runs a subset of the server roles included in Longhorn Server, specifically it supports the following:

·      DHCP server

·      File Server

·      DNS server

·      Active Directory

Server Core also includes the following optional features:

·      Failover Cluster

·      Network Load Balancing

·      Multipath IO

·      Removable Storage

·      Bitlocker Drive Encryption

·      Subsystem for UNIX-based applications

·      Backup


Server Core is all about letting an administrator run the above roles with less installed, running, and needing to be managed on a server. For example, there is no GUI shell on Server Core, the local interface for managing the server is the command prompt. You can use MMC snap-ins to remotely manage a Server Core installation. All of this provides the following benefits:

  • Reduced maintance

  • Reduced attack surface area

  • Reduced management

  • Less disk space required to install


If you have questions about Server Core or how to do things with it, please post them in the comments to this and I’ll try to answer them in future postings. I’ll also try to cover some of the more common questions.



Comments (17)

  1. Bart Robinson says:

    Hi Andrew!

    Welcome to the fray.

    I would like to know if there is a cmd line list that I can referance. I’m on the betatest for vistaLonghorn and I am a newbie to "Core" and its commands.

  2. amason says:

    Hi Bart,

    Thanks, I’ll try to post fairly often.

    The best command line "cheat sheet" that I have found is the Command-line Reference A-Z in the Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 help. There is also an online version at: http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=20331. Not every command will be available in Server Core, if the functionality it is for isn’t in Server Core, but most of them are. I’m sure in one of the releases something equivalent will be added to the Vista and Server help.


  3. tonyso says:

    Welcome aboard. I look forward to reading your posts.

  4. tonyso says:

    Will I be able to run PowerShell scripts on core?

  5. Powershell requires the .NET Framework which will not be available on Servercore (as far as currently known).

  6. Patrick S says:

    Brilliant-Good to see Server Core getting its own blog 😀

    Ill post a link on my blog see if we can get some readers :)

    Power to the Server Core die-hards!

  7. halr9000 says:

    This sounds great.  I can totally see using this at work.  Any idea on the licensing costs?  What about a stripped-down version of IIS?  How many simultaneous logins will be supported?  What protocol will logins use?  Please tell me its not telnet, that’s old and dead.  I would love to see a solid, native, Microsoft SSH daemon.  Any API limitations?  If this is released as a standalone product, and its cheap, this could be a neat SOHO or webhosting platform.  How large is the footprint (MB)?  Would embedded applications make sense?  NAS, etc.  Will it use the same drivers as Longhorn?

    No more questions for now.  😉

  8. amason says:

    In response to your questions:
    Any idea on the licensing costs?
    >>Server Core will be part of the Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter Longhorn Server SKUs. If you purchase one of those, during setup you will have the option to install Server Core or Server.

    What about a stripped-down version of IIS?  
    >>We are investigating including a version without ASP.NET support. As someone mentioned in an earlier post, there is no .NET Framework, so IIS wouldn’t support ASP.NET.

    How many simultaneous logins will be supported?  What protocol will logins use?  Please tell me its not telnet, that’s old and dead.  I would love to see a solid, native, Microsoft SSH daemon.  

    >>Server Core will have the edition/SKU limitations of Longhorn Server, no differences between Server Core and Server. It uses the same login protocols and network protocols. Unfortunately, there won’t be an SSH daemon, but it does support TS Remote Admin mode,
    you just get command prompt as your shell.

    Any API limitations?  
    >>Yes, it is a subset of what is available in Server, because a subset of the binaries are installed. There is information on the api support at:


    If this is released as a standalone product, and its cheap, this could be a neat SOHO or webhosting platform.  

    >>See the first question

    How large is the footprint (MB)?  Would embedded applications make sense?  NAS, etc.  

    >>It is about 1GB on disk in Beta 2, we hope to reduce that some before RTM. For Server based embedded apps it does.

    Will it use the same drivers as Longhorn?
    >>Yes. The binaries are the same as Longhorn, just fewer installed. It uses the same drivers, again, fewer are installed since there is no need for audio, modem, etc drivers.

  9. halr9000 says:

    Ok.  I was excited about this product for a few hours until I read your response.  Hopefully you guys will listen to a Windows consultant who is an employee of your #1 world partner.  I’m trying to be helpful here.  :)

    >>Server Core will be part of the Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter Longhorn Server SKUs. If you purchase one of those, during setup you will have the option to install Server Core or Server.

    More questions and problems to raise:

    1. I pay $999 for the Standard edition (using today’s retail prices) and get substantially less than what I would get for a $399 Web edition OS (i.e. no ASP.NET).  Not to mention its single-user (or maybe 2 or 3 users, if you count the console connection?) I’m sure that the higher up guy who decided to make this servercore a go sees some sort of market for it.  Perhaps I’m missing it.  This is not a $1000 product, much less a $400 product.  It’s really a <$200 product from what you have said so far.  The only benefit here is that it will take up a little less space on a hard drive.

    2. What you have said–so far–limits this product to an intranet-only application.  You can’t do DHCP over the Internet.  Nobody does CIFS or AD over the ‘Net.  It could in theory be an internet-facing DNS server, but that’s about it.  Well I suppose third-party apps can expand this but let’s just go on what is in your blog so far because that’s all I have to go on.  So its less versatile.  If I had SSH at least I could perform secure remote procedure calls and arbitrary tunneling over the Internet–something for which there is no facility in RDP.  You are giving me a remote interactive shell, but not a remotely controllable system, unless I open 65535-1024 TCP ports for RPC.  (Yes I’m dramatizing a little.)  Can I maybe count on some RDP enhancements?  I’d love for RDP to be the Swiss Army knife that SSH is.  Or ICA even.

    3. If you have DHCP, might as well add bootp and RIS stuff.  It could be a "deployment node".  

    4. Speaking of deploying–a computer without a GUI would logically have a text-based installer.  Talking about i386setup.exe and msiexec.exe.  Or can you spawn graphical programs?

    5. Is what Ulf said above true?  No .net means no power shell?  That’s almost a deal killer.  I mean the whole point of a command-line shell is quick and scriptable remote administration and automation.  A requirement of a server without a gui is best-in-class command-line scripting.  The whole point of power shell is…?  As I understand it power shell is going to replace WSH, right?  Next you’ll be telling me no WSH.

    6. I see the value of a low-cost utility server.  Commodity stuff.  Stuff that you can already do with an open-sourced competitive platform the name of which I shall not type.  But maybe you want the support contract and you want to leverage your existing IT resources, not retrain them.  So let’s say its worth some money to a business to purchase some low maintenance, easy to deploy, scalable, fault-tolerant utility servers.  I really think you have to deliver some _more_utility_ and _lower_cost_ for this core server thing to work.

    Don’t mean to be beating on the messenger.  Feel free to contact me by email if you like.

  10. 1. As said, it’s a installation choice. If you only need the roles being available, and you want increased security (no IIS, IE, .NET to patch and to attack) _and_ you are able to manage it, you should choose servercore. Otherwise install the full product. You have a licence which will always allow you to reinstall and choosing the other option. There are so many people out there who have asked for more secure servers which don’t include IIS and all the "client overhead" which makes the more critical machines less secure. And talking about money – you spent a lot for security, I assume. So should servercore be cheaper or more expensive? However as I said, you always have to possibility to reinstall.

    2. Intranet doesn’t mean not attacked or in danger. Just think of people using IE on a DC where you are logged on as domain admin.

    3. Interesting thought and request.

    4. It’s not forced to GUI-only, setup-programs and messasge-boxes will work usually.

    5. I’d also vote for .NET, but majorly because I’d love to see virtual serer on server core. I want to deploy servercore in branch offices, with Readonly DCs, and put other branch office servers needed into virtual server secured on servercore. And powershell does not replace WSH – it’s another option which is very rich and makes a huge use of .NET 2.0. There’s a public beta available, download it and play with it. You’ll realize that there’s a .NET 2.0 requirement for Powershell.

    6. The requirement for Servercore is not cost, it’s increased security/performance if you only need certain functions – such as a secure DC/DNS/DHCP/Fileservices. It will work – people have the option to install a more secure version with less features, or the full featured version which provides a broader attack surface and requires more patching. You can always change your mind by reinstalling, however I see a huge value especially in branch office scenarios.

  11. amason says:

    As far as the SSH/RDP debate and ports go, Server Core also includes ws-management. In beta 2, there is a new Windows Remote Shell, which lets you securely execute commands/scripts/tools on a remote box, such as Server Core. It doesn’t currently support interactive commands/scripts/tools, it executes what was requested and returns the results to the local box.

    The issue with .NET and Server Core is that .NET is all or nothing and has dependencies all over Windows (shell, IE, multimedia, etc). Adding it to Server Core would eliminate most of Server Core’s benefit in that all the dependencies would have to be included. We are working with the .NET team to come up with a layer of .NET that could be included in the future, with enough to support the roles and management functionality.

    Thanks for the feedback and discussion on the rest of the items, Ulf has answered most of the rest. We are looking into trying to add more roles for the Longhorn release and I will pass along the pricing feedback, but as you can imagine, that is out of my control.

  12. halr9000 says:

    Thanks for all the answers, you’ve been very helpful.  Your software is pretty much "free" for me, so I don’t care about the pricing for myself, but my customers are very conscious of that sort of thing.  It would be interesting to see if servercore will be a part of my future engagements.

  13. dloder says:

    Any plans on making a command line reference guide for Longhorn available, showing the deltas against 2K3, along with what’s specific to Server Core?  It’s been difficult trying to find out how to make everything work under Server Core.  I never would have found the Terminal Services script without this blog (and Google).  And for drivers, I found the new executables, but had initially wasted some time looking for a new version of devcon (from the 2K3 support tools).  Can you point to any information about the Windows Remote Shell you mentioned in the first post.  I can’t find anything about it either.

    I work with one of the largest AD deployments on the planet and we are highly interested in making sure we can migrate our DCs to Server Core.  Like everyone, we’d also love to see PowerShell on Server Core.

  14. amason says:

    If you are in the beta program, there is a Server Core step by step guide that covers a lot of the common commands, the registry script, and other info. I’m checking to see if we can get it posted elsewhere, but so far no luck.

    I’ll try to do a posting about Windows Remote Shell soon.