Minimal Server Interface in Windows Server 2012

Before you start

Objectives: Learn how to configure Minimal Server Interface using Server Manager or using PowerShell.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: User Interface, PowerShell, Server Manager, Minimal Server Interface, Windows Server 2012


 What is Minimal Server Interface

The purpose of Minimal Server Interface is to reduce the footprint of the server. It reduces the size of the hard disk space and it also reduces requirements for patching. The thing is, Minimal Server Interface will take away a lot of User Interface (UI), but not all of it. Since a lot of patching relate to the UI, the more UI we take away, the less patching we have. Minimal Server Interface stands somewhere in between Core and Full installation, and provides the benefits of both installation types.

Minimal Server Interface will remove the Desktop, Start Screen, Windows Explorer, and Internet Explorer. However, we will still have Server Manager, MMC and Snap-ins, and subset of Control Panel.

To configure Minimal Server Interface we can use Server Manager or we can use PowerShell (PS). If we have a Core installation and want to make it Minimal Server Interface type of installation, we have to use PowerShell locally or Server Manager remotely. When we do this, the Core installation will require source files from Windows Update or installation media (installation media is faster).

Configuring Minimal Server Interface with Server Manager

If we have a Full installation, we can use Server Manager to configure Minimal Server Interface. In Server Manager we can click on the Manage button, and then select the “Remove Roles and Features” option.

 1 Remove Features

Remove Roles and Features Option

On the first screen of the Wizard we can click on the Next button, then select our local server on the Server Selection screen. On the Server Roles screen we will click Next (skip it). On the Features screen we will find User Interface and Infrastructure feature. In this section we will only select the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure option.

 2 Feature Selection

Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure Option

This way we will get Minimal Server Interface installation. If we also uncheck the Server Graphical Shell option, we will get the Core installation. On the next screen we will confirm our selection and click the Remove button.

Using PowerShell to Configure Minimal Server Interface

To configure Minimal Server Interface with PowerShell we can enter the command: “Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell“. To check what will happen when we enter this command we can use the -whatif option. This way we can check if we have some application installed which depends on the feature we want to remove.

 3 Whatif Option

Uninstall Command with -whatif Option

In our case we don’t have any app that depends on the Server Graphical Shell so we can enter the command without the -whatif option. When the removal is done we have to restart our machine. To restart we can enter the following command in PowerShell: “shutdown /r /t 0“.

To go back to the Full installation we can enter the following command in PowerShell: “Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell“, after which we will have to restart our machine again.

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