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Windows 2012 : switching from Server Core to Server with a GUI

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

I already blogged about this, but due the numbers of requests and confusion people are making, here we go again:

The Server Core does not have GUI and have a minimal footprint which helps to secure the server running Hyper-V role, for example. The benefit of using Core version, which is now the default version, 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.

But there is a trick : while you can switch between Core and Full and vice versa, if you installed Server Core version and then decide to go with a Server with a GUI, the payload that has the interface is not installed and you will need to provide the source path.

A server in Minimal Server Interface mode is about 300 MB smaller than the same server in Server with a GUI mode. A server in Server Core mode is about 4 GB smaller than the same server in Server with a GUI mode

Note: The recommendation/Best Practise is to install the Server Core installation unless you have a particular need for the additional user interface elements and graphical management tools that are included in the “Server with a GUI” option

When you install Windows 2012 Server Core and you want to switch it to Windows 2012 Full GUI version,

For servers with server core as the base installation:

To convert a server core installation  to a full operating system installation (GUI version)

1. Create an folder called C:\w2012\image

mkdir C:\w2012\image

2. Insert the Windows 2012 media into the optical drive and copy install.wim from

copy D:\sources\install.wim  C:\w2012\image

3.  Run the following command to retrieve the name or index number of the image:

Dism /Get-ImageInfo /ImageFile:C:\w2012\image\install.wim

4. Create an folder called  C:\w2012\MountPoint

mkdir C:\w2012\MountPoint

5. Run the following command to mount the offline Windows image (Note: index:2 = Standard Edition index:4 = Datacenter Edition) :

Dism /Mount-Image /ImageFile:C:\w2012\image\install.wim /index:4 /MountDir:C:\w2012\MountPoint  /ReadOnly

6. Upgrade the operating system by running the command:

c:\>Dism /online /enable-feature /featurename:Server-Gui-Mgmt /featurename:Server-Gui-Shell /featurename:ServerCore-FullServer /source:c:\w2012\MountPoint\windows\winsxs  

         or by using Powershell:

PS c:\>Import-Module DISM

PS c:\>Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra,Server-Gui-Shell –Restart –Source c:\w2012\MountPoint\windows\winsxs

To convert a full operating system installation (GUI version) back to a server core installation

 c:\>Dism /online /disable-feature /featurename:ServerCore-FullServer

  1. sohail
    January 13, 2013 at 09:04

    very helpful topic, thank you very much. in step 6, the upgrade process takes place from windows updates (online) or using the source which we mounted in step 5?…

  2. May 6, 2013 at 17:52

    Hi John
    You need to mount the DVD with w2012 source files on that

  3. Jeff
    April 14, 2017 at 23:37

    You are the best! This is the only solution that has worked for me. I owe you a debt of gratitude. Thank you sooooo much!!! Following these instructions exactly as you listed them worked 100%.

  4. George
    June 9, 2017 at 21:55

    good job!
    clear guidelines.
    worked like charm!
    thank you.

  1. November 15, 2012 at 00:09
  2. November 15, 2012 at 21:25

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