Installing Server 2008

Since there wasn’t a great deal else I could do, I went for broke by clicking the big Install now button. “Please wait…” said the screen, and then I was presented after a short pause with a list of installation options for the different server types. I could go for Standard, Enterprise or Datacenter full installations, or else Server Core installs for the same server types. I opted for a full installation of Windows Server 2008 Standard, as that was perfectly adequate for my testing requirements – it supports all of the server roles, and I wasn’t in a position to test elements such as failover clustering at the time, so there was no point in installing the Enterprise edition. I was given no choice at all over whether to perform an upgrade of the existing OS or go for a clean install: it was clean install or nothing, which again suited me fine. While an upgrade is perfectly sensible in many circumstances, I wanted to test a clean installation and be sure that any problems I encountered were nothing to do with the previous OS. I was then asked on which disk to install, and opted to format the one I chose using the disk tools available from the dialog. A few seconds later, I hit Next and watched as the familiar installation process began with step 1, Copying Files.

Installing Server 2008

Some time later I was presented with a screen that told me: “The user’s password must be changed before logging on for the first time”. Many of the screens you might have expected to see during the installation process, such as network settings, machine name, administrator password and so on, are items that you now set up after the installation has completed, the idea being to make installation go faster and be less of a hands-required-to-be-on affair than it used to be. This certainly worked for me, because once I saw that the copied files were being happily expanded I went off to have lunch and returned some 25 minutes later to be greeted with that password-change message. In case you’re wondering, while the initial install takes place the administrator account is set up with a blank password and the server is assigned a random name.

Once the first phase of installation is completed and the server restarts, the things that need to be immediately set up include machine name, admin password and network settings, as well as seeing if there are any updates that need to be applied. The first item to set is the password for the administrator, which you have to do as part of the logon process, and it demands a password that’s reasonably complex, with a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, as well as numbers.

Once you’ve logged in, the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard sits full-screen and you can then begin configuring the settings for your server. I’d have to say this is a much-improved way of doing things. The wizard is split into three sections:

Computer information: time zone, networking, name and domain details

Update information: your configuration choices for Windows Update

Customisation: adding server roles and/or features (the number of features available will of course depend on what roles are installed), enabling/disabling Remote Desktop, and configuring the Windows Firewall

I used the wizard to configure many of the available options, but when it came to sorting out server roles and features I decided to switch to the Windows Server 2008 Server Manager MMC to see how this feature of the new operating system works. I’ll save that for next month’s column, and wrap up this column by returning to the server installation options to briefly explain what Windows Server 2008 Server Core is all about. The Server Core installation is a no-frills installation of Windows Server 2008, seemingly devoid of all features, but which actually provides you with a very full range of roles and functions. Although many utilities have been stripped from this server to make it as compact and low on overhead as possible, the major item that might be most missed (or not) is the GUI. Yes folks, after a decade of ever-more-interactive operating system front ends, Microsoft has taken an about-turn and given us an operating system that interfaces via the Command Prompt. If you weren’t a power admin before you installed Windows Server 2008 Server Core, you certainly will be by the time you’ve finished setting it up, because a lot of the work has to be done by scripting at the prompt.

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