GUI or no GUI !?

The GUI (Graphical User Interface) is just a Windows feature in Server 2012. You can add it and remove it as needed. This also applies to Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 10TP.

Server 2012 comes with 4 levels of GUI:

  1. No GUI = Core
  2. Minimal GUI = Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra feature
  3. Regular GUI = minimal + Server-Gui-Shell (default if you install as GUI)
  4. Full GUI = regular + Desktop-Experience Core04

In Powershell the GUI options are displayed as:


If the server ever had the GUI installed, then the bits are there (under C:\Windows\WinSxS by default). If this a Core install and has never had a GUI before, then the bits are likely to be missing as well.

To check whether the bits are there or not:

$ComputerName = "MyCoreServer"
$Session = New-PSSession -ComputerName $ComputerName
Enter-PSSession -Session $Session
Get-WindowsFeature | Where { $_.Installed }

These commands will enter a remote PS session with the Core server, and list installed features.

This command will check for the 2 features we need to have the GUI:

Get-WindowsFeature | 
    where { $_.Name -eq "Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra" -or 
            $_.Name -eq "Server-Gui-Shell" }

If the result looks like:


Removed = not installed AND the bits are missing.

We need the file from the WS 2012 media. Mount the install CD.

Next, identify which drive letter is your DVD drive, run:


Next, identify the index number of the installation media needed, run:

Get-WindowsImage -ImagePath D:\sources\install.wim

This should display:


The server version I’m working with in this example is DataCenter, so the media I need is index #4, run:

Install-WindowsFeature -Name "Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra","Server-Gui-Shell" -source:wim:d:\sources\install.wim:4 

Core09Reboot, and you got GUI.


To remove the GUI later, run:

Remove-WindowsFeature -Name "Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra","Server-Gui-Shell"



One response

  1. Pingback: Windows Server 2016 GUI options | Sam's Corner

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