Switching between GUI modes in Windows Server 8

This post covers a pre-release product and was written in February 2012. The actual product may not reflect the behavior, specifications or intentions found in this post. Use with caution.

ConfigureA couple of months ago, I wrote about the new Server Core and Features on Demand options in Windows Server 8. Today I’ll show you how to switch between the Server Core mode and the Full Installation.

The way you’d use the commands below is to test and deploy your Windows Servers. Remember “Server Core is the preferred deployment configuration.”, but not all software and agents (anti-malware, management, UPS, backup, monitoring, etc.) are ready for a Windows installation with minimal Graphical User Interface (GUI). Starting with Windows Server 8, you can switch from a Full Installation to a Server Core installation after installation. Also, you can switch back in case you forgot to adjust a setting that is only available in the Full GUI.

PowerShell, of course…

It should come as no surprise the commands to switch between Server Core, Features on Demand and Full Installation are available as PowerShell cmdlets. PowerShell has been a Common Engineering Criteria since 2009 and all products and technologies should be used with PowerShell. A positive side effect of having PowerShell commands is you can run these commands with a remote code block on any or all Windows Servers in your Server farm.

The cmdlets are part of the DISM PowerShell Module, so every time you’d like to switch between GUI modes, you need to import the module for the cmdlets to be available.

More a traditionalist?

You can also use the more traditional Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool, known within Windows as dism.exe.

One of the things you should be aware of, is that when you use dism.exe you will need to watch the case of your commands.



mobsyncBasically, Microsoft has made both the minimalistic GUI and the Full GUI features in Windows Server 8. This means, the commands for switching between the three GUI modes are similar to adding a Server Role or Server Feature on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2.

From a Full Installation to Server Core

To switch from a Full Installation to the Features on Demand installation option, choose between the following commands:

     Import-Module Dism
      Disable-Feature –online –Featurename ServerCore-FullServer


    Dism /online /disable-feature /featurename:ServerCore-FullServer

Afterwards, reboot.

From Server Core to a Full Installation

To switch from a Server Core installation to a Full Installation, requires a bit more work, but is more or less identical:

     Import-Module Dism
     Enable-Feature –online -Featurename ServerCore-FullServer,


     Dism /online /enable-feature /featurename:ServerCore-FullServer
/featurename:Server-Gui-Shell /featurename:Server-Gui-Mgmt

Afterwards, reboot.

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