Archive for April, 2013

KnowledgeBase: Server Core Web Servers are not manageable remotely by default

Pre-Web-iconIn Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8, Server Manager can be used to remotely manage both Full Installations and Server Core Installations of Windows Server 2012.

To gain access to the Server Manager functionality in Windows 8, install the Remote Server Administration Tools package. Next, you can use the Start Screen to search for the Administrative Tools folder. You will find a shortcut to Server Manager in this folder.


One of its features is the ability to install and uninstall Server Roles and Features remotely. This is extremely helpful in scenarios where you’d want to install multiple servers with the same Server Role at once (like the Web Server Role), but also when you’re managing Server Core installations, since Server Manager provides a graphical user interface (GUI) to make you easily achieve a lot of your configuration tasks.


The challenge

Many of the Server Roles available in Server Core can be installed and configured remotely. I know many admins like to use Server Manager and the Remote Server Administration Tools to manage their Server Core installations that way. Therefore, I find it a shame, that the Web Server Role cannot be installed to a basic configured state using the above method. Sad smile 

The Web Server Server Role can be installed on its own, but it is also installed when you install one of the next Server Roles in Windows Server 2012:

  1. FTP Server
  2. DirectAccess Server
  3. IP Routing
  4. Windows Server Update Services

When you try to connect with the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager from a remote Windows Server 2012 installation, after you install the Web Server Role or any of the Server Roles above, you will be presented with an error message:


The explanation

The root of the problem is, by default, when you install the Web Server Server Role on Server Core, the Web Management Service Role Service is not installed by default.

Security, Part 1

The reason Microsoft does not install the Web Management Service is this would mean a setback from a security perspective to the Windows 2000 Server days (where Internet Information Services were installed and enabled by default on each install). To be frank, not all Web Servers need a remote web management service, listening on management requests. Indeed, with access to the console, the many Internet Information Services-related PowerShell Cmdlets and, of course, the Web Platform Installer, remote management isn’t always needed.


To make things worse, even if you pay attention during the installation of the above Server Roles, you still wouldn’t be able to manage Web Servers remotely with the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager, since the Web Management Service is not configured or started, by default.

Security, Part 2

Although the Web Management relies on authentication to be accessible and the communication between the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager is encrypted (optionally), opening a management service listening on a TCP port is a bad idea for publicly connected machines. Therefore, the Web Management Service, by default, is not configured for remote management and its service is not running after installation.


This configuration can be done … wait for it… through the registry. Confused smile

You can perform these changes through Group Policy Preferences (for domain-joined Web Servers, FTP Servers, WSUS Servers, DirectAccess Servers and IP routers. Alternatively, you can use Remote Registry access or script the change with *.reg files through PSExec. Regedit.exe, however, is available on the command line of Server Core installation, so you can make this change on the console itself.

Of course, after a change, the Web Management Service (WMSVC) needs to be configured to start automatically and, then, started.


The solution

So, to manage a Web Server remotely, you will need to perform the following actions:

  1. Install the Web Management Service Role
  2. Configure the Web Management Service
  3. Configure the Web Management Service to start automatically
  4. Start the Web Management Service

Install the Web Management Service Role

Install the Web Management Service Role on your Server Core installation by either installing it through Server Manager on a Full Installation of Windows Server 2012.

To install the Web Management Service from the console of your Server Core installation, run the following PowerShell command:

Install-WindowsFeature Web-Mgmt-Service


Configure the Web Management Service

The Web Management Service can be configured through the Registry. Its settings are located in HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftWebManagementServer.

Simply start the Registry Editor on the console of your Server Core installation by typing regedit.exe, and change he value for EnableRemoteManagement from 0 to 1. Close RegEdit with Alt+F4 or by clicking the X symbol in the right top of the program.

Configure the Web Management Service to start automatically

Next, configure the Web Management Service for automatic start. Type the following command on the console of your Server Core installation:

sc config WMSVC start= auto


Start the Web Management Service

All we need to do now, is start the Web Management Service:

net start WMSVC



Microsoft has gone to great lengths to make the Web Server as secure as possible. When you remotely manage Server Core-based Web Servers, however, you will hit some bumps on the way. This blogpost explains how to pass them

Tip! Get-DisplayResolution and Set-DisplayResolution also work on Full installations of Windows Server 2012

Computer ScreenA quick look at the Windows PowerShell support for Windows Server 2012 page on TechNet reveals two PowerShell Cmdlet gems for Server Core installations:

These two PowerShell Cmdlets fill a huge gap many Server Core administrators faced in the Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 timeframes. With these two cmdlets, it’s easy to change the display resolution (or screen resolution) on Server Core installations.

Although the page on TechNet suggests otherwise, these two PowerShell Cmdlets are not just limited to Server Core installations of Windows Server 2012: They also work on Full Installations of Windows Server 2012.

This presents an interesting opportunity, because one of Windows Server 2012’s system requirements is a 1024 x 768 display. Yet, with Set-DisplayResolution I can configure a 800×600 display resolution. Despite what you might expext, when configured with a 800×600, Windows Server 2012 will still display the Start Screen…


I use Set-DisplayResolution a lot for demos. One of my laptops has a 1366×768 display and virtual machines running within Hyper-V, aren’t able to show their entire screen. Changing the display resolution with Set-DisplayResolution on my virtualized Windows Server 2012 installations, makes their screens sit neatly above the Task Bar.

Thanks, Microsoft!