Enabling and disabling the graphical interface in Hyper-V Server Core

Server Core has many installation benefits, but there are a few situations where the GUI is better and provides more options; for example, when we need to troubleshoot a problem on the server. Even with the handy tools from the previous task, nothing replaces the full server installation.

Since Windows Server 2012 it is allow to install and uninstall the GUI, making our job easier when the GUI is necessary and providing all the benefits of a Server Core installation when you need it. It also allows a third option that enables the graphical management tools.

The three options available since Windows Server 2012 are as follows:

  • Server Core: This option provides default installation with command line interface only
  • Minimal Server Interface: This option comes with the Server Manager, Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and some Control Panel options
  • Server Graphical Shell: This option allows for a full graphical interface server

NOTE: By installing Windows Server 2012 (or R2) with Server Core, you can save up to 3 GB of disk space, when the necessary components for the graphical interface are not present.

How to do it

The following steps will show you how to install the minimal server interface from a Server Core installation and how to enable the full graphical interface.

1. From the Server Core command line, type PowerShell to load PowerShell.

To identify the index number that need to be used in order to enable the graphical interface, type the following command line, where D: is the path for the Windows Server installation DVD drive.

Get-WindowsImage –ImagePath D:SourcesInstall.wim

2. A list with the index number will be displayed, as shown in the following screenshot. Make a note of the number of the type of Windows Installation you want to enable in the next step. In this example the index number 2 will be used.


3. Create a new temporary folder to mount the WIM file with the following command:

New-Item C:Sources –Type Directory

4. To mount the image file in the directory created in the previous step, type the following command by specifying the index number obtained in step 3.

Mount-WindowsImage –ImagePath D:SourcesInstall.wim –path C:Sources –Index 2 -ReadyOnly

5. With the mounted image, type the following command to enable the Server Graphical Management Tool and the Infrastructure option.

Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra –Source C:SourcesWindowsWinsxs

6. Restart the server and wait for the feature to be configured. It will take a couple of minutes.

7. To enable the full graphical interface, open Server Manager by typing servermanager.exe.

8. In the Server manager dashboard, click on Add roles and features.

9. In the Add Roles and Features Wizard, click on Next four times.

10. In Features, expand User Interfaces and Infrastructure, select the option Server Graphical Shell as shown in the following screenshot, and click on Next:


11. To complete the installation, in the Confirm installation selections page, click on Install.

NOTE: You can also install the full graphical interface with the following PowerShell command:

Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell

12. After the setup, you need to restart the server. You can check the Restart each destination server automatically if required option to automatically restart the server.

13. Having enabled the GUI, we can now see how to uninstall the GUI from the full server installation. In the Server Manager window, click on Manage and then Remove Roles and Features.

14. In the Before You Begin screen, click on Next four times.

15. Then, in Features, clear the check box for the Server Graphical Shell option and click on Next.

16. Confirm the uninstallation by clicking on Remove and wait for the server to be restarted.

Marcos Nogueira

With more than 18 years experience in Datacenter Architectures, Marcos Nogueira is currently working as a Principal Cloud Solution Architect. He is an expert in Private and Hybrid Cloud, with a focus on Microsoft Azure, Virtualization and System Center. He has worked in several industries, including Aerospace, Transportation, Energy, Manufacturing, Financial Services, Government, Health Care, Telecoms, IT Services, and Gas & Oil in different countries and continents. Marcos was a Canadian MVP in System Center Cloud & Datacenter Managenment and he has +14 years as Microsoft Certified, with more than 100+ certifications (MCT, MCSE, and MCITP, among others). Marcos is also certified in VMware, CompTIA and ITIL v3. He assisted Microsoft in the development of workshops and special events on Private & Hybrid Cloud, Azure, System Center, Windows Server, Hyper-V and as a speaker at several Microsoft TechEd/Ignite and communities events around the world.

6 Replies to “Enabling and disabling the graphical interface in Hyper-V Server Core

  1. The title of this article is misleading. The provided procedure does not work for “Hyper-V Server Core”, which I already expected, but hey ya never know.

  2. Hi
    In the middile of the page in the step 4 while mounting image file with Mount-WindowsImage –ImagePath D:SourcesInstall.wim –path C:Sources –Index 2 -ReadyOnly the last parameter should be readonly .there is a mistake typing “y” is not necessary here.
    Tanks a lot for your useful articles.

  3. I agree with Erik. This does not work with Hyper-V Server 2012. The instruction is only for server core.

  4. Thanks for the article. Had the problem with the option to “Server Graphical Shell” not being available under features. Ended up using the PS command ” Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell ” as listed . Seems issue may be related to Windows Updates. Cheers.

  5. Hyper-V Server 2012 / 2012 R2 is not the same as Server 2012 /2012 R2 with Hyper-V Role. People really need to stop using them interchangeably.

    Hyper-V Server is hyper-v functions only and cannot be gui enabled. It is a free product from MS and includes no virtualization rights. It’s only the base on which to run your VM’s.

    Server 2012 with Hyper-V is a full licensed server OS with the hyper-v role enabled and includes (on STD) your two virtualization rights provided the base is doing nothing other than the hyper-v role.

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