In all of the hype around the recent release of a consumer-focused release of Windows 8 beta, news about Windows 8 Server beta has been a bit muted. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Windows 8 Server is coming. Administrators should start familiarizing themselves with this newest server iteration in order to discover the changes that lie within.
In this article, I will do a complete walk through of a Windows Server 8 beta installation so that you can see the process from start to finish. The installation process hasn’t changed a whole lot since Windows Server 2008 R2, but some of the screens look quite different. The final step – viewing the Server Manager – is where you’ll see the most radical changes coming.
My lab installation of Windows Server 8 beta takes place on my Hyper-V server running on Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP1. I’ve assigned 2 GB of RAM and 127 GB of thinly provisioned disk space to the virtual machine. That’s pretty much all of the customization I’ve done on the hardware side of the equation.
I’ve also configured my new virtual machine to have the Windows Server 8 beta ISO file loaded as the DVD media. The next step is to power on the new virtual machine, the results of which you can see below in Figure 1. As is the case with current versions of Windows, you’re asked to provide your localization information so that the installation can proceed with the correct language set.
Figure 1: Provide localization information
The next step of the process is pretty simple, requiring that you simply click the Install Now button to proceed with the installation. Note that this window sports the new, simpler Windows logo that has been talked about. The new branding is certainly front and center in this beta release.
Figure 2: Lick "Install now" to begin the installation
As you know, Windows Server generally comes in approximately 6,000 different editions. Okay… maybe not 6,000, but certainly more than just two! In Figure 3, you’ll note that you have the option to select between a server core only edition and a full GUI edition of Windows Server 8. Either selection results in the installation of a Datacenter version of the product. I’ll be amazed if this screen doesn’t change with the next public release of the product as Microsoft will want to allow the installation of Standard, Web and Enterprise editions, too.
Figure 3: Only the Datacenter editions are available right now
Microsoft would never release a product without a 50 page licensing agreement! That’s the next step in the installation process. Select the I accept the license terms checkbox and then click the Next button to continue the installation.
Figure 4: The all-important license agreement
For a brand new installation of Windows Server 8, you need to choose the Custom install option, as shown in Figure 5. If you want to try upgrading one of your non-production Windows Server 2008 R2 machines, you can use the upgrade option.
Figure 5: Choose your installation type
Since this is a brand new installation, no Windows installation yet exists on this machine. As such, all of the space remains unallocated. The drive that you see in Figure 6 is my Hyper-V provided virtual hard drive file. I’ll select this location as the install point and click the Next button to continue.
Figure 6: Choose your installation location
The next screen is probably pretty familiar if you’ve installed any recent version of Windows. On this screen, you can track the progress of the installation. Once the process completes, the server will automatically reboot.
Figure 7: The installation progress window hasn't changed
For whatever reason, once Windows 8 Server is installed, you get this fish-looking thing on the boot screen. Honestly, I have no idea why there’s a fish. I guess you could say that there’s something “fishy” about the process!
Figure 8: The system is rebooting
On the first boot after initial installation, you’re asked to provide a password used to secure the Administrator account. You can see this screen in Figure 9. You might also notice that there’s a little eyeball icon in the active box. When you click this icon, the dots disappear and are replaced with a visible version of the password. Personally, I love this feature. If this is in all new Microsoft products, I can envision a decrease in the number of password-related calls to the help desk. Click the Finish button to continue.
Figure 9: Provide a password for the Administrator account
Once you click Finish, Windows starts to finalize your settings and is even so kind as to tell you that it’s doing so.
Figure 10: Your settings are being finalized
In Figure 11, you get to see the new logged out window in Windows 8 Server. Here, you’re starting to get a good feel for what the Metro interface is like, although Metro is not as prominent in the Server edition.
Figure 11: A revamped login window awaits
Press Ctrl-Alt-Delete to log in. Figure 12 shows you the new login dialog window in all its glory.
Figure 12: Here's the revamped login window
In Figure 13, note the message. This is one of the first things that pops up after the first login. This is the message asking for your permission to send crash information to Microsoft in the event that the system takes a dive. Personally, I like sending crash dumps to Microsoft if it can help make the operating system more stable over time.
However, in some organizations, doing so would violate company policy, so check before you accept. If you want to allow such information to be sent to Microsoft, click Accept. If you don’t want this to happen, click Decline.
Figure 13: Do you want to participate?
Once you log in, the new Server Manager – in Dashboard view – opens up for you to see. You can see this is Figure 14. Note that the Server Manager has undergone a tremendous transformation since earlier versions of the tool.
Figure 14: A very different Server Manager window
Figure 15 below shows you the bare Windows 8 Server beta desktop. You will notice that, as is the case with the consumer edition, someone at Microsoft has decided that removing the Start menu from the server edition was also a good idea.
News item: It’s a terrible idea.
I predict that this decision will prove to be devastating for Microsoft in the long run. Why the company believes that the server edition needs to be optimized for touch is beyond me. In this area, stability and consistency are king.
Figure 15: The Windows 8 Server beta desktop
But, back to the Server Manager tool. Fortunately, from here you can access the primary server administration tools that you need. Shown in Figure 16, see the list of utilities available through the use of the Tools menu.
Figure 16: Accessing the tools
What you’ve seen so far in the Server Manager is the general dashboard. In Figure 17 is a view of the properties of the local server.
With the exception of one massive misstep (the removal of the Start menu), Windows 8 Server appears so far to be a solid evolution in the Windows line. There are a number of articles here at WindowsNetworking.com that will explain in deep detail the new features that are present in this operating system. With this article, you learned how to do a start to finish installation.