The Sysadmins

Tips and tricks from the Sysadmins

Server 2012 – Moving Between GUI, Core and Minimal Server Interface

Last year I looked at installing and configuring Server 2008 R2 Core (here and here). One of the limitations of Server 2008 R2 core, was that once it was installed, that was it. There was no way of adding the GUI at a later date, you were stuck with it- and vice versa, you couldn’t strip the GUI install down to the core version.

Microsoft appreciated this limitation and have added the functionality to Server 2012, not only that but they’ve also added a halfway house known as the Minimal Server Interface… more on that later.

One of the cool new abilities with 2012, is that you can now configure the server as normal with the GUI, and then ‘take it back to the core’ once you have finished! Great for those who were put off by the potential complexity of learning new commands and administration techniques with core-only.

Switch from Server 2012 Core to GUI

If you install Server Core, the binaries to add the GUI aren’t present (resulting in a smaller footprint). This however means you either need to grab it from a local source, or use Windows Update. The binaries can be quite large, so I suggest you grab them from a local source. if you can.

I’m using Hyper-V and have mounted the Server 2012 install media ISO to the guest, which inside Windows is the D drive.

We first need to see which WIM index is required (the SKU/SKU version).

Dism /get-wiminfo /wimfile:D:\sources\install.wim

We’re using the Datacentre edition, so we’ll use index 4.

There are a couple of ways to specify the source, some people mount the wim to a local folder, but this one liner simplifies the process and achieves what we’re after, to get the binaries from the install.wim and install the required features. The server will restart after the installation is complete as we’ve specified -restart.

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


This process should take around 5-10 minutes, after the server has restarted you will be presented with the GUI. If you find the installation process gets stuck on 68%, chances are you haven’t entered the source or index correctly and the binaries are being pulled down from Windows Update. You can always disconnect/disable the NIC at this stage to test.


Switch from Server 2012 GUI to Core

There are two easy methods for removing the GUI and getting back to Core.

With Powershell:

remove-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell,Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -restart


With Server Manager:

  • Select Remove Roles or Features
  • Untick the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure and the Server Graphical Shell from the features page
  • Reboot the Server with shutdown /r /t /0 or winkey+i -> Power -> Restart


Switch from Server 2012 GUI to Minimal Server interface

In Windows Server 2012, you can remove the Server Graphical Shell, resulting in the Minimal Server Interface. This is similar to a Server with a GUI installation, but Internet Explorer 10, Windows Explorer, the desktop, and the Start screen are not installed. Microsoft Management Console (MMC), Server Manager, and a subset of the Control Panel are still present.

With Powershell:

remove-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell -restart


With Server Manager:

  • Select Remove Roles or Features
  • Untick Server Graphical Shell from the features page
  • Reboot the Server with shutdown /r /t /0 or winkey+i -> Power -> Restart

Switch from Server 2012 Core to Minimal Server Interface

With Powershell:

Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -restart -source:wim:d:\sources\install.wim:4



  1. Hello Tom,

    thank you very much for the detailed information!

    An error has crept into the last row of the command (Switch from Server 2012 Core to Minimal Server Interface):

    Correct is:
    Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -restart -source:wim:d:\sources\install.wim:4

    The “-” in “Source” was missing.


    August 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks, glad it was of use. I’ve corrected the post, well spotted.

  3. Thanks man. This really work!

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