Convert Server Core to and from Full GUI version

In this post, we will see how a Server Core version can be converted to a full GUI version and back. Unlike earlier versions, Windows Server 2012 R2 provides an option to convert back and forth saving a lot of time and this comes very handy at times.

You would need the Windows Server 2012 R2 image for this process.

Server Core version launches command prompt as the home screen as below. Type Powershell to change to PS mode.1

The Install.wim has all the necessary add on files needed for the regular standard installation. Install.wim is located in the sources folder of the Windows installation DVD.

Since most of the Windows installations today are virtual, you would need to mount the ISO to the VM. In case of a physical server, use a share location to store the extracted files of the ISO.

In my case, D:\ is the CD drive.2

At the powershell prompt, navigate to the sources folder on DVD or share location and look for the versions available on the install.wim image. Use the DISM to do this.

dism /get-wiminfo /wimfile:d:\sources\install.wim3

Make a note of the Index value of the version to be converted to.Mount the install.wim onto a temporary location. Let me create a temp location for this and mount the install.wim onto the temp location.4

Mounting the image establishes a connection with the mount point.

dism /mount-wim /wimfile:d:\sources\install.wim /index:2 /mountdir:c:\temp /readonly


The temp mount point  should now have all the contents of the install.wim as below.6

The actual files that will be needed from install.wim image during the conversion are present in the \Windows\WinSxS (read as Windows Side by Side) directory.Use the Install-WindowsFeature to start the installation. Server needs a reboot to complete the installation process.

Note: If you are converting a server core with up to date patches with an older install.wim image, you end up loosing all the updates and can cause potential problems hence it is recommended to use an updated image or have the machine connected to internet to pull up the missing updates.

Install-WindowsFeature Server-GUI-shell -source c:\temp\windows\winsxs7

After the reboot, the server should have the GUI mode enabled.

Removing the GUI mode is pretty simple and can be achieved by using Remove-WindowsFeature. Launch Powershell as administrator from the GUI.

Remove-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell, Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra8.JPG

Reboot the server and you should be back on Server Core.

Hope this post was informative and thanks!