Install Windows Server then remove the GUI

server 2012 r2 GUI
In Windows Server 2012 R2 you can add and remove the GUI(Graphical User Interface), this means that you can configure your server using the GUI and then just remove it.

GUI(pronounced G-U-I or goowey) stands for Graphical User Interface, which is the desktop environment that most people are used to using as opposed to the CLI which stands for Command Line Interface, which you interact with using keyed in commands.

Doing this is a really good idea if you are already managing all of your servers using powershell or the Remote Server Administrators Toolkit. Really if you aren’t using the GUI what is the point of having it, it is just another thing running on your servers that is not needed taking up valuable resource.

Why would you remove the GUI?

Less surface for attack – Because server core has less services running on it there are less attack vectors. There is also a smaller chance that someone that does not know what they are doing will be able to log in there and change things because you have to know the commands to operate it.
Reduced Memory Usage – Without the GUI Windows Server can run on than 180MB of RAM(with no services running) compared to 310MB of RAM with the GUI installed. While this might not seem like a lot if you have 100 servers virtualised on a single physical server thats a spare 13GB of RAM freed up by removing the GUI.
Greater Stability – With less services running on your server there is less that can break.

So how do you actually remove the GUI from Windows Server?

Removing the GUI is actually quite easy, to do this you must be logged in as an administrator on the server then follow these steps:
  1. Open Server Manager
  2. Select Manage > Remove Roles and Features
  3. Select the server you want to remove the GUI from
  4. Press Next
  5. Press Next on the Remove Server Roles screen
  6. Expand “User Interfaces” and untick “Server Graphical Shell”
  7. Press Next
  8. Check the Restart Server if Required
  9. Press remove
Once this is finished your server will reboot and you will be greeted with a black command prompt screen.
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