I took an hour out today to do an installation of Windows Server 2012 Essentials inside a Hyper-V 3.0 VM so that I could familiarise myself with it a little before I consider porting my existing Windows Home Server 2011 install over. I’m not a Windows Server 2012 virgin as I’ve been working with it for a while in my capacity at work so I was primarily interested in the experiences of the Essentials edition compared with the Standard and Datacenter editions for enterprise.
Before you begin anything, it’s worth checking the system requirements at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj200132.aspx. The biggest point here is a minimum of a 160GB disk for the operating system installation which can be partitioned into a 60GB operating system volume and a 100GB data volume. This is a bummer for some people who may have taken the decision to run their OS on SSD as one of the most common sized SSD drives around and at an affordable price is a 128GB drive. I think Microsoft should have lowered the disk requirement to cater for this 128GB SSD market, but that’s just my opinion as the majority of people will likely be using 1TB or greater disks in their builds to get the storage capacity and density.
After being asked the usual language questions and if you want to modify the disk partition layout, the installation is complete pretty quick as is with new Windows releases and the Essentials Setup Wizard commences.
After the updating and preparing your server phase, the server will reboot twice. One of these will almost certainly be to bring online the Active Directory Domain Services role, but the other I’m not sure what causes that? The quick observers among you will also notice that very briefly, the server logs on automatically as the Administrator account, displaying the Modern UI Start Menu, before once again, the Essentials Setup Wizard resumes. Once complete, you will see a final screen of the wizard, hopefully with a nice green tick stating that the installation is complete and the server is ready to be used. The URL for connecting clients and the usernames you specified are confirmed here too.
It’s worth pointing out that at the phase where you are asked to provide a username, you cannot use the username Administrator. It appears that Windows Server 2012 Essentials keeps this one up it’s sleeve for it’s own use and you aren’t told the password for it at any stage. Once the installation completed, I took a quick dive through all of the screens in the Windows Server 2012 Essentials Dashboard to see what options are available and configured as default. These are all shown in the image gallery below.