Managing Windows Server 2016 TP4 core using RSAT for Windows 10

Finally I got down to the business of installing Windows Server 2016 TP4.

Very little has changed in terms of installing the Microsoft OS, so I won’t be going over the installation process. TP4 presents two possible installation options, namely the Core version and the all too comforting GUI version. Microsoft, in a spurt of naming non-originality, decided to call the options Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview and Windows Server Technical Preview (Server with Desktop Experience) respectively.

Since it’d been an unusually hassle-free day, I decided to virtualise  Windows Server 2016 Core on my vSphere home lab, just for the heck of it. The vm settings used are shown below in Figure 1. The first thing you’ll notice while creating the vm, is the missing “Windows Server 2016” option under “Guest Operating System”. No worries! “Microsoft Windows Server 2012 (64-bit)” will work just fine. To make things a little more interesting, I went right for the jugular and selected VMXNET3 for the adapter type not knowing if vmtools would install let alone work on this latest 2016 TP release.

Fig. 1 – VM Settings

The installation proceeded smoothly with the server up and running some 15 minutes later. I’m greeted with the blandest of screens. After setting the administrator password, I promptly changed the computer name to winsrv2016; mimicking Microsoft’s lack of naming propensity.

Configuring The Server For Remote Management

Time to switch over to nerd mode. This is what you need to do if you’re planning on virtualising Windows Server 2016 TP4 core using vSphere.

  • Create a vm using the settings above displayed.
  • Attach the 2016 TP4 ISO as you normally would and install the OS. Make sure you choose the first option i.e. core.
  • Once your Windows Server 2016 vm is up and running, a cmd window will pop up. Here you’re asked to supply a password to the administrator account.
  • Right-click on the vm using the  vSphere Client and choose Guest -> Install/Upgrade VMware Tools.
Fig. 2 – Installing vmtools
  • Inside the cmd prompt previously opened, type d:\setup64.exe and press Enter to run the vmtools installer. The drive letter may differ. After the server finishes rebooting, press ALT-CTRL-INS and log on again using the administrator account.
  • From the cmd prompt, type powershell and run the following 3 commands;

Rename-Computer -ComputerName WIN-TCDHSGKDUI7 -NewName winsrv2016

Set-NetFirewallProfile -Profile Domain,Public,Private -Enabled False

New-ItemProperty -name LocalAccountTokenFilterPolicy -path HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System -PropertyType DWord -value 1

The first command renames the computer to something more human friendly. The second disables the firewall. I am not that keen when it comes to creating a ton of firewall rules, something I gladly skip when testing stuff. The last command instructs UAC to allow remote connections via an administrative account. This is required for computers not joined to an AD domain.

  • Next, type in sconfig. The tool allows you to view and modify some of the server’s settings. I’ll use it to set the network settings and verify that the vmxnet3 driver has indeed loaded. I can also activate remote desktop, change the date and time settings and activate Windows.
Fig. 3 – The sconfig tool
Fig. 4 – Verifying vmxnet3 functionality
  • Reboot the server one last time and you’re done. You can now connect to it using remote desktop (mstsc -v winsrv2016)

Let’s now turn our attention to the nitty-gritty of managing the server remotely. Remember that this is the core edition of the server, meaning it’s stripped down to the bare essentials to reduce the surface area of attack. You can still manage the server directly from console using PowerShell and similar but unless you’re an alien or the “I use command line cause GUI is for wimps” type of guy or gal, you’re still going to use GUI based management tools to perform more complex tasks such AD and DNS administration, unless of course you thrive on pain.

Configuring The Management Station

You’ll be needing RSAT for Windows 10 to manage Windows Server 2016 and a computer running Windows 10. The steps you’ll need to carry out are as follows;

  • Download and install RSAT for Windows 10
  • Create a DNS entry for your Windows 2016 server. Alternatively, add an entry to the c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts file.
Fig. 5 – Hosts file entry
  • Fire up a PowerShell administrative shell and run the following. This creates a one way trust allowing connections between the managing station and the server being managed.

Set-Item WSMan:\localhost\Client\TrustedHosts -Value “winsrv2016” -Force

  • Type Server Manager in the Search Box
Fig. 6 – Windows 10 search box
  • From the top menu, select Manage -> Add Servers.
Fig. 7 – Server Manager
  • Switch to the DNS tab and type in the server’s name (ex. winsrv2016). Click on the search icon and add the computer. If the computer is not found, revisit the DNS / hosts file editing step.
Fig. 8 – DNS Lookup
  • The server is added to the console but is accompanied by a Kerberos related error. This is because no connection credentials have been specified.
Fig. 9 – Kerberos authentication error
  • Right click on the server name and select “Manage As …”. Use the syntax shown in Figure 10, specifying an administrative account and its corresponding password. This fixes the Kerberos problem (Figure 11).

You should now be able to connect to the server remotely. If you’re planning on adding roles and features, remember to mount back the TP4 ISO image. You will also have to specify an alternative path to the SXS folder.

I hope you found this article interesting.

Thanks for stopping by.