Add the GUI back to Windows Server 2012 Core

You couldn't wait for Server 2012 to drop.  The minute the ISO hit your computer, you fired up a VM and started installing.  Hurriedly, you clicked on Next... Next.. Next... Percentage bars filled up, Success was announced and now you are ready to log in.  And you get this:

Uh-Oh, where's my Start Menu?

It's not your fault.  Microsoft decided to make the default selection for Server 2012 GUI-free.  You are now running Server 2012 Core.  


The good news is that unlike Server 2008 Core, you have a recourse to add a GUI.  

Here's how you do that (commands in bold):
1. Start powershell: powershell
2. Install the GUI components: Install-WindowsFeature Server-GUI-Mgmt-Infra, Server-Gui-Shell -Restart
This is going to install the components using Windows Update.  It's important to note that the Server 2012 Core image doesn't include the bits for these features.  If your server cannot access the internet, you're going to have to mount a local image that has the bits that Windows needs.

Here's how you do that (commands in bold):
1.  Mount your Server 2012 ISO
2.  Create a folder to mount the wim file: mkdir c:\wimmount
3.  Get index listing of wim file:  Dism /get-wiminfo /wimfile:<drive>:sources\install.wim
4.  Mount Wim file in folder, using the non-Core version from the index listing:  Dism /mount-wim /WimFile:<drive>:\sources\install.wim /Index:<#_from_step_2> /MountDir:c:\wimmount /readonly
5.  Install the GUI components: Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra,Server-Gui-Shell –Restart –Source c:\mountdir\windows\winsxs

Your server will log out, install the components and reboot.  And now you have a fully functioning GUI interface that is not at all familiar.

Share and Enjoy!

Once you are done getting the server prepped, you can remove the GUI feature, and your new server can run lean and mean with a low attack surface.  The way that Microsoft intended.

Thanks to the TechNet forums for the command reference.