Fine-Tune Server 2012 Essentials

I am using Windows Server 2012 Essentials (quite a replacement for WHS 2011 although not exactly) on my Home Server for File Storage, Media Sharing and centralized PC backups. I also plan to use it to run Virtual Machines.

However, I actually don’t care about most of the “Server 2012” features. So, I “fine tune” the server to make it more user-friendly. I will keep track of the changes I do, and other useful tips, here (Edit: I found an interesting web site here to convert a server 2012 into a workstation, including a wizard).

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  • Regarding the execution of VM on that server, I don’t know yet:
    • if I will use Hyper-V and do an “in-place” upgrade from Server Essentials to Standard Edition(limited to two VM per licence of Standard Edition) or
      • Doing this upgrade, I would lose the support for Video Streaming…
    • if I will use the old VMWare Server 2.0 (not supported anymore but free for unlimited VM)…

  • To edit system files such as the “host” file (in C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc), the editor (e.g.: notepad++) must be run “As Administrator”, otherwise, the changes may not be saved! I need this to define some hostnames (among other to access my blog using its internet address as I don’t use a DNS server in my local network).

  • To enable the Hibernate mode: (I didn’t succeed yet… I will need a new Graphic Card – But most probably I won’t use hibernation as it’s not recommended on machine with disk managed via FlexRaid…)

    1. Type cmd on the Start Screen and execute Command Prompt with run as administrator.
    2. In the command prompt, type: powercfg.exe /hibernate on.
    3. Type Power on the Start Screen and select Settings under the search box. Execute next Change what the power buttons do.
    4. Click on Change settings that are currently unavailable.
    5. Select Hibernate in the combo of the Power button settings.
    6. Check the option Hibernate in the Shutdown settings.
    7. I did NOT select Turn on Fast Startup in the Shutdown settings because my server don’t power off anymore with that option. Some people also report that with this option they were not able to use WOL anymore… I can’t validate that as my PC does not even shutdown, so… 🙂
    8. Click Save Changes
    9. Click now Create a new Power Plan (e.g.: based on the Balanced plan and named “Hibernate”).
    10. Your new plan becomes the current one. Click “Change Plan Settings” to edit you plan.
    11. Click on Change advanced power settings.
    12. Click on Change settings that are currently unavailable.
    13. Select your plan in the combo if it is not the displayed one.
    14. Under Hard Disk > Turn off hard disk after, select (e.g.) 30 minutes.
    15. Under Sleep > Hibernate after, select (e.g.) 60 Minutes.
    16. Under Media Settings > When sharing media > Settings, select “Allow the computer to sleep”, although the server is really used for Media Sharing. In my case, the feature is enabled, but I mainly use my NAS for media sharing.
    17. Click OK to apply the changes and close the window.

Notice that I still don’t see “Hibernate” in the Power Menu available from the Start Screen. It’s only available when closing Windows from the Desktop with Alt-F4.

Next, in the Bios, you need to:

      1. Enable the ACPI function
      2. Set the ACPI Suspend Type on S1/S3 ? To be validated as possibly not required base on:
        • S1: All processor caches are flushed, and the CPU(s) stops executing instructions. Power to the CPU(s) and RAM is maintained; devices that do not indicate they must remain on may be powered down.
        • S2: CPU powered off. Dirty cache is flushed to RAM.
        • S3: Commonly referred to as Standby, Sleep, or Suspend to RAM. RAM remains powered
        • S4: Hibernation or Suspend to Disk. All content of main memory is saved to non-volatile memory such as a hard drive, and is powered down.

The Hibernate mode didn’t run as expected although I am quite sure of the configuration based on my previous experience. Concretely, the PC does not power off. Only the screen becomes black. I have the same behavior with a Shutdown if the “Fast Startup” option is enabled – which is actually a Partial Hibernate. So, to investigate, I did type in a command prompt Run As Administrator: powercfg /a

This command lists all the sleep states available and the reason why they are possibly not supported. In my case, it did report that the Graphic card was an issue. Missing specific drivers for the graphics device, the OS doesn’t know how to suspend and resume it. This is therefore disabling the hibernation (and would do so for other sleep states as reported by “powercfg /a”). CQFD. I found a version of Catalyst (for ATI graphic cards) that runs on Server 2012.. To be tested soon…

Notice also that if you have disabled an onboard Graphic Card within Windows because you did install another one, sleep states could also be disabled. Instead of disabling the onboard card, configure the display to be “disconnected” (Option of the Display > Screen Resolution).

Final notice: Sleep modes seems to completely set “off” one of the NICs.

  • To disable the Shutdown Event Tracker prompting you when shutting down the server (if you don’t use a Domain):

    1. Type gpedit.msc on the Start Screen and then press Enter
    2. Select Local Computer Policy
    3. Select Computer Configuration
    4. Select Administrative Templates
    5. Select System
    6. Select Display Shutdown Event Tracker (in the root of the System folder)
    7. If you want to get rid of the dialog box, then select ‘Disabled’ for Display Shutdown Event Tracker.  To restore the default then check the ‘Enabled’ box.

The change will be effective immediately (No need to reboot).

  • To disable the Windows Firewall (which I don’t use in my intranet)

    1. Type Firewall on the Start Screen and select Firewall with advanced security
    2. Select the node Firewall with advanced security on Local Computer
    3. In the overview, click Windows Firewall Properties
    4. In the tabs Domain Profil, Private Profil  set Firewall state: “Off“. Possibly keep it “On” in the tab Public Profil (In my case, the server won’t be connected to a public network ever).

  • To remotely shutdown the server

    Use the psShutdown command from SysInternals.

    psshutdown \\<servername> -s -t 0

    Or the windows command shutdown

    shutdown /s /m \\<servername> t 0

    And disable UAC on the server (at least for psShutdown)

  • To Disable Default IE Security Restriction

    1. On the Start Screen, type Server and select Server Manager,
    2. In the left pane, select Local Server
    3. In the right pane, in the section Properties, click at the On link behind the IE Enhanced Configuration setting.
    4. Switch the setting to Off for both Administrators and Users to disable the restrictions.

  • To Display the Shutdown button on the Logon Screen

    1. On the desktop, press :win: + R
    2. In the Run Dialod, type gpedit.msc — this will launch the Local Group Policy Editor within the Microsoft Management Console.
    3. Select Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > Security Options.
    4. In the right-side pane, Select the Policy “Shutdown: Allow system to be shut down without having to log on” and change the value in the Security Setting column to be “Enabled

  • To enable NIC Teaming

  1. Type  lbfoadmin.exe on the Start Screen and run it “As Administrator” to open the NIC Teaming console
  2. In the Adapters And Interfaces pane, select the NICs to team (control-click each NIC) then Right-Click the selected group and Click on Add to New Team
  3. Give a name to the New Team and Click OK. No need to change defaults in the “Additional properties” section.

  • Enable all PowerShell Scripts execution
    1. On the Start Screen type “Power” and run “Windows PowerShell”
    2. Type this to enable Scripts execution for the current user
      • set-executionpolicy -scope CurrentUser Unrestricted
    3. Type this to disable Scripts execution for the current user
      • set-executionpolicy -scope CurrentUser Undefined
    4. More info here.

  • Disable IE Security Restrictions
    1. Go to the Start Screen, type and run Server Manager
    2. Click on the node Local Server
    3. In the Properties pane, find “IE Enhanced Security Configuration” and click on its value to change it.
    4. Set Off for Admin (or possibly both Admin and Users)

  • To enable FTP Server
Transferring a lot of small files is very very slow (a few KB/s instead of at least 80 MB/s for large files). This is due to latency… For such file transfer, it is far better to use FTP.
    1. On the Start Screen, Click the Server Manager tile, then click Yes.
    2. In the Server Manager Dashboard, click Add roles and features.
    3. If the Before you begin page of Add Roles and Features Wizard is displayed, click Next.
    4. On the Select installation type page, select Role-based or feature-based installation, and click Next.
    5. On the Select destination server page, select Select a server from the server pool, select your server from the Server Pool list, and then click Next.
    6. On the Select server roles page, expand the Web Server (IIS) node, and then expand the FTP Server node.
    7. Select the FTP Server check box and the FTP Service check box, and then click Next.
    8. On the Select features page, click Next.
Once the service installed, a FTP site has still to be created
  1. On the Start Screen, type IIS and run the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager (not the IIS 6.0 Manager!!!)
  2. Right click on the node of your server in the Connections pane and select Add FTP Sites…

  • To skip Domain Joining on a workstation 

I don’t use my Server 2012 as an actual Server 24/7 with Domain Control (centralized credentials), DHCP, Group Policy, VPN etc… Instead, I did configure on all my workstations to prevent them to be enrolled by Server 2012 Essentials when they access it for the first time.

  • To skip Domain Joining on a PC with a Pro/Enterprise/Ultimate Windows 7 or 8):
  1. On your client computer, go to Start (Win7) or Start Screen (Win8) and search for command prompt “cmd“.
  2. Execute cmd.exe with run as administrator.
  3. In the command prompt, type:
    • reg add “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Server\ClientDeployment” /v SkipDomainJoin /t REG_DWORD /d 1
  4. Follow next those steps to connect on Server 2012 Essentials:
    1. With your brower, go to http://<servername>/Connect
    2. Click on “Dowload software for Windows 7 and Windows 8”
    3. Execute the ComputerConnector(xxxx).exe just downloaded and follow the wizard. When prompted for a login and password, use the credentials of an administrator defined on your Server 2012.
    4. To access the Dashboard through Remote Desktop, you also have to provide  the credentials of the an administrator defined on the Server.




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