Configuring Windows Server 2016 Core with and for PowerShell

I know I owe you more on creating a lab with PowerShell, and I'll get to that in a few days. But having just set up a new domain controller running Server 2016 Core, I thought I'd include a couple of tricks I worked through to make your life a little easier if you choose to go with core.

First: Display Resolution -- the default window for a virtual machine connected with a Basic Session in VMConnect is 1024x768. Which is just too small. So, we need to change that. Now in the full Desktop Experience, you'd right click and select Display Resolution, but that won't work in Server Core, obviously. Instead we have PowerShell. Of course. The command to set the display resolution to 1600x900 is:

Set-DisplayResolution -Width 1600 -Height 900

This will accept a -Force parameter if you don't like being prompted. A key point, however, is that it ONLY accepts supported resolutions. For a Hyper-V VM, that means one of the following resolutions:

1920x1080     1600x1050     1600x1200
1600x900      1440x900      1366x768
1280x1024     1280x800      1280x720
1152x864      1024x768       800x600

Now that we have a large enough window to get something done, start PowerShell with the Start PowerShell (that space is on purpose, remember we're still in a cmd window.)  But don't worry, we'll get rid of that cmd window shortly.

Now that we have a PowerShell window, you can set various properties of that window by using any of the tricks I've shown before, such as Starting PowerShell Automatically which sets the Run key to start PowerShell for the current user on Login with:

 New-ItemProperty HKCU:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run `
                       -Name  "Windows PowerShell" `
                       -Value "C:\Windows\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\PowerShell.exe"


I also showed you how to set the PowerShell window size, font, etc in Starting PowerShell Automatically Revisited. And, of course, you can set the PowerShell window colour and syntax highlighting colours as described in Setting Console Colours. Of course, all my $Profile tricks work as well, so check those out.


So, now that we've configured the basics of our PowerShell windows, let's set PowerShell to replace cmd as the default console window. To do that, use the Set-ItemProperty cmdlet to change the WinLogon registry key:

Set-ItemProperty -Path 'HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon' `
                 -Name Shell `
                 -Value 'PowerShell.exe -NoExit'

Viola! Now, when we log on to our Server Core machine, it will automatically open a pair of PowerShell windows, one from WinLogon registry key and one from the Run registry key.

Setting Console Colours

As I described in my previous post, I always open both an admin and non-admin PowerShell window when I log on to a computer. To tell the two apart, I set the background colour of the Admin window to dark red, with white text, and the non-admin window to a white background with dark blue text. The result is clearly and immediately different, warning me when I'm running as an administrator. To do that, I use the following:

$id = [System.Security.Principal.WindowsIdentity]::GetCurrent() 
$p = New-Object$id)

# Find out if we're running as admin (IsInRole). 
# If we are, set $Admin = $True. 
if ($p.IsInRole([System.Security.Principal.WindowsBuiltInRole]::Administrator)){ 
   $Admin = $True 
} else { 
   $Admin = $False 

if ($Admin) { 
      $effectivename = "Administrator" 
   } else { 
      $effectivename = $ 


That works great for older versions of the Windows PowerShell console, but starting with PowerShell v5, that can have an unintended side effect. In PowerShell v5, we now have PSReadLine that does context sensitive colouration of the command line. But the default PowerShell console has a dark blue background, with white text. And when I changed the background colour of my non-admin PowerShell window to white, it gets a little hard to read!! So, to fix that, I use Set-PSReadLineOption to change the various kinds of context sensitive colour changes to something that works with a light background. We don't want to do that for the dark red background of the Admin window, so we'll need to check which colour we are and adjust accordingly.

First, get the current colour:

$pData = (Get-Host).PrivateData 
$curForeground = [console]::ForegroundColor 
$curBackground = [console]::BackgroundColor

You'll only want to configure the context sensitive colouring options if you're running on Windows 10 or Server 2016. Prior versions of Windows didn't have the new system console that comes with Windows 10. So you'll want to check that the build number is > 10240

$Build = (Get-WmiObject Win32_OperatingSystem).BuildNumber

If $Build -ge 10240, then set the various context sensitive tokens to work with the colour we have.

# PowerShell v5 uses PSReadLineOptions to do syntax highlighting. 
# Base the color scheme on the background color 
If ( $curBackground -eq "White" ) { 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind None      -ForegroundColor DarkBlue  -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Comment   -ForegroundColor DarkGray  -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Keyword   -ForegroundColor DarkGreen -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind String    -ForegroundColor Blue      -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Operator  -ForegroundColor Black     -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Variable  -ForegroundColor DarkCyan  -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Command   -ForegroundColor DarkRed   -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Parameter -ForegroundColor DarkGray  -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Type      -ForegroundColor DarkGray  -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Number    -ForegroundColor Red       -BackgroundColor White 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Member    -ForegroundColor DarkBlue  -BackgroundColor White 
      $pData.ErrorForegroundColor   = "Red" 
      $pData.ErrorBackgroundColor   = "Gray" 
      $pData.WarningForegroundColor = "DarkMagenta" 
      $pData.WarningBackgroundColor = "White" 
      $pData.VerboseForegroundColor = "DarkYellow" 
      $pData.VerboseBackgroundColor = "DarkCyan" 
   } elseif ($curBackground -eq "DarkRed") { 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind None      -ForegroundColor White    -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Comment   -ForegroundColor Gray     -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Keyword   -ForegroundColor Yellow   -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind String    -ForegroundColor Cyan     -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Operator  -ForegroundColor White    -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Variable  -ForegroundColor Green    -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Command   -ForegroundColor White    -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Parameter -ForegroundColor Gray     -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Type      -ForegroundColor Magenta  -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Number    -ForegroundColor Yellow   -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      Set-PSReadLineOption -TokenKind Member    -ForegroundColor White    -BackgroundColor DarkRed 
      $pData.ErrorForegroundColor   = "Yellow" 
      $pData.ErrorBackgroundColor   = "DarkRed" 
      $pData.WarningForegroundColor = "Magenta" 
      $pData.WarningBackgroundColor = "DarkRed" 
      $pData.VerboseForegroundColor = "Cyan" 
      $pData.VerboseBackgroundColor = "DarkRed" 

Finally, let's make sure that console window is the right size, and while we're at it, set the window title. (This is a workaround for a PITA bug in recent builds of Windows 10/Server 2016 that seems to have problems setting the console window size and keeping it!)

$host.ui.rawui.WindowTitle = $effectivename + "@" + $HostName +" >" 
$Host.UI.RawUI.WindowSize = New-Object System.Management.Automation.Host.Size(120,40)


Now, with all of this, you have effective, context-sensitive, command-line colouring of your PowerShell windows.