Server core

How to tell if you’re running on Windows Server Core

I have a bunch of scripts I use when I'm building a lab to install "stuff" (that's the Technical Term we IT Professionals use) that I need to manage and work with a virtual machine. Now, when I build from a SysPrep'd image, that's not an issue, but if I have to build from an ISO, I want to automate the process as much as possible. So I have a couple of Setup scripts I run that install gVim, HyperSnap (my screen capture tool), and various other things.

As I was building a new lab this week, I realized that those scripts were all designed to deal with full GUI installations, and had no provisions for not installing applications that make no sense and can't work when there's only a Server Core installation. So, time to find out how I can tell if I'm running as Server Core, obviously. A bit of poking around, and I came up with the following:

$regKey = "hklm:/software/microsoft/windows nt/currentversion"
$Core = (Get-ItemProperty $regKey).InstallationType -eq "Server Core"

(You could do that as a single line, obviously, but I broke it up to make it easier to see on the page. )

The result is stored as a Boolean value in $Core, and I can now branch my installation decisions based on the value of $Core. (Note there ARE other ways to determine whether you're running on Server Core, but they appear to all be programmatic ones not well suited to the avowedly non-programmer IT system administrator types like me. )

Configuring Windows Server 2016 core as a DHCP Server with PowerShell

As I mentioned last time, I'm setting up a new domain controller and DHCP server for my internal domain on Windows Server 2016 Core, and I'm exclusively using PowerShell to do it. For both the DHCP Server and AD DS roles, we need to configure a fixed IP address on the server, so let's do that first. From my Deploying and Managing Active Directory with Windows PowerShell book from Microsoft Press, here's my little very quick and dirty script to set a fixed IP address:

# Quick and dirty IP address setter

[CmdletBinding()]
Param ([Parameter(Mandatory=$True)][string]$IP4,
       [Parameter(Mandatory=$True)][string]$IP6 
      )
$Network = "192.168.10."
$Network6 = "2001:db8:0:10::"
$IPv4 = $Network + "$IP4"
$IPv6 = $Network6 + "$IP6"
$Gateway4 = $Network + "1"
$Gateway6 = $Network6 + "1"

Write-Verbose "$network,$network6,$IP4,$IP6,$IPv4,$IPv6,$gateway4, $gateway6"

$Nic = Get-NetAdapter -name Ethernet
$Nic | Set-NetIPInterface -DHCP Disabled
$Nic | New-NetIPAddress -AddressFamily IPv4 `
                        -IPAddress $IPv4 `
                        -PrefixLength 24 `
                        -type Unicast `
                        -DefaultGateway $Gateway4
Set-DnsClientServerAddress -InterfaceAlias $Nic.Name `
                           -ServerAddresses 192.168.10.2,2001:db8:0:10::2
$Nic |  New-NetIPAddress -AddressFamily IPv6 `
                         -IPAddress $IPv6 `
                         -PrefixLength 64 `
                         -type Unicast `
                          -DefaultGateway $Gateway6

ipconfig /all

I warned you it was a quick and dirty script. But let's quickly look at what it does. First, we get the network adapter into a variable, $Nic. Then we turn off DHCP with Set-NetIPInterface, and configure the IPv4 and IPv6 addresses with New-NetIPAddress. Finally, we use Set-DnsClientServerAddress to configure the DNS Servers for this server.

 

Next, let's join the server to the TreyResearch.net domain with another little script. OK, I admit, you could do this all as a simple one-liner, but I do it so often that I scripted it.

<#
.Synopsis
Joins a computer to the domain
.Description
Joins a new computer to the domain. If the computer hasn't been renamed yet, 
it renames it as well.
.Parameter NewName
The new name of the computer
.Parameter Domain
The domain to join the computer to. Default value is TreyResearch.net
.Example
Join-myDomain -NewName trey-wds-11
.Example
Join-myDomain dc-contoso-04 -Domain Contoso.com
.Notes
     Name: Join-myDomain
   Author: Charlie Russel
Copyright: 2017 by Charlie Russel
         : Permission to use is granted but attribution is appreciated
  ModHist:  9 Apr, 2014 -- Initial
         : 25 Feb, 2015 -- Updated to allow name already matches
         :
#>
[CmdletBinding()]
Param ( [Parameter(Mandatory=$true,Position=0)]
        [String]$NewName,
        [Parameter(Mandatory=$false,Position=1)]
        [String]$Domain = "TreyResearch.net"
       )

$myCred = Get-Credential -UserName "$Domain\Charlie" `
                         -Message "Enter the Domain password for Charlie."

if ($ENV:COMPUTERNAME -ne $NewName ) {
   Add-Computer -DomainName $Domain -Credential $myCred -NewName $NewName -restart
} else {
   Add-Computer -DomainName $Domain -Credential $myCred -Restart
}

After the server restarts, log in with your domain credentials, not as "Administrator".  The account you logon with should be at least Domain Admin or equivalent, since you're going to be adding DHCP to the server and promoting it to be a domain controller.

 

To add the necessary roles to the server, use:

Install-WindowsFeature -Name DHCP,AD-Domain-Services `
                       -IncludeAllSubFeature `
                       -IncludeManagementTools

Next, download updated Get-Help files with Update-Help. Once you've got those, go ahead and restart the server, and when it comes back up, we'll do the base configuration for DHCP to enable it in the domain, and create the necessary accounts. Creating scopes, etc., is the topic of another day. Probably as part of my Lab series.

 

First, enable the DHCP server in AD (this assumes the $NewName from earlier was 'trey-core-03'. )

Add-DhcpServerInDC -DnsName 'trey-core-03' -PassThru

And, finally, create the necessary local groups:

# Create local groups for DHCP
# The WinNT in the following IS CASE SENSITIVE
$connection = [ADSI]"WinNT://trey-core-03"
$lGroup = $connection.Create("Group","DHCP Administrators")
$lGroup.SetInfo()
$lGroup = $connection.Create("Group","DHCP Users")
$lGroup.SetInfo()

This uses ADSI to create a local group, since there's no good way built into base PowerShell to do it except through ADSI.

 

Finally, we'll use my Promote-myDC.ps1 script to promote the server to domain controller. Again, I could easily do this by hand, but I'm building and rebuilding labs often enough that I scripted it. I'm lazy! Do it once, use the PowerShell interactive command line. Do it twice? Write a script!

<#
.Synopsis
Tests a candidate domain controller, and then promotes it to DC.
.Description
Promote-myDC first tests if a domain controller can be successfully promoted,
and, if the user confirms that the test was successful, completes the
promotion and restarts the new domain controller.
.Example
Promote-myDC -Domain TreyResearch.net

Tests if the local server can be promoted to domain controller for the
domain TreyResearch.net. The user is prompted after the test completes
and must press the Y key to continue the promotion.
.Parameter Domain
The domain to which the server will be promoted to domain controller.
.Inputs
[string]
.Notes
    Author: Charlie Russel
 Copyright: 2017 by Charlie Russel
          : Permission to use is granted but attribution is appreciated
   Initial: 05/14/2016 (cpr)
   ModHist: 02/14/2017 (cpr) Default the domain name for standard lab builds
          :
#>
[CmdletBinding()]
Param(
     [Parameter(Mandatory=$False,Position=0)]
     [string]$Domain = 'TreyResearch.net'
     )

Write-Verbose "Testing if ADDSDeployment module is available"
If ( (Get-WindowsFeature -Name AD-Domain-Services).InstallState -ne "Installed" ) {
   Write-Verbose "Installing the ActiveDirectory Windows Feature, since you seem to have forgotten that."
   Install-WindowsFeature -Name AD-Domain-Services -IncludeManagementTools
   Write-Host ""
}

If ( (Get-WindowsFeature -Name AD-Domain-Services).InstallState -ne "Installed" ) {
   throw "Failed to install the ActiveDirectory Windows Feature."
}

Write-Verbose "Testing if server $env:computername can be promoted to DC in the $Domain domain"
Write-Host ""
Test-ADDSDomainControllerInstallation `
         -NoGlobalCatalog:$false `
         -CreateDnsDelegation:$false `
         -CriticalReplicationOnly:$false `
         -DatabasePath "C:\Windows\NTDS" `
         -DomainName $Domain `
         -LogPath "C:\Windows\NTDS" `
         -NoRebootOnCompletion:$false `
         -SiteName "Default-First-Site-Name" `
         -SysvolPath "C:\Windows\SYSVOL" `
         -InstallDns:$true `
         -Force
Write-Host ""
Write-Host ""
Write-Host ""

Write-Host -NoNewLine "If the above looks correct, press Y to continue...  "
$Key = [console]::ReadKey($true)
$sKey = $key.key

Write-Verbose "The $sKey key was pressed."
Write-Host ""
Write-Host ""
If ( $sKey -eq "Y" ) {
   Write-Host "The $sKey key was pressed, so proceeding with promotion of $env:computername to domain controller."
   Write-Host ""
   sleep 5
   Install-ADDSDomainController `
              -SkipPreChecks `
              -NoGlobalCatalog:$false `
              -CreateDnsDelegation:$false `
              -CriticalReplicationOnly:$false `
              -DatabasePath "C:\Windows\NTDS" `
              -DomainName $Domain `
              -InstallDns:$true `
              -LogPath "C:\Windows\NTDS" `
              -NoRebootOnCompletion:$false `
              -SiteName "Default-First-Site-Name" `
              -SysvolPath "C:\Windows\SYSVOL" `
              -Force:$true
} else {
   Write-Host "The $sKey key was pressed, exiting to allow you to fix the problem."
   Write-Host ""
   Write-Host ""
}

This uses a little trick I haven't talked about before -

$Key = [console]::ReadKey($true)
$sKey = $key.key

This reads in a single keystroke and gets the value of the key. Because of the way this works, "Y" and "y" are equivalent. Useful to give yourself a last chance out if something doesn't look right, though obviously you'll want to remove those bits if you're creating a script that needs to run without interactive input.

 

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.

Promoting a new domain controller

I’ve been working with Windows Server 2016 CTP5 recently, and because I installed it without the Desktop Experience (what we used to call a Server Core installation), I’m having to do everything in Windows PowerShell. No complaints, I enjoy it, but it does force me to think about things a bit sometimes.

One of the tasks I needed to do was promote a new server to be a secondary domain controller. The PowerShell command for this is: Install-ADDSDomainController. But before you start promoting a new DC, it’s a really good idea to test that the promotion will succeed by using the Test-ADDSDomainControllerInstallation cmdlet. So, I combined the two steps into a simple script that allows you to run the test, and if the output looks clean, finish the installation and initiate a reboot.

The script is smart enough to realize you haven’t installed the ActiveDirectory feature yet, and goes ahead and installs it for you.

<# 
.Synopsis 
Tests a candidate domain controller, and then promotes it to DC.

.Description 
Promote-myDC first tests if a domain controller can be successfully promoted, and, 
if the user confirms that the test was successful, completes the promotion and 
restarts the new domain controller. 

.Example 
Promote-myDC -Domain TreyResearch.net

Tests if the local server can be promoted to domain controller for the 
domain TreyResearch.net. The user is prompted after the test completes 
and must press the Y key to continue the promotion. 

.Parameter Domain 
The domain to which the server will be promoted to domain controller. 

.Inputs 
[string] 

.Notes 
    Author: Charlie Russel 
 Copyright: 2016 by Charlie Russel 
          : Permission to use is granted but attribution is appreciated 
   Initial: 05/14/2016 (cpr) 
   ModHist: 
          : 
#> 
[CmdletBinding()] 
Param( 
     [Parameter(Mandatory=$True,Position=0)] 
     [string] 
     $Domain 
     )

Write-Verbose "Testing if ADDSDeployment module is available" 
If ( ! (Get-Module ADDSDeployment )) { 
   Write-Verbose "Installing the ActiveDirectory Windows Feature, since you seem to have forgotten that." 
   Install-WindowsFeature -Name ActiveDirectory -IncludeManagementTools 
   Write-Host "" 
}

If ( ! (Get-Module ADDSDeployment )) { 
   throw "Failed to install the ActiveDirectory Windows Feature." 
}

Write-Verbose "Testing if server $env:computername can be promoted to DC in the $Domain domain" 
Write-Host "" 
Test-ADDSDomainControllerInstallation ` 
      -NoGlobalCatalog:$false ` 
      -CreateDnsDelegation:$false ` 
      -CriticalReplicationOnly:$false ` 
      -DatabasePath "C:\Windows\NTDS" ` 
      -DomainName $Domain ` 
      -LogPath "C:\Windows\NTDS" ` 
      -NoRebootOnCompletion:$false ` 
      -SiteName "Default-First-Site-Name" ` 
      -SysvolPath "C:\Windows\SYSVOL" ` 
      -InstallDns:$true ` 
      -Force 
Write-Host "" 
Write-Host "" 
Write-Host ""

Write-Host -NoNewLine "If the above looks correct, press Y to continue...  " 
$Key = [console]::ReadKey($true) 
$sKey = $key.key

Write-Verbose "The $sKey key was pressed." 
Write-Host "" 
Write-Host "" 
If ( $sKey -eq "Y" ) { 
   Write-Host "The $sKey key was pressed, so proceeding with promotion of $env:computername to domain controller." 
   Write-Host "" 
   sleep 5 
   Install-ADDSDomainController ` 
      -SkipPreChecks ` 
      -NoGlobalCatalog:$false ` 
      -CreateDnsDelegation:$false ` 
      -CriticalReplicationOnly:$false ` 
      -DatabasePath "C:\Windows\NTDS" ` 
      -DomainName $Domain ` 
      -InstallDns:$true ` 
      -LogPath "C:\Windows\NTDS" ` 
      -NoRebootOnCompletion:$false ` 
      -SiteName "Default-First-Site-Name" ` 
      -SysvolPath "C:\Windows\SYSVOL" ` 
      -Force:$true 
} else { 
   Write-Host "The $sKey key was pressed, exiting to allow you to fix the problem." 
   Write-Host "" 
   Write-Host "" 
}