Remotely Managing Windows 2008 Server Core Settings through MMC Snap-ins

In my previous articles (see list below) I have written about how, in Windows Server 2008, Server Core installation does not include the traditional full graphical user interface (GUI). Therefore, once you have configured the server, you can only manage it locally at a command prompt, or remotely using a Terminal Server connection. Read more about Server Core on my “Understanding Windows Server 2008 Server Core” article.

One of the major pains of managing such a GUI-stripped installation is the configuration of the any Windows settings, mostly because we, Windows-based and Windows-accustomed administrators, have very little in common with non-GUI-based operating systems. In Server Core, some (although not all) of the server settings can somehow be managed by existing MMC snap-ins, however, since Server Core has no MMC available to run locally, we need to fire up those snap-ins remotely, from one of our management workstations or servers.
In this article, I assume that you have already configured your server core with the bare minimum requirements to operate in a network. These requirements are:

  • Configuring an IP address
  • Configuring a server name
  • Configuring an administrator’s password
  • Configured the server’s firewall

You should, but are not required to, also join the server to your domain.
All of the above can be accomplished by following the “Configuring Windows Server 2008 Server Core Basic Networking Settings” and “Remotely Managing Windows 2008 Server Core Firewall” (Upcoming) articles.
Next, in order to properly configure Server Core to allow you to control its settings remotely, via MMC snap-ins, follow these steps:

Step #1: Enable remote management from any MMC snap-in through the firewall

  1. To enable remote management from any MMC snap-in, type the following:
    ​netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group="Remote Administration" new enable=yes

    You can always run the following command in order to disable this option:

    ​netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group="Remote Administration" new enable=no

If you’re performed the tasks listed in the “Remotely Managing Windows 2008 Server Core Firewall” article, then you will be able to enable the Remote Administration rule from a remote computer, by opening the Windows Firewall snap-in for the Server Core machine.

Step #2: Open the MMC snap-in on the remote management computer

  1. On a remote computer running Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista, click Start > Run, then type MMC and press ENTER.
  2. Click File > Add/Remove Snap-in.
  3. In the Add or remove snap-ins, scroll down till you find the required snap-in. In this case I will use Computer Management, but you can use any snap-in that fits the roles installed on the Server Core machine.
  4. Click Add, then in Another Computer, type the name or IP Address of the Server Core server you want to manage.
  5. After a short loading, if all is ok, you will be presented with the management GUI of the remote server.

You can now perform any administrative tasks supported by the remote MMC snap-in. This is especially useful in server roles such as DNS, DHCP and so on. Although specific role-related command line tools exist (for the above examples you would use DNSCMD and NETSH respectively), they are still a lot easier to manage through a GUI tool.
Do not forget the fact that you can still use RDP to remotely manage the machine running Server Core. Read my “Managing Windows 2008 Server Core through RDP” article for more info on that.
Windows Server 2008 Server Core installations, like any other servers, require remote management. One of the methods allowing you to do that is by using remote MMC snap-ins. This article showed you how to do that.

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