Installing Server Core Domain Controllers

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To server core or not to server core seems like a valid question. Especially when deciding to install Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" Domain Controllers. With the advent of Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" Beta 3 we can finally take a deep dive into installing Server Core Domain Controllers.


The Server Core promise

Server Core is an installation method for Windows Server Codename "Longhorn". What you end up with is a Windows Server installation resembling Coca Cola Zero… You enjoy most of the new and fancy technologies in Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" without the excess baggage.


How I installed my Server Core Domain Controller

After you install Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" you end up with a locked down server, with a blank Administrator password. I changed the password for the administrator to p@ssword! by typing:


net user administrator p@ssword!


Now that we've established some basic security we can change with a host name you don't want (in my case LH-FOAT5VUV6C07), with a dynamically assigned IP address, etc. (I acquired this information using the systeminfo command)

We need to make the server recognizable within the network. On my Server Core installation I ran:


netdom renamecomputer localhost /NewName:lh-dc1


I proceeded with the name change and I decided to reboot the system after the command completed successfully. I used the shutdown -r command, which restarted the server after a minute. My server automatically received an IP address since I have a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server in my network. To offer services a server is best equipped with a static IP address.

I logged in as LH-DC1Administrator with the new password and changed the IP Address to something more suitable for a server. First I looked at the LAN interfaces, configured with the Internet Protocol (IP):


netsh interface ip show


This command returned two interfaces: "Local Area Connection" and "Loopback Pseudo-Interface 1". I decided to equip my Local Area Connection with an IP4 address, typing:


netsh interface ip set address "Local Area Connection" static 1
netsh interface ip set dns "Local Area Connection" static


I effectively gave my server the IP4 address and told it to use as its DNS server and default gateway with metric 1. I checked this configuration with the ipconfig /all command.

Since I had successfully installed the server and changed its configuration to correspond with my needs I decided to activate my copy of Windows Server Codename "Longhorn":


Slmgr.vbs –ato


When I installed my server I told the Setup Wizard to make one big volume on the hard disk and install Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" there. Since I don't want to store my Active Directory files on the C: drive of my computer I decided to shrink the C: drive a little to make room for a new drive, where I will be placing my Active Directory files. I entered the following commands:


DISKPART> select disk 0
DISKPART> select partition 1
shrink desired=1539
create partition primary
select partition 2
DISKPART> format fs=ntfs label="ActDir"
DISKPART> assign letter=E


Installing Active Directory

Now we can run dcpromo. Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" Server Core requires us to specify an answer file with dcpromo, so we'll make one. I opened notepad.exe and entered the following text:





I saved the file as E:DCInstall.txt. I closed Notepad and ran:


Dcpromo.exe /unattend:E:DCInstall.txt


After Active Directory setup was finished I restarted the server using the shutdown -r command again.


Verifying Active Directory installation

Assumption seems to be the mother of all f*ckups, so I decided to verify my Active Directory installation. I logged in as POKKIEWOKKIEAdministrator and started out with reading the Active Directory Setup log files:


notepad.exe C:WindowsDebugdcpromo.log
notepad.exe C:WindowsDebugdcpromoui.log


After that I ran dcdiag.exe. I noticed Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" didn't add a reverse lookup zone in DNS, which is consistent with DNS behavior in Windows Server 2003. I ran the following command:


dnscmd localhost /ZoneAdd /DSPrimary
net stop DNS
net start DNS


Installing DHCP Server

In my network my router provides DHCP services. Of course I want to use DHCP with DNS integration, which allows a DHCP server to perform dynamic updates in DNS for DHCP clients supporting dynamic updates. . I installed the DHCP server role, with the following commands:


start /w ocsetup DHCPServerCore


You guessed it! Installing these roles isn't enough. We've got to authorize the DHCP Server and setup a DHCP scope. I resorted to Netsh again, but decided to use the interactive mode this time:


netsh> dhcp
netsh dhcp> add server lh-dc1.pokkiewokkie.test
netsh dhcp> exit

sc config DHCPServer start=auto
net start DHCPServer

netsh> dhcp server
netsh dhcp server> initiate auth
netsh dhcp server> add scope LHScope
netsh dhcp server> 
netsh dhcp server scope> set optionvalue 003 IPAddress
netsh dhcp server scope> set optionvalue 006 IPAddress
netsh dhcp server scope> set optionvalue 015 String pokkiewokkie.test
netsh dhcp server scope> set state 1
netsh dhcp server scope> exit



I believe Server Core is an installation method that comes in handy when planning dedicated Domain Controllers. You can use Server Core to offer other services as well. The combination of Active Directory, DNS Server, DHCP Server and File/Print (Netlogon and Sysvol are shares too…) is compelling:


  • Low RAM Usage
    Server Core allows you to build a Windows Server that provides the right amount of services. My Server Core Domain Controller only used 207 MB or RAM. (It used 160 MB before I promoted it to Domain Controller) This is way less than 462 MB, which I saw a couple of other Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" Domain Controllers do.


  • Less patches
    If you look at the patches Microsoft offers each month, than roughly 60% are patches for Outlook Express, Internet Explorer, the .Net Framework, Windows Media Player and other stuff you won't find in Server Core. This means you will only have to install 40% of patches on Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" Server Core. (This does not necessarily mean a significantly higher uptime…)


When you look more closely at Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" Server Core you will find that the small calorific value of Server Core comes with a price. There's no way to install a Server Core Domain Controller in a graphical way. There's no Powershell. (Server core doesn't have a .Net Framework, which is needed for Powershell. If you're used to running administration tools from your workstation, than you won't feel any difference between a Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" Domain Controller and a Windows Server Codename "Longhorn" Server core Domain Controller.

Further reading

Server Core: Windows Without Windows
Creating a core Longhorn server
Installing Server Roles and Optional Features on Server Core
How to Activate Server Core
Longhorn Server Beta 3 released
Appendix of Unattended Installation Parameters
What's New in AD DS Installation and Removal
How can I configure TCP/IP settings from the Command Prompt?
Create an answer file for domain controller installation
DNSCmd Overview
Configure how a service is started
Longhorn Server Beta 3 release!!!
Longhorn Server 101 – what’s all the fuss about ? Your chance to see.
Powershell in "every" version of Windows Server?
Longhorn – Windows Server Virtualization and Server Core
Active Directory in Longhorn Server
How to install Active Directory on Longhorn Server Core
Server Core Installation Option of Windows Server "Longhorn" Step-By-Step Guide

Disclaimer Beta Software

The information on this webpage applies to software from Microsoft that was in testing phase but utilizable by experienced users by the time the webpage was written. This software has not been released for sale, distribution or usage for the general public. The information on this webpage and the beta software are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

Author: Sander Berkouwer

Sander Berkouwer is the author of the Active Directory Administration Cookbook, speaker and blogger at and He is awarded Microsoft MVP, Veeam Vanguard and VMware vExpert. Since 2009, Microsoft has awarded Sander with the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award. Since 2016, Veeam has awarded Sander with the Veeam Vanguard award.