Deployment of Windows Server 2016 SE with Desktop Experience

Windows Server 2016 SE: Deployment

Windows Server 2016: In Q4 last year, Microsoft announced the release of server 2016. Since then I have been looking for a chance to evaluate it in my test lab.

I took the well-trodden track to Microsoft’s evaluation center which helpfully offers all the editions free for 180 days.


The home lab:

2 x HP ML110 G6 servers

16GB RAM, 250GB internal HDD

Seagate 3TB NAS (shared storage).


For this evaluation though, I am only using 1 of the HP servers on which I have deployed ESXi 6.5. The plan is to deploy Windows Server 2016 on a virtual machine hosted on this ESXi server.


In this post, I am going to focus on the server 2016 deployment which as you would expect from a Microsoft OS relatively painless.


To begin, as I said earlier, download the Windows Server 2016 iso from Microsoft evaluation center. The file is around 7GB so could take a while to download depending on your internet connection.

Once the download is completed, upload it into the Datastore of the ESXi host. This could take a considerably long time depending on your home network speed. Connections using an Ethernet cable is quicker than uploading over the WiFi in most cases.


Create a new VM on ESXi host with the settings in the screenshot.

Note that, The Minimum system requirements recommended by Microsoft are 2GB RAM and at least 32GB for the HDD.

Srvr2016DC-Esxi-6.5 -Virtual-Machine-1.png



Select the server 2016 ISO as the CD/DVD drive and save settings.

Power on the new VM.


In a few seconds, you will see the familiar setup screen. Choose the language, Time zone, and keyboard type.






So far so good!

The next screen is important! You will need to know what features you need in order to choose the right option. For those of you not aware, the Desktop Experience is also known as the server with the GUI. It is the full installation which has the largest footprint on your hard disk. This option comes with the client experience tools which were a separate installation in earlier versions.

You should also be aware at this point that for Windows Server 2016, Microsoft has decided not to allow turning on or turning off the Desktop Experience after the installation. Unlike in the previous versions of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012, the GUI is not an ‘on demand feature’ in Windows Server 2016.


On searching the internet, I came across several early bloggers evaluating the Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview edition in which the GUI/Desktop experience was an on demand feature that could be installed/uninstalled from the command line of the server core installation or using the Add/Remove Features Wizard. But as is evident from Microsoft documentation, in the final release, the only way to switch between server core and the Desktop Experience edition is to re-install.

I did, however, install server core for my first deployment and then tried to switch using PowerShell Install-Windows Feature but could not. Believe me, it was purely to test Microsoft’s documentation 😉


You will also notice no more 32-bit Operating Systems since Windows Server 2012



Moving on…


Accept the license agreement

In the next screen, choose Upgrade for an in-place upgrade of the OS. I am doing a fresh install so my screenshots will be of the Install option.



In the next screen, choose the disk on which you want to install and click Next.



Away she goes… copying, Installing, updating and finishing up. While the server is doing its thing, I decided to make a dash to the gym.



During this time, the VM went into multiple restarts.

2 hrs and 20 mins later, No I hadn’t been working out that long, I had enough time to watch an episode of ‘Better call Saul’ after the Gym. I got back in time to watch the last reboot

of the installation after which it came up with the password entry screen below.


It’s anybody’s guess that this would have been quicker with a bit more RAM and storage which is what you would allocate for a real life server running your applications.





And voila… The familiar background.



So the installation was uneventful true to Microsoft tradition except for my dilemma with the Desktop Experience option. Will keep you posted on the features I come across.


Sooner rather than later, I intend to install the Windows Server 2016 core edition with remote management tools on my laptop. For this to work well, I will need to deploy a domain controller. So watch this space for more.

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