How to Switch Between GUI and Core Mode in Windows Server 2012

by Satheesh Kumar on July 23, 2014

Most of us might not be aware that there is a Windows Core version, which has only command-line without any GUI.

This core version relatively provides high level of security, as all GUI interface are removed, which also increases the performance of the system.

This might be helpful if you are running Windows server.

Up until Windows Server 2008, once you install the core version, or the full GUI version, you cannot switch back.

However in Windows Server 2012, it provides the following three modes, and you can easily switch between GUI to core, and core to GUI.

  1. Nomal GUI mode – The standard OS with full GUI features.
  2. Graphical mode – Management tools and Infrastructure. This mode provides only few essential GUI tools. For example, management tools like Server manger, Disk management console, etc.
  3. Core mode – No GUI in this mode. You’ll get only command prompt with powershell.

This tutorial explains how you can switch from Core version to GUI mode, and from GUI mode to Core version.

I. Switch from Core Version to GUI Mode

1. Launch Powershell

From the command prompt, launch the powershell as shown below.

C:\> powershell

PS C:\>

2. Import Server Modules

By default, to increase the server performance, all modules and commands are not loaded in server. We have to import the modules using the following command:

PS C:\> import-module serverManager

3. Change User Interface Mode

To change user interface from Command mode to GUI mode:

For full GUI mode:

Install-windowsfeature  Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra, Server-Gui-Shell -Restart

For graphical management tools and infrastructure:

Install-Windowsfeature  Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -Restart

To change user interface from GUI mode to command mode:

For full command (core) mode:

Uninstall-Windowsfeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra,  Server-Gui-Shell  -Restart

For graphical management tools and infrastructure:

Uninstall-Windowsfeature Server-Gui-Shell -Restart

For our example, let us do the following:

PS C:\> install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra, Server-Gui-Shell -Restart

After entering the above command, it will extract all binary files and start the installation. After completing installation server will reboot automatically. When the system starts, Windows will be running in the new mode.

Windows Install Feature

II. Switch from GUI to Core Command Mode

1. Launch “Remove Roles and Features”

Open server manger -> Select “Manage” from the menu -> Select “Remove Roles and Features” as shown below.

Windows Server Remove Roles

Press next on the welcome page.

In the next screen, select the server from the server pool. By default our local server is selected, but we can perform add/remove feature task to remove server by adding server IP in server pool.

2. Select User Interface Features

Now, you can select or unselect the options under user interface and infrastructure features option as per your requirement.

To change user interface from GUI mode to Command mode:

For full command (core) mode: Uncheck both “Graphical Management and infrastructure” and “Server Graphical shell”.

For graphical management tools and infrastructure: Uncheck only “Server Graphical shell” option

Windows Remove GUI Features

3. Remove GUI Features

Select the features that you like to remove. This will also automatically select any dependent features that needs to be removed.

Windows UI Remove Features Confirm

After the above step, the server will reboot. After the reboot, when the system comes back up, you’ll see not see GUI anymore. You’ll get only the command prompt with powershell.

Window Core Mode


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Lakshmi July 24, 2014 at 5:16 am

nice aricle ,, i installed sql server using GUI After i removed GUI Feature, later can i access SQL Server using client …?

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