Don't miss out on new posts! Sign up!
Windows Server 2016

Windows Server Technical Preview 2 No GUI

For those of you like me who jumped on the opportunity to snag a copy of the new Server Technical preview which is most likely going to be Windows Server 2016 or similar, there is a noticeable departure from previous Windows Server installs.  Microsoft has been rumored to be thinking about implementing GUI’less OS’es for quite some time.  However, the GUI has always been there at least up through Server 2012.

It looks like 2015/2016 is the year that Microsoft has finally introduced a GUI’ess OS.  The results are in Windows Server Technical Preview 2 No GUI.  I say no GUI because the default is No GUI, and there isn’t an option in the install to have a GUI powered Server OS out of the box.

The Install

There are a couple of different options in the Windows Server Technical Preview 2 OS install:

  • Windows Server Technical Preview
  • Windows Server Technical Preview 2 (with local admin tools)

The Preview with no options is simply put a Windows Server Core OS.  The with local admin tools option is a MinShell option that can install a GUI as we will see later.




  • As you can see here even the password change and login prompts are all command prompt based



Of interesting note, if you attempt to install the Server GUI in the no with local admin tools install, you will get the following error, however, I didn’t really dig too deep into this.  There may be a way in the “core” version to specify the source that it is complaining about.





The MinShell

The install screens above are the same for MinShell with local admin tools option so let’s skip to the login screen which you can see is at least a GUI screen.



However, after the password change screen you get a command prompt that is opened in the background along with Server Manager which opens by default.  We can use Server Manager to install the GUI portion of the OS.

GUI Install

In Server Manager we next through the wizard


  • Here we choose the Server Graphical Shell under the User Interfaces and Infrastructure


  • Now we are greeted with a much more familiar login screen


  • Server Manager will launch back and let you know the feature install was successful



  • Also, interesting I found that if you attempt to change the desktop settings you receive the following message – You’ll need a new app to open this ms-settings….I will do some more digging on this one.
    • UPDATE – This actually looks to happen on any .msc shortcut or other system shortcut.  I also received when going to wuapp.exe for Windows updates.  However, if you navigate to display settings or Windows update from control panel from the start button, it works.





Final Thoughts

Well there you have it, the first modern No GUI installers option Microsoft Server OS.  All admins will most likely be brushing up on their powershell skills and scripting skills in future OS’s to come as this looks to be the stance that Microsoft is going to be taking for future Server platforms.  However, it is a really good thing from a security and stability standpoint, but maybe not so much from an admin friendly standpoint.

Don't miss out on new posts! Sign up!

Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

Related Articles


      1. I just had problems installing the feature, because I get source can’t be found. even if i specify the source

  1. Hi, what can I do if the Server Manager is not running by default for me? is there a way to run it from CLI? The other question is the Server Manager should run in the local admin tools version only? or in both of them?

    1. I have tested this and the “core” option without local admin tools, you don’t have access to Server Manager and from what I can tell, there isn’t a way to add the GUI with that install. However, the “with local admin tools” option which is basically MinShell, has the capability to install the GUI. Server Manager is available on this version of the install. If you accidentally close it, type servermanager.exe at the command line.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.