Bennett Adelson Technical Blog

Bennett Adelson Technical Blog

Windows Server 2012 Beta Essentials Post 2

[Also see PART 1, PART 3]

In my previous post, I explained the installation process I went through to test Windows Server 2012 Beta (Release Candidate it calls itself) Essentials, as well as some of the reasoning behind the installation. In this post, I’m going to take you through the resulting server a bit. In a later post I’ll take you through the client view.

As a warning, this is yet another very long post. So buckle up, recline your seat, and get your snack box ready.

First things first. Between that post and this one, I had shut down the server, so this was a chance to see the boot experience. Remember that the server did NOT configure itself as a DHCP server, so when it came up it picked up an IP address from the network, which in this case was a new network from last time. That’s a fairly unusual situation – in real life that’s not going to happen very often but it will occasionally. For example, when a consumer-grade router is replaced, especially with one from a different vendor, it’s likely to have a different IP configuration for the LAN, so devices are going to change around a bit. Luckily, the server seemed to handle that okay, for now.

However, since I’m talking about IP addressing, after logging in, let’s look at the IP configuration:

IPConfig - Local DNS

Notice that DNS is set to point at itself, and the primary DNS suffix is now “BLOGDEMO.local“. This is reasonable – the server became a domain controller as part of the installation, and set its DNS name to be the same as the NetBIOS name that I gave it plus “.local“. That is a common-enough configuration and is a fair default. Like most DCs it is a DNS server, and that DNS server has the normal DNS records for a DC:

DNS zone blogdemo.local

So all of this is what I would expect to see. What I did not expect is what I did not see – it occurred to me at this point that Server Manager did not come up as it would normally on a Server 2012 machine. So that’s interesting – but then what should I use? Well, the Dashboard of course, conceptually carried forward from the WHS and EBS product predecessors. One interesting point to make before I continue is that Windows Home Server 2011/Essentials Business Server 2011 Dashboard add-ins are supposed to work on the new product. I have not had time to test this yet, partially because I don’t have too many add-ins on my home server (I know, weak sauce). That said, I’ll just repeat the Microsoft statement and go on.

How do I get to the Dashboard? Well, there’s a desktop shortcut right under the Recycle Bin on an otherwise clean desktop, and it’s pinned to the task bar as the first icon followed by PowerShell and Windows Explorer:

Dashboard on Desktop Pinned Dashboard

Fun fact: Microsoft won’t let a server product ship without PowerShell support. Old-timers will remember that there was a time that WMI support was a tollgate… so just like how it used to be that knowing VBScript and WMI was what separated the senior administrators from the junior administrators, now PowerShell does, although of course there are plenty of products (I’m looking at you, Exchange and Lync) where there’s a lot that can only be done through PowerShell, and not through the GUI at all, so it’s almost a “separate the junior administrators from the out of a job administrators” thing to now PowerShell now…

But enough about that. Back to the issue at hand. Let’s launch that Dashboard bad boy and see what we get.

We get, first, a generic server splash screen – slightly disappointing, but it fits with the new Microsoft model of “there’s only one product with variations” theme instead of “there’s dozens of SKUs, good luck! [muhahahahahahaha]”:It's Windows Server 2012!

Approximately 90 minutes later (ha ha, I kid!) I was presented with the new Metro Dashboard:

Metro Dashboard

Uh oh, there’s a scary icon in the corner with a “2”. I bet there’s two alerts! Let’s see:
Server Alerts

Well now that looks familiar! One of the scary alerts is “you must activate,” which is true.. so let’s click the task link and see how that goes:

Windows Activation Screen


Uh oh:


Say what?!? Maybe DNS is broken:

DNS Failure

Yup. I wonder if DNS was configured to use the OLD DNS entries it picked up from DHCP when I first set it up as forwarders:

DNS Forwarders

<p class="commercial">Yes, I really did guess that right away. I’m that good. For the record so is the rest of Advanced Infrastructure at BA so feel free to hire us to help with your server needs.</p>

Interestingly the server should have realized that we can’t get to the forwarders and still worked, but it didn’t. Anyway, I removed those forwarders so that changing IPs wouldn’t burn me moving forward, but now, it’s time for me to get ready for my flight to Seattle. So I’m going to ignore that issue and move on for now. I’ll come back to it later, I promise.

Da plane boss!  Da plane! OK, I’m back, this time on the flight. United Channel 9 was keeping my ears occupied so you know I’m telling the truth. So let’s pick up where we were. First I need to make sure we have an IP address, so I set up a router VM and a private LAN for the lab. The details aren’t important, I just mention it to make it clear that this will stabilize the network configuration for the duration and to point out that private network support is one of the (few) areas that VMware currently does better than Hyper-V (one of the few as of Hyper-V 3.0). Now back to the regularly scheduled server investigation.

Twenty-two paragraphs of useless noise ago, I had the alert screen up. So let’s see what else we have on the list:

  1. Backups are not set up yet on the server. That’s true.
  2. Server folders are on the system drive. Also true, mainly because that’s the only drive. Guess I should fix that.
  3. Multiple services aren’t running – hmm, might be timing and network.
  4. Microsoft Update is not enabled. True.

So I re-evaluated the alerts, mainly so I could see if the services were up by now. There’s a refresh button on the top right of the list area that re-evaluates the alerts, just like the previous release. The services still weren’t up, so I clicked “Try to repair the issue” and it seemed happy. A quick check of services.msc confirmed all Automatic and Automatic (Delayed) services were now running, so we’re good there.

Next was to add drives to fix the backup and server folder location complaints. So, I figured, two drives, one for the server folders, one for the backups. So I shut down the VM (Windows+C, Power, Shut Down or Control-Alt-End, Power, Shut Down), added a SCSI controller, and added two drives. I brought the server up – hey, this is great, it’s a chance to see how the server responds to new storage, and that’s with an information alert (again, like earlier versions):

Unformatted hard drives are connected!

So it’s time to “Format and configure the hard drive“:

Choose one of the hard drives

Notice the server already had the drivers for the Hyper-V Synthetic SCSI card, which it should. So that worked right.

I picked the first drive, and decided it would be the backup drive. In real life you’re more likely going to have an external drive or small drive array for this so you can easily take it with you.

Configure hard drive usage

This brings up a dialog yet again familiar as Server Backup tries to get the lay of the land:

Loading data

Then it’s time to configure backup:

Getting Started

Select the Backup Destination

An odd dialog considering the disk is empty and it knows its empty:

Format warning

Label the destination drives

Specify the backup schedule

Select which items to back up

Confirm the backup settings

Setting up Server Backup


I could then click the same Alert Viewer link to configure the other drive:

Choose one of the hard drives
Format it Formatting... Success again!

OK, so now it’s time to use that new drive. I picked the alert complaining about having server folders on the system drive:
More alerts

No nice link to solve the problem there (why not?) so it’s time to manually go to the right screen, starting by closing the Alert Viewer.

Now I have a choice – I can continue the setup given in the start page for the Dashboard or do the storage. Because I’m going down a road I’ll keep going down it and switch to Storage:


Time to move each folder in turn:

Move the folder

Move a Folder


Choose a new location

Moving the folder

Moving the folder

Again, success!

OK, now it’s moved, but we need to make sure it’s backed up from the new location. Luckily the wizard prompts me to remember that. I actually waited until I had moved all of them and then just set it up at this page after the last one as otherwise I’m just repeating myself.

Server Backup Getting Started

Configuration options

Select Destination

<exact same screens for labeling the drive and scheduling backups>

Note Users came up selected as it was the last one moved, but I could select the previously moved ones, which is what I wanted to do and did:

Selecting folders to back up

Confirming backup settings

<same setup and confirmation screens as before>

More success!  It's going to go to my head!

Green is good! But if you pay attention when doing this you’ll see that just like in the previous release, the checkmark shows up as soon as you hit the Open button. This wizard doesn’t care if you actually set up backup, just that you acknowledged it’s existence. It’s like a small child with a short memory.

So let’s see the Alert Viewer now:

Only two more alerts to go!

That’s the best I could do without an Internet connection I thought, so I went back to the Home view in the Dashboard and saw what remained to check off:

Remaining tasks

Out of curiosity I checked the Microsoft Update setting – in the past you had to go to a web site to turn this on, but let’s see if that’s changed:

Microsoft Update view

Microsoft Update Dialog

YAY!  Thanks, whatever PM made this decision – the web site redirect out and back thing always struck me as at best a hack, so I’m glad that’s fixed.

Next is to add some users:

Adding users...

A user account

Oh, there’s those goofy checkmarks that I hated before. Yes, they look like the three entries towards the bottom are checked, but they aren’t – they turn green when on. This has always struck me as supremely confusing for some reason. Maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, what if I am a lazy administrator who hates security and just wants things to be easy for users?  Well, there’s a link there to “Change the password policy“:

Password policy

For now I left this alone and cancelled out of there.

I did the rest of the dialog – notice the default username was first name followed by last name and the green checkmarks I mentioned before:

Finishing adding a user

Yes I’m an administrator. I’ll make a peon in a moment.

Next are two screens confirming that as an administrator I am a god [muhahaha] or at least a demigod:

Shared folder access Anywhere access

After a brief creation screen I failed to screenshot (it’s not that exciting, it looks like all of the other progress dialogs, I promise), I have a confirmation that I have an account:


There’s a link I could use in case I forgot the password I just set, which is actually in a way nice, but I couldn’t use it as it requires an online connection to go to a help web site:

Online help link

Since I was still on the plane I let this go. Moving on…

I next added a standard user:

Standard User

Now I could set security for shared folders since standard user accounts are not automatically able to get to everything – the default was Read only but I changed it as Jarrod is my boss and I didn’t want to get fired. Making him a standard user is pushing my luck as it is 😉

Shared folder access

I will also allow Anywhere Access (note the VPN option – that’s new for a WHS replacement but not for an EBS replacement):

Anywhere Access

So enough of that, let’s go through the next step, adding more Server Folders. I’m going to add Audiobooks because I have that on WHS today at home:

Add server folders Name and description Level of access

The progress dialog and completion dialog (prompting for Server Backup) are exactly the same as moving a folder, which is somewhat reasonable. I won’t show them here as this post is already very long and it’s not new information.

At this point, I’m back off the plane. This post is taking many days to create! Anyway, that means for Anywhere Access I can try to get it to happen.

So next is what is now called Anywhere Access. It was hinted at before when setting up a user:

Set up Anywhere Access Set up Anywhere Access welcome

In my case I skipped the automatic router setup but a home or small business user will likely be able to use UPnP here. I suspect it works as well as WHS 2011 which means it works as well as your router does with handling UPnP:

Getting started

So now it’s time for the domain name. In WHS 2011 you have “” automatically provided as a dynamic DNS service. Can I do that now?  Let’s see:

I want to set up a new domain name Searching for domain name providers

Then I selected a name from Microsoft, which is how the previous release worked if you chose to use it:
What kind of domain name?

I am then asked for a Windows Live account (uh oh – out of date name!) to associate with the domain name:
Live Account

This failed with a fairly useless error message.  So I’m skipping it for now. In fact I’m going to skip the e-mail configuration and media server configuration for now as well, because there’s way too much here already, and without an Internet connection those items don’t make sense. I won’t forget about them forever, I promise!  Another post will come with that in it, likely after we look (finally) at the view from a client and another server.

Michael C. Bazarewsky
Principal Consultant, Server and Security



    1. Windows Server 2012 Beta Essentials Install Walkthrough | Bennett Adelson Technical Blog
    2. Windows Server 2012 Beta Essentials Post 3: The Client View | Bennett Adelson Technical Blog

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