Windows Server 8: New Features And Troubleshooting Instructions

Microsoft recently unveiled the new Windows 8 Developer Build to familiarize developers with the upcoming version of Windows operating system. It is a well known fact that Microsoft often releases its Server based operating system shortly after a client OS release. We recently saw the release of Windows Server Developer Preview edition aka Windows Server 8. Other than significant Windows 8 user interface specific changes, Windows Server 8 has come with a number of enhancements which has made it more optimized for cloud computing.

Windows Server 8 Final Windows Server 8: New Features And Troubleshooting InstructionsView in gallery

Windows Server 8 now comes with Azure integration, Scenario based installation of remote desktop services and an enhanced Server Manager. The Server Manager in Windows 8 Server includes the option to add remote servers and to organize them in custom server groups, perform tasks on multiple servers simultaneously, remotely deploy roles and features, and fetch current status of associated servers and roles from within the Dashboard. Network admins can also set a custom refresh rate for gathering required server data statistics. In this post, we will present a comprehensive overview of Windows Server 8, including, new features, troubleshooting information and how they might help end users.

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System Requirements And Download

Before you install Windows Server 8, it is worth checking out its system requirements. Although, the final requirements will perhaps be determined after the first stable release but as Microsoft is concentrating on providing a more lightweight operating system, the minimum system requirements for Windows Server 8 Developer Build are as follows:

Processor: 2.0 GHz or faster (x64) Hardware Assisted Virtualization Required
Disk Space: At least 10GB of free disk space
RAM: 2.5 GB of available physical RAM

In order to start using Windows Server 8,  download the ISO from the MSDN website. Windows Server 8 Developer Preview is currently available only for MSDN subscribers (download link is provided at the end of the post). The installation process is quite similar to Windows 8 Developer Build. However, you can  install Windows Server 8 on VirtualBox using the same steps as shown for Windows 8 in our guide here.

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User Interface Changes

One of the most significant changes that you will likely to notice in Windows Server Developers Build is Metro UI. While some might find it visually appealing, I personally believe that the new interface is a mere hindrance for IT Professionals and it has made some great new features a bit difficult to identify, particularly due to the font style. The new interface comes with many of the features which are also present in Windows 8 such as the Ribbon based Windows Explorer, Metro tiles, new Start Menu, new Search options and the like. Since we are covering the more technical aspects of Windows Server 8, you can check out our Windows 8 guide to learn about all interface related changes (which are also available in Windows server 8).

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Azure Integration For Cloud Computing

Windows Server 8 is focused on providing cloud based features, which allow network administrators to manage private clouds with maximum security. Windows Server 8 has been developed keeping the requirements of personal cloud based computing in mind for a more dynamic, cost-effective and error free server platform. It attempts to provide businesses and hosting providers a scalable cloud infrastructure by providing 3rd party developers the opportunity to develop compatible applications. A primary example is the Windows Server 8 integration with Azure, as Windows Azure enables developers to build, host and scale applications in Microsoft data centers. It is worth mentioning here that Windows Azure gives you durable storage option using the cloud and has storage services namely, Blobs, Tables, and Queues, which are available as part of the Windows Azure Storage account.

New Dashboard and Remote Server Management

Windows Server 8 comes with a revitalized Dashboard which provides more convenient sections for sorting server configurations. Using the Server manager, you can now remotely add and manage servers. Server management can be performed by creating “Server Groups” for sorting remotely added servers. The Dashboard tab provides an overview of all local and remote servers and allows managing events, services, performance alerts and BPA results (for receiving a complete overview of server issues, including error details). The local servers connected to Windows Server 8 can be viewed from the Local Servers tab, whereas, an overview of all Servers can be acquired from the All Servers tab.

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Performance Statistics For Associated Servers

Windows Server 8 enables performing tasks on multiple servers simultaneously and provides the current status of your servers and roles from the Dashboard. The available stats which can be obtained from the Performance Alerts section includes CPU and RAM utilization, server name, type, count, first and last occurrence, etc. The stats are displayed in both  numerical form as well as a visual graph.

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Install roles to Virtual servers hosted on Hyper-V

Hyper-V hosted virtual servers can be assigned roles through a centralized mechanism using Windows Server 8. Windows Server 8 also provides an option to start a scenario based installation of remote desktop services.

Note: While configuring replication that uses certificate-based authentication on servers which are connected to a Domain, make sure that you specify servers using their fully qualified domain names and not short names, as the primary server will fail. This is because replication will be successfully enabled but the pre-requisite check prior to a planned failover will not succeed.

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Troubleshooting Windows Server 8 Issues

Following are some guidelines for troubleshooting Windows Server 8 issues that you will likely to encounter:

Activation Watermark

Once Windows Server 8 is activated, you may get a watermark over the desktop warning that Product Activation is required. Ignore this message as it will not create any issues.

Active Directory Domain Services

Active Directory Domain Services for Server Core installations of the Windows Server Developer Preview may fail. To avoid this, run the following command prior to installing the role:

Dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:ActiveDirectory-PowerShell /source:<\Windows\winsxs_directory_of_full_server_installation>

Where <\Windows\winsxs_directory_of_full_server_installation> is, for example, a mounted VHD of a Full server installation.

File Transfer Protocol

If you change the data channel port range for the FTP Firewall within Support feature of IIS (Internet Information Services) Manager, new range can’t be used until you restart the FTP service.

Server Manager

If you use Server Manager on a virtual machine with a VHD or use Server Manager to manage a VHD from a physical computer which is booted from a VHD, the VHD affected by Server Manager will become unbootable. To recover the VHD mount it with the following command at a command prompt:

Dism.exe /mount-image /imagefile:<vhd path> /mountdir:<mount dir> /index:1

Run the following commands (in this example, the VHD is mounted with drive letter I:):

bcdedit /store I:\Boot\BCD /set {bootmgr} device hd_partition=I:

bcdedit /store I:\Boot\BCD /set {default} device hd_partition=I:

bcdedit /store I:\Boot\BCD /set {default} osdevice hd_partition=I:

Dismount the VHD with the following command:

Dism.exe /unmount-image /mountdir:<mount dir> /commit

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Server roles and features

If you attempt to install a server role or feature on a remote computer that which is not joined to a domain, you will receive an error. To avoid this, add the remote computer to the trusted hosts lists from Windows PowerShell cmdlet:

Set-Item WSMan:\localhost\Client\TrustedHosts -Value <machines> –Force

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USB Peripheral issues

Some devices may not function as expected when connected to a USB 3.0 port. Connecting these devices to a USB 2.0 port should resolve the issue until updated drivers are available. This includes mouse and keyboards.

Searching Out Server Options

You might find the new search bar of Windows Server 8 to be quite inconvenient for finding some general options. I had a few issues using a simple DCPromo command. For this reason, try making full use of the search bar. The DCPromo command was located in the Apps section; you might have to play around a bit to identify what features may be found under the category of Files, Settings and Apps.

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Windows Update

If Windows Update is configured to automatically download updates and the computer is running on battery power, certain updates may not occur. To avoid this, ensure that your computer is using AC power.

Important Note: The current Windows Server 8 Developers preview Build should not be used for deployment. This is merely a developer build and therefore many features are not fully functional. It is also possible that you may not be able to perform many of the usual server management and network connectivity tasks due to lack of driver support and compatibility issues.

Download Windows Server 8 Developers Preview Build

  • Aussydsa

    i just installed windows 8 preview setup, my computer is not starting up …it keeps starting up… shuting down and starting up again for hundred times already… i am not sure, is this normal or there is issue with the system. I use windows XP home edition, Pentium 4. Thanks for you help