Introduction to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition RC2: Part 2

by Jason Zandri

Jason Zandri's overview of the Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition installation process continues as he steps through the basics (and some not so basic details) of installing the soon-to-be-released operating system.

The idea behind this article (and future series) is to give an overview of the Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition installation process as currently laid out in the most recent build -- RC2 3718.main.021114-1947. This will eventually lead to the final (GOLD) release to market (RTM) copy of the operating system, which is scheduled for worldwide launch in April 2003.

The information contained within this article is based solely on personal experience with the RC2 product, and the information given, such as minimum system requirements and installation procedures, is current as of the time of writing (February 4, 2003). As with any product in development, all of the following is subject to change.

Please assume that when "Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition" is mentioned within this article, it is referring specifically to "Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition RC2 3718.main.021114-1947" unless otherwise mentioned.

One of the things you may notice is that the name used throughout the article is different from what will show up in many of the screen shots. This is because the name "Windows .NET Server 2003" has been changed recently to Windows Server 2003. You can read up a little more on this on the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Web site.

Clean Install of Windows Server 2003 (RC2)

After performing the standard BIOS configurations to allow booting from the CD-ROM, you can load the bootable disk and begin the installation.

The first screen to come up will be the black "Setup is inspecting your computers hardware configuration." (If there is an active partition on any of the installed hard drives in the system, you will see a "Press any key to boot from the CD" message before you reach this screen. If you do not hit a key before the timeout, the CD-ROM will be bypassed in favor of the local active partition.)

From here, Setup continues to the Windows Server 2003 Setup screen, where all of the drivers are loaded.

After the drivers load, the Windows Setup screen appears, and Setup copies the required temporary files to the local hard drive after the location of the setup files has been acknowledged.

After the file copy is complete, the Setup Program will append any existing boot.ini file (or write a new one) and will reboot and continue the installation from the locally copied temporary files.

After the system restarts and continues past the splash screen, you'll arrive at the Windows .NET Standard Server Setup screen where you will select ENTER to continue with the a normal installation. (This is also where you would be able to repair a failed installation using the Recovery Console.)

After that screen is the license agreement screen, where you agree to the license by hitting F8. (The 360-day license noted here is because RC2 is designed with this built-in limitation. The GOLD product will not have this limitation.)

You will then arrive at the partition selection screen. The hardware layout of the system and whether any partitions have been installed will affect what the next screen displays.

Slightly more than 1 GB of free space is needed on a hard drive to install the operating system, and about 300 MB to 400 MB more must be available afterward for the swapfile. This is why the Disk Space for Setup is pegged at 1.5 GB. After selecting the partition and hitting ENTER, the file system selection screen comes up as shown below. Here, you can choose to format the partition as FAT32 or NTFS. (NTFS is always recommended and is the default setting. If you choose FAT32 you can always perform CONVERT after the operating system is installed.)

You will need to pick a previously partitioned space of the hard drive that has enough free space, use an existing section of unpartitioned space that has enough room for the total installation, or you will need to delete existing partitions and then choose that space to create a new partition. Once you have made one of these choices you then must pick a file system to use and Setup will format it.

Setup continues from here by copying files to the default installation folder \Windows. As with Windows XP Professional, you can select only the installation path drive letter and not the name of the systemroot folder during a standard installation.

(If you use an unattended setup file you can then include a path designation other than WINDOWS. Also, if you started an upgrade from within an existing operating system and choose New Installation, you can go to the Setup options page and select the Advanced button and edit the installation path of the system files.)

Once this section of the installation is finished the system will reboot. When the system comes up again, the GUI will engage and display the current status of the final phases of setup.

During this attended installation, the Setup program will pause for needed user input, such as the Regional and Language Option page below.

After making any changes or accepting the defaults, Setup will continue to Personalize the Software screen, where you would enter your personal information as you would like it to appear on subsequent software installs. (This is the information that automatically populates in the name and organization fields of all the software installed on the system from this point forward.)

After this point you are directed to choose a licensing mode. All of the Windows Server 2003 brands support either the Per Server option, where each connection to the server must have its own license, or the Per Device or Per User licensing option, where each person or device must have a client access license.

When you choose Per Device or Per User licensing, each device or user that needs to access a server running Windows Server 2003 requires a separate Client Access License (CAL). With client-side licensing, clients can connect to any number of servers running products in the Windows Server 2003 family or down-level Windows Operating systems. Client-side licensing is the most commonly used licensing method for enterprises with many servers.

Per Server licensing means that each concurrent connection to the server requires a separate CAL. Thus, the server can support a fixed number of connections at any one time. Whether the clients have a license does not come into play. The server will only be allowed to "serve" the number of concurrent connections to it allowed under its Per Server licensing configuration. (Think of this along the lines of, "It doesn't matter how many people in the lobby want to pay to see the movie, there are only so many seats.")

Per Server licensing mode is often preferred by small companies with only one or two servers.

You can perform a one-time change from Per Server mode to Per Seat mode at any given time after installation, but this is a one-shot, one-way-only operation for the most part. Once performed, there is no practical way to reverse it, short of re-installing the operating system or paying a transfer fee of some sort. (I keep seeing that as a reference, paying to perform the function of converting from Per Seat back to Per Server, but I haven't read much about what's involved. Documentation on this seems nonexistent.)

After you have made your licensing choice and continued, the next window that will prompt you for information will be the Computer Name and Administrator Password screen. Here, you will choose the name of the system. (Setup will autogenerate a name and you can use that if you wish.)

Computer names should be 15 characters or less, and they can contain letters (A through Z), numbers (0 through 9), and hyphens (-), but no spaces or periods (.). While the names can contain numbers, they cannot consist entirely of numbers.

The maximum allowable length for a computer name is 63 characters. While names longer than 15 characters are permitted, computers running operating systems earlier than Windows 2000 will recognize systems only by the first 15 characters of the name. This may cause certain network naming and resolution issues.

This is the same screen in which you will need to enter the password to be used with the default Administrator account.

For security reasons you should supply a password for the Administrator account. If you are allowed to leave the Administrator password blank and continue, this tells the system the account has no password -- a very insecure way to operate in any environment.

Passwords can have up to 127 characters, but this ones that long are impractical and cumbersome to remember. It is recommended that passwords have at least 7 characters, and they should contain a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and other allowed special characters such as, * ? : ; @ or $.

After entering the password and verifying it, you would select NEXT to continue and arrive to the screen where you can set the date, time, and time zone settings. This is also where you would specify whether the system should automatically adjust for daylight saving time or not.

The next screen up is the Specifying Networking Settings where you can allow the Typical Settings to be applied. This is also where settings are customized. (You are always free to customize the network settings after the operating system is loaded and under normal operation.)

There are a few changes to the Network Protocol additional settings options in the Windows Server 2003 family, most noticeable is the addition of the Reliable Multicast Protocol as well as support for Microsoft TCP/IP version 6.

The next step of the installation process after Specifying Networking Settings is the Specifying the Workgroup or Domain Name screen. Your Windows Server 2003 build can function either as a stand-alone server in a workgroup or as a member server in a domain.

To add the server to an existing domain you must supply the necessary credentials at this time if an account for the server has not already been created.

If you choose to add the server to a workgroup you need only to supply the name of the workgroup.

This is the final interactive step. The Setup program will continue for a few more minutes on its own. Once complete, the setup program will reboot the server, and it will await user input at the logon screen on restart.

The Configure Your Server Wizard appears on the screen the first time you log on locally to the server with the administrator account.

You can enable the Configure Your Server Wizard to finish installing optional components that you chose during setup or add additional components as well. There are options to configure domain controllers or member servers, file servers, print servers, Web and media servers, application servers, and networking and communications servers, throughout this wizard.

Product Activation

The Windows Server 2003 line of server operating systems is like any other current Microsoft product when it comes to product activation.

All current versions of Microsoft Office and Microsoft desktop and server operating systems require the product be activated either via the Internet or through a telephone call to Microsoft to fully utilize them.

If you do not activate the software it will shut down in 30 days and either run in limited operating mode, as in the case of Office XP, or not at all, as in the case of Windows XP and the Windows Server 2003. (Windows Server 2003 RC2 has a 14-day activation window. This is a common time line for Beta and RC products. This RC2 software will also expire in 360 days, regardless of my activation status. Again, this is a common time line for these products.)

When the product activation program is opened, the first screen you will see is the following:

You can see that you have the option to activate over the internet or over the phone. After you make your selection and continue, you are presented with the Microsoft Registration screen. This is NOT a mandatory step, and it can be skipped by simply selecting No and then clicking on Next to complete the product activation from the previous screen.

Once this is complete you will arrive at the Thank You screen and you can close it. The product is then fully activated for use on that specific system.

Well, that wraps up Part 2 of Introduction to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition RC2 (3718). I hope you found it informative.

If you have any questions, comments or even constructive criticism, please feel free to drop me a note. I want to write solid technical articles that appeal to a large range of readers and skill levels and I can only be sure of that through your feedback.

Until the next time, remember,

"Security isn't about risk avoidance, it's about risk management."

This article was originally published on Thursday Feb 27th 2003
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