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The things that are better left unspoken

a blog by Sander Berkouwer


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Changing Server Core's Look and Feel, Part 1

Windows Server 2008 Server Core installs with a couple of default settings. In this post I'll look into the Control Panel applets available in Server Core to change some settings. You'll find how to:

  • Change Regional and Language Options
    (also called: International Settings)
  • Change Time and Date Options

When you install your Windows Server 2008 Server Core box you get to configure the language to install, the time and currency format and the Keyboard input from drop down menus.

Click to view original size screenshot

These might not reflect your situation. I can think of other situations where you might find yourself wanting to change Regional, Language, Time and Date options on your Windows Server 2008 Server Core box. For instance when you move the box from one (international) location to another and when you receive a fully configured Virtual Image containing Windows Server 2008 Server Core. 


Changing Regional and Language Options

Using the graphical interface

Just like Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 a Server Core box uses its Regional and Language Options (International Settings) to determine how to display numbers, time and date. Regional and Language Options also make up what to do with your money and keyboard input.

Since Server Core doesn't allow you the use of Explorer Windows, a Start Button, or a Control Panel your usual path to get to the Regional and Language Options isn't going to work: You need to run a command.

If you're into commands to get things done quickly you might already know the command to get straight to Configuration Panel items by running the appropriate CPL file in the %windir%\system32 directory. If you don't, here it is:

control intl.cpl

This command presents the decent Configuration Panel screen you might or might not know from Windows Vista yet. To be quite frank: It is exactly the same:

Click to view original size screenshot

Here are some useful tips from Microsoft's Windows Vista Help and How-to pages:

What can I do with regional formats and languages?
Change the display of dates, times, currency, and measurements
Change the display language 
Change your keyboard layout 
Change the country or region setting
Change the type of calendar Windows uses

Using alternative methods

You can alternatively change the Regional and Language options through the registry or even XML.

The registry is ultimately the place where Windows stores its vital information. Since Server Core has Regedt32.exe on board you can easily edit the Regional and Language Settings in the following places:

If you're geeky about your Regional and Language Options (International Settings) you can always opt to configure these using XML. (also some scripting examples available using intl.cpl)


Changing Time and Date options

Using the graphical interface

Another thing you might have seen is Server Core works with the standard Time and Date options. While this means Server Core will also have to be patched with the same DST patches as Windows Server 2008 it also means you can simply use the Time and Data Control Panel item like you'd do on a full Windows Server 2008 server. Just type:

control timedate.cpl

After typing the command you find yourself with the same familiar Control Panel screen as in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. Remember this window will only allow you to change the time, the date and the time zone, create additional clocks and configure time synchronization settings. How time gets displayed is configured through intl.cpl.

Click to view original size screenshot

Again the Windows Vista Help and How-to pages explain how you can:

Set the time and time zone of the Windows clock
Set up additional clocks 
Synchronize with an Internet time server

Using alternative methods

The time and time zone settings for Windows Server 2008 Server Core can also be edited in other ways. To change the time and date is usually just type time on the commandline, which allows me to change the time and date immediately.

Changing the time zone is a bit more tricky, but certainly not impossible. Microsoft Knowledge Base article 914387 explains how to accomplish this by editing the registry and restarting your box.

The settings for Time synchronization are mentioned in Microsoft Knowledge Base article 222184.


Server Core Control Panel applets

timedate.cpl and intl.cpl are the only two Control Panel items in the June CTP of Windows Server 2008 Server Core and they seem to resemble their Windows Vista counterparts. This leaves me with some questions and remarks. 

Help links

The Control Panel applets have hyperlinks linking to help files. Apparently the Windows Server team wants us to learn how to set the clock and time zone, what Internet time synchronization is, how to change the keyboard layout for the Welcome screen, how to install install additional languages, what a system locale is, what reserved accounts are and where to find the Microsoft website.

Why are the links to the Windows Help still in the Control Panel applets? There's no Help and Support and there's no Internet Explorer.

Additional clocks

The Time and Date Options Control Panel applet gives us the opportunity to specify additional clocks. Many people found this feature to be excellent, because it allows them to see the time at different places by just hovering over their taskbar. I'm just not sure why Server Core has this feature. First of all I don't know any application that relies on this feature and at second thought: Server Core doesn't have a taskbar, because it doesn't have explorer...

Other Control Panel applets

I can certainly see the use in the Regional and Language Options and Time and Data Options. Where are the other Control Panel applets? Desk.cpl might make the lives of Server Core Admins a lot more easier (as you'll find out in Part 2 of this series) when they decide they want to adjust the screen resolution or screensaver settings. Main.cpl would mean so much to the left handed Server Core Admins.  



I showed you how to change the Regional and Language Options and the Time and Date Options of your Server Core box. These changes were pretty easy because Server Core supplies two Control Panel applets.

I'm not sure whether Windows Server 2008 Server Core or further releases on the Server Core track (if any) will still sport Control Panel applets. They make it easy to change things, but I wonder if they're really necessary: You could also change the settings in the Registry manually. (... and if it's stored in the Registry than it can certainly be changed through Group Policies...) Perhaps the reason we find them in the June CTP of Windows Server 2008 Server Core is some strange dependency in other parts of the Operating System.

In part 2 of this series I'll show how to change the Display Settings, although there isn't a Control Panel applet to do this.

Further reading

GUI in Server Core?
Just Spreading the Love of Windows Server 2008 Core
Server Core Installation Option of Windows Server "Longhorn" Step-By-Step Guide
Control Panel Applets
Setting date, time, regional and language settings in Longhorn Server Core
A Core install of Windows Server 2008 has no Explorer or MMC, but it's not character mode
Windows Vista Command Line Configuration of International Settings
There is “some” GUI in Windows Server Core

Disclaimer Beta Software

The information on this webpage applies to software from Microsoft that was in testing phase but utilizable by experienced users by the time the webpage was written. This software has not been released for sale, distribution or usage for the general public. The information on this webpage and the beta software are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose.

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2007 2:21 PM by Sander Berkouwer


Realtime Community | Windows Server said:

Sander Berkouwer's Blog includes an extremely detailed two-part posting on the steps necessary to change the look and feel of a Server 2008 Core installation. Sander obviously did his research on this one as I haven't seen anywhere else such a great collection

# August 14, 2007 9:41 PM

The things that are better left unspoken said:

Yesterday I wrote down information on the missing desk.cpl (the Display Control Panel applet) and how

# August 15, 2007 8:22 AM

Bernhard Frank's WebLog said:

Ich wollte heute mein keyboard auf deutsch setzen auf meiner Windows Server 2008 core installation (ich

# January 16, 2008 8:07 AM

Noticias externas said:

Ich wollte heute mein keyboard auf deutsch setzen auf meiner Windows Server 2008 core installation (ich

# January 16, 2008 9:02 AM

TrackBack said:

A few months back, I wrote a post with a few commands to get started with server core on Windows Server 2008. Since then, I’ve had some fun tweaking server core installations (including some cheekiness installing third party web servers and browsers).

Sander Berkouwer wrote a series of blog posts last summer that look at changing the look and feel of a server core installation.

# March 30, 2008 9:38 AM

Mark's Windows Server Blog said:

Sander Berkouwer wrote a series of blog posts last summer that look at changing the look and feel of a server core installation. Server core may be intended for core infrastructure servers in lights-out data centres but even so, some customisation can be useful. Sander's notes should help most people get things started.

# April 9, 2008 3:50 PM

Michael Phillips Blog said:

Every time I forget the command to do something in Server Core, when I do a search to find it, I always come back with a link to this post.

And just because I am lazy, and don't particularly like the command line (even though I like Server Core), I have created a folder with a few batch files that I use when I am setting up a Server Core machine.  For instance, I have a batch file that has the product key in it already and I run it to install the product key and activate.

# June 17, 2008 2:11 PM

snirh said:

Check out core configurator - a freeware gui for core configuration.


# December 17, 2008 3:17 AM
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