How to Add/Remove the GUI in Windows Server 2012

With Windows Server 2012 you have the ability to add and remove Graphical User Interface of your installation. You can configure the basics with Server manager and afterwards remove the gui so the server is core only!

There are three layers to be added from core to full GUI:

  1. Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure
  2. Server Graphical Shell
  3. Desktop Experience

So when you’re logged on to you core Windows Server 2012, in the Command window type powershell to enter Powershell.

To install the first extra layer type:

install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -restart

After the reboot you will be presented with the Command prompt window and the Server Manager.

To install the second extra layer, goto powershell and type:

Install-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell -restart

After the restart of your server you will have a Command prompt window, Server Manager and a the good old desktop (with new start menu).

To install the third extra layer, goto powershell and type:

Install-WindowsFeature Desktop-Experience -restart

After the restart of your server and logging in you will directly go to the new tiles Start menu of Windows Server 2012 and see the direct link to the Store and several other direct link tiles.

If you want to check which WindowsFeature is installed, just open a powershell window and type


Scroll a bit up until you see User Interfaces and Infrastructure


If you want to remove or uninstall it goes the same way backwards:

Uninstall-WindowsFeature Deskstop-Experience -restart
Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell -restart
Uninstall-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra -restart

You can of course go to core at once by just removing the Graphical Management Tools and Infrastructure feature, it will automatically execute the needed steps!


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One comment

  1. Hi,

    Is there a way to export these layers all or one by one as independent items which can be used as custom shell for Windows 10 for example?

    Thank you very much and best regards.

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