When Microsoft created Windows Server 2008, one of their many goals was to simplify the deployment process. In fact, you can perform a manual server installation with just a few mouse clicks. One of the side effects to such a minimalist approach to the installation process though, is that you may find yourself having to do quite a bit of work after the installation completes, just to prepare your server for use. I’m not talking about installing antivirus software and things like that; those types of tasks are a given. What I’m talking about are things that you might have taken for granted in Windows Server 2003. In this article, I will show you some post installation tasks that you might need to perform.
Adjust the Local Security Policy
The very first thing that I recommend doing after the installation completes is to adjust the server’s local security policy. As you probably know, Windows Server 2008 was designed to be secure by default. As such, the machine’s local security policy is already populated with various settings, especially related to your password. The problem that I experienced in my own organization is that these default settings were very different from the settings that I like to use on my servers, and tended to be a bit disruptive. That being the case, I recommend reviewing the machine’s local security policy immediately after the installation completes, and making any necessary changes.
You can access the machine’s local security policy by choosing the Local Security policy command from the server’s Administrative Tools menu. As you can see in Figure A, the password related settings are located at: Security Settings | Account Policies | Password Policy.
Configure the Server’s Roles
Windows Server 2008 is designed to be role oriented. Microsoft has defined a number of predefined roles, all of which are associated with individual server components. The majority of the server components are not installed by default. The easiest way to install the components that you are going to need is to enable the roles that best meet your needs.
To do so, open the Server Manager console and then select the Roles container. Next, right click on the Roles container, and then choose the Add Roles command from the resulting shortcut menu. Windows will now launch the Add Roles Wizard. Click Next to bypass the wizard’s Welcome screen and then you should see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure B, asking you which roles you would like to install. Make your selections and then click Next. The screens that the wizard displays from this point on will vary depending on the roles that you have chosen to enable.
Enter a Product Key
It probably sounds strange that I would recommend entering a product key as a post installation task, but there is a good reason for this. As I’m sure you probably know, Microsoft requires you to activate Windows Server 2008 after the initial grace period expires. Each product ID can only be activated a certain number of times. The actual number of activations that are allowed depends on the type of license that you are using.
Over the years, I have been burned by Windows Server 2003’s activation process a few times. In various instances, server problems have forced me to reinstall Windows, which of course means that Windows must be reactivated. On some of these occasions though, I have reached my limit for activating Windows and have had to either purchase an additional license or fight with Microsoft to get my existing license activated. Neither option is much fun.
The neat thing about Windows Server 2008 is that you can install it without entering a product key. I recommend installing Windows without a product key, and using the server until a day or two before the grace period expires. This will give you a chance to give the server a good shake down, and hopefully find out about any problems before you have to activate Windows. In case you’re wondering, yes, you can enter a product key and then activate Windows later. The reason why I recommend waiting to enter a product key is because doing so prevents accidental activation.
To enter a produce key, open the Control Panel, and click the System Maintenance link, followed by the System link. The System window contains an option to change your product key, as shown in Figure C.
The tasks that you may have to perform as a part of the initial installation process vary widely, depending on the server’s purpose. In this article, I have tried to discuss the more universal post installation tasks.