Monday, February 28, 2011

Find the hidden command prompt in Windows Server 2008 installation

Takeaway: There is a hidden command line interface in the Windows Server 2008 installation. Rick Vanover reveals how you can access this command line.

Windows Server 2008's installation is very straightforward, which is great. However, if any tweaks are needed on the server before the installation occurs, it may be difficult to make any tweaks without some drive swapping or repetitive iterations of the installation process.

One reason why Windows Server 2008's install is easy to use is because it is based on a MINWINPC (Mini PC) bootable environment, similar to the Windows PE environment. This means that a number of environment tools are available to the installation environment. Once the Windows manager is loaded, you can access this command prompt by pressing [Shift][F10] (Figure A).

Figure A

Click the image to enlarge.
The command line interface has the basics available for the installation process. If other drives are attached so the server or the destination drive has already been formatted, some copy operations can occur. One of the more common situations would be to pass a storage controller driver.

The networking stack in use during the MINWINPC environment is significantly limited, though various network devices may enumerate differently. I unsuccessfully tried a number of tricks within a virtual machine to get an IP address assigned to the VM during this stage of the Windows setup process.

If removable media are in use, basic copy operations of specialized data can be performed with this command interface during the installation. Task Manager (taskmgr.exe) can be launched for the duration of the installation process if only to be an educational tool to see what is going on during this process, including resource consumption.

Let us know if you have used the Windows Server 2008 installation command prompt.

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