[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]Over the next few weeks, in a series of guest posts, Michael C. Bazarewsky will be walking us through the installation and setup of  Microsoft’s all-new Windows Server 2012 Essentials. Over to Mike![/box]

In my previous post, I explained the installation process I went through to test Windows Server 2012 Beta (Release Candidate it calls itself) Essentials, as well as some of the reasoning behind the installation. In this post, I’m going to take you through the resulting server. In a later post I’ll take you through the client view.

As a warning, this is yet another very long post. So buckle up, recline your seat, and get your snack box ready.

First things first. Between that post and this one, I had shut down the server, so this was a chance to see the boot experience. Remember that the server did NOT configure itself as a DHCP server, so when it came up it picked up an IP address from the network, which in this case was a new network from last time. That’s a fairly unusual situation – in real life that’s not going to happen very often but it will occasionally. For example, when a consumer-grade router is replaced, especially with one from a different vendor, it’s likely to have a different IP configuration for the LAN, so devices are going to change around a bit. Luckily, the server seemed to handle that okay, for now.

However, since I’m talking about IP addressing, after logging in, let’s look at the IP configuration:

 

 

Notice that DNS is set to point at itself, and the primary DNS suffix is now “BLOGDEMO.local“. This is reasonable – the server became a domain controller as part of the installation, and set its DNS name to be the same as the NetBIOS name that I gave it plus “.local“. That is a common-enough configuration and is a fair default. Like most DCs it is a DNS server, and that DNS server has the normal DNS records for a DC:

 

So all of this is what I would expect to see. What I did not expect is what I did not see – it occurred to me at this point that Server Manager did not come up as it would normally on a Server 2012 machine. So that’s interesting – but then what should I use? Well, the Dashboard of course, conceptually carried forward from the WHS and EBS product predecessors. One interesting point to make before I continue is that Windows Home Server 2011/Essentials Business Server 2011 Dashboard add-ins are supposed to work on the new product. I have not had time to test this yet, partially because I don’t have too many add-ins on my home server (I know, weak sauce). That said, I’ll just repeat the Microsoft statement and go on.

How do I get to the Dashboard? Well, there’s a desktop shortcut right under the Recycle Bin on an otherwise clean desktop, and it’s pinned to the task bar as the first icon followed by PowerShell and Windows Explorer: