Server 2012 R2 Essentials Hyper-V How-to


If you search internet for “2012 R2 Essentials” and “Hyper-V” you will see thousands of posts about this new added role, but hardly any describing how to really enable or install it. Even the TechNet article is somewhat vague when stipulating under Virtualize Your Environment that “depending on your system provider’s configuration, the Before you begin page provides an option to set up Windows Server Essentials either as a virtual instance or on physical hardware”.

Well, since this is a preview and no system provider can fix this for us, and furthermore I couldn’t find any reference about OEM SDK, or similar, that could configure Hyper-V for me in this manner, it is NOT possible to activate this option from the Before you begin page.

But nevertheless it IS well possible to install the Hyper-V role on 2012 R2 Essentials. For this purpose simply use the Server Manager and not the Essentials Dashboard:

Of course this is not as easy as a Dashboard Wizard, but, hey, previews are not for everyone :-p

Besides be aware that the Hyper-V is licensed only as a hardware hypervisor and you will eventually have to install the Essentials (for all other essential roles, pun intended) as a VM, which basically doubles the used space for OS files.

Also this means that you have to disable the essential roles on the Hypervisor partition (so that they don’t cross swords the VM), which is easily managed over the Server Manager as well. Thereby the Storage Services role is the only one that cannot be uninstalled, as shown below, but this is for a good reason, since you will most probably need storage for the VM images 😉 By the way for me the remove roles procedure needed two server restarts to take effect.

Lastly you can disable all features, either to minimize the attack surface and turn the Hypervisor to a Core installation. Be careful though – if you disable the PowerShell Feature as well, you will not only have problems fully administering your Hyper-V but also will get stuck if you want to go back to GUI-Windows.

If you however did disable every feature and now have only a command prompt then use the following sequence, as described by servervault:

dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:MicrosoftWindowsPowerShellRoot

dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:MicrosoftWindowsPowerShell /all

shutdown -r -t 0



Add-WindowsFeature Server-Gui-Shell, Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra

shutdown -r -t 0


How do you switch between GUI and Core from three different perspectives, better have a look at this site.

11 thoughts on “Server 2012 R2 Essentials Hyper-V How-to

  1. Thanks for this information. Follow up question: Just setting up a server with Essentials R2 that is in full release. It’s a Dell server but they have no OEM version of R2. I booted with Open License software and there is no option to install as VM. Do you know a different way to configure HyperV and install Essentials R2 as a VM? I’d rather not have to do it the way you did with the pre-release version.



  2. Hi Art,
    As usual it is up to the OEMs to decide when and in what configuration the OS would be pre-installed. Unfortunately! But if you have a contact person at Dell s/he can help – if and only if such option is available in the vendor’s ordering system.
    Now as Open License is volume licensing, you’d better not mix it with OEM install software – the keys are not compatible. In this case you’ll have to pre-order from Dell without OS. Clear enough. If you want to stick to OL normally there should be two keys – one for the Hyper-V host and one for a VM. The same applies to retail distributions as well. But you then land in the same installation fury as described above, which you wanted to avoid.
    I have ordered already a retail version and will follow-up if there is the possibility to configure as Hyper-V right from the installation wizard. Just keep in touch!

    1. Thanks for the quick reply. Dell does not have any support for R2 yet and no information as to whether/when they will create a custom OS distribution that offers the VM option via wizard. Microsoft has a very lengthy set of steps to create a custom image…not worth my time. I’m using the OL version as there is no Dell OEM version yet. My solution for now is to install as a physical server. This is for a small business so should be just fine. I was just hoping the VM approach would be simpler…alas…not yet.

      Note that the OL license didn’t seem to have two keys…just the R2 key.

      In any case, I’m proceeding using the physical server configuration as my client is eager to get the new server. But, please let me know if you learn anything more.

      Much appreciated.


  3. Hi Art,
    Unfortunately Dell—as all other large companies—is taking way too much time. That’s what comes out of QM routines 🙂
    I’d like to update on the licensing keys: like in your case, for SB editions there is only one key as well. Bummer! BUT you can surely use it twice: for physical and VM installation. I’d have proposed that Microsoft had supported us a little bit more and provided an installation path the way THEY tooted it (and that’s why you expected it to work).

  4. First, many thanks for the nice explanation and clarification. Microsoft did it again to confuse the users as good as they can… Yesterday, I downloaded the latest Server 2012 R2 Essentials Trial and I am very annoyed as the virtualization option is missing 😦
    Such behavior seem to be typical for Microsoft: Ask your OEM, bla bla bla, or do it the hard way. I expect that the virtual installation is also missing if I buy the System Builder version. Why do they do this?

    1. Hi Anguel,
      Your comment is very much appreciated indeed.
      Matter-of-factly MS makes this deployment so complicated that it contradicts the principle of “Essentials” as product for the masses. You can find an article how to prepare such server for deployment as A System Builder. And this is a lengthy document: Apart from that I cannot guarantee that it is complete and correct as well. For example under Preparing the Virtual Machine Host only the “wss-product-package” feature is explicitly disabled for the Hyper-V host. This is incorrect: you will have to at least disable the “Microsoft-Windows-ServerEssentials-ServerSetup” feature as well; otherwise you will end up with a nasty pop-up-error-prompt all the time. AND also if you follow this thread – which is also 10 pages long – you will find out that there are other features to disable to get a clean hypervisor…
      To answer your question “Why do they do this?” – give me a crystal ball. There is no logical reason. I presume MS is getting more and more a tinker booth without any coordination, pride, vision and responsibility. Sorry to say that, but this is my personal impression from their recent products and implementations thereof.

      1. Moodjbow, thank you for the extensive reply. In the meantime I had also found the two links you mention 🙂 Searching for “wss-product-package” on Google unfortunately does not give any other results… I am new to Windows Server and I am really annoyed how complicated they make it. Now my idea is the following:

        1. It should be possible to mod the original ISO according to the manuals to get a Hyper-V “Physical-Host-Only” ISO to install, without Active Directory, HTTP Server, etc. IMHO there is no need to auto-include the guest VM which just makes things more complex.

        2. Probably the Server Essentials can then be just installed inside that physical host from the original unmodified ISO as a Guest VM. This way we can also configure the VM as we like before installing.

        Thank you for the hint with disabling “Microsoft-Windows-ServerEssentials-ServerSetup”. How did you find that out?
        I thought they were doing a similar thing in the tutorial by this step (but apparently not):
        Set registry key to not pop up server manager. Run the following script:

        reg load HKLM\test C:\essentials-host-mount\windows\system32\config\software

        reg add “HKLM\test\Microsoft\ServerManager” /v DoNotOpenServerManagerAtLogon /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f

        Today I will try to go through the tutorial. One more question: Does the “wss-product-package” removal actually auto-remove all the Active Directory, HTTP Server, etc. stuff from installation?

        I also thought about using the free Hyper-V Server which even gives you unlimited VMs, but its “command line only” is probably hard to use for entry level admins. Also it probably does not include Windows Server Backup which is very handy to backup the VMs? I also have no idea if graphical tools for RAID monitoring etc. will be usable without the full GUI.



  5. Hi Anguel,
    I totally agree with your points 1&2!
    As of the annoying serveressentials-serversetup I just found out that there was no entry in the usual places like startup menu, so I simply tried dism /online /get-features | find /i “ess” and found this. The ServerManager REG is something different — this is the new metro management console.
    Lastly in my case I was removing /online and the “wss-product-package” didn’t remove the rest. Have a look at the table under the second link. What you can do there though is to select the feature that is on top of the hierarchy — this will disable the subordinated ones. For example Web-Server disables Web-WebServer, etc. What I definitely wouldn’t remove are the RSAT and Windows-Server-Backup features!
    Best and hope works out for you.

  6. To get rid of the serveressentials-serversetup annoyance, simply remove the HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run\EssentialsRoleConfigWizard registry key. And thanks for all your valuable input here!

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