When you finish your Windows Server 2008 Installation and login for the first time you will get a window that pops up called “Initial Configuration Tasks”. It is a short list of all the options that Microsoft thinks you should use for a configuring windows server checklist. For old hands it isn't that insightful but for those new to installing server software it can lead out through the first steps without too many problems. Everything is broken up into 3 numbered sections to help you move forward. Lets touch on them briefly.
Provide Computer Information
This section covers things that identify and keep the computer on track with your network. From top of the list to the bottom it goes:
- Activate Windows – Always a good plan if this is going to be a production server. If you do not activate within 30 days you will have a server that stops functioning in a meaningful way. Make sure you do this… really… not kidding…
- Set Time Zone – Very important to keep everything in sync on your network. You can also set a time server to sync with in this area if you have on in mind. If you don’t it will default to time.windows.com as its external NTP server.
- Configure Networking – This will open your networking adapters panel and let you modify each of them. You can assign IP addresses and configure you IPv4 and IPv6 connections. I recommend you start brushing up on your IPv6 if you haven't already, its coming and its here for some. Don’t wait till the last minute to learn it.
- Provide Computer Name & Domain – The server will give itself a name on installation but I am guessing you will want to change that to keep with your environments naming policy. What? You do have a naming policy don’t you? Also you can join any existing domains, in the video example this server is going to be our first DC so I had no domains to join yet. As a side note if you modify any of these settings you will have to restart the computer before you can add roles or do anything really meaningful.
Update This Server
No big surprise in this section as we know Microsoft will continue to update and patch their software and this is your chance to set your policies up and also run current updates. Only two sections here:
- Enable Automatic Updating & Feedback – When you first click this you will be able to choose the “Easy” option which is “Enable Windows automatic updating and feedback” or you can choose to manually configure each of those options. I usually configure the Windows automatic updating part to make sure my server isn't restarting itself whenever Microsoft sends a patch down that requires it. I choose to set this to check for the updates and let me choose which ones to download and install. A little more work, but I have seen in too many instances where a new patch interferes with custom software or settings and causes client issues. Better to keep control of this yourself or move into the Enterprise level management systems that let you control it for your whole organization. I also remove the ability for all users to install updates. The rest of the settings I leave at default.
- Download and install updates – Pretty self explanatory, by choosing this it will go out and see what updates are available and give you the option to install them. I recommend you patch your server right at the start to get a good baseline. Again if you run this right away though you will have to restart.
Customize This Server
- Add Roles – I don’t necessarily think of this as an “initial” configuration task but if you want you can install the role for the server right away. Its important to remember that with Server 2008 all roles need to be installed even if it is a file server to get full functionality.
- Add Feature – Some people get confused on this, but features are just subsets of options of different roles. Usually if you are going to be installing a role at this point you will just enable the feature when you install the role but if you forget MS has your back!
- Enable Remote Desktop – It is turned off by default, it is one of the first things I like to enable so I can go back to sitting at my desk and finish configuring the server remotely. There are two options when enabling remote desktop, the first is if you still are using XP clients or any other clients that do not support Network Level Authentication, the second is for those that do. If your client OS is all Vista and Windows 7 you can select the NLA option.
- Configure Windows Firewall – Ok, im going to skip the discussion if you need a firewall on an internal server if it doesn’t have any kind of public interface. I’m just going to say you need to decide based on your environment and security policies. You can configure it at this time and also turn it off if you decide to not use it. By default it is turned on.
That’s it, it is pretty hard to do a strict walk through on these variables because they are often very environment dependent. This walk through was just a quick one to get you up to speed on what the Initial Configuration Tasks window offers and gives you a insight into what Microsoft thinks is the bare minimum to setup your server correctly.
I made a short video on the walkthrough where I do the initial configuration for a server.
Configuring Windows Server 2008 with Initial Configurations Tasks Video