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Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition RC2 Installation

By Jason Zandri

The idea behind this article is to give an overview of the Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition installation procedure as it is currently laid out under the current build, which is RC2 3718.main.021114-1947. This will eventually lead to the final (GOLD) release to market (RTM) copy of the operating system which is currently scheduled for worldwide launch in April of 2003.

The information contained within this article is based solely on my experience with the RC2 product, and the information given, such as minimum system requirements and installation procedures, are current at the time of writing, (February 4, 2003). As with all products in development, all of the following is subject to change.

Please assume that when I mention "Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition" within this article, I am speaking specifically of "Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition RC2 3718.main.021114-1947" unless otherwise mentioned.

One of the things you may notice is that the name I am using throughout the article is different than what will show up in many of the screen shots. This is because the name of Windows .NET Server 2003 has been changed recently to Windows Server 2003. You can read up a little more on this on the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 website.

Windows Server 2003 Family Version Overview
  • Windows Server 2003 Web Server Edition is designed specifically for low end and entry level Web hosting environments, providing a specific platform for deploying Web services and applications.
  • Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition is designed with the day to day needs of the average business in mind and is the progressive replacement for the Windows NT4 Server / Windows 2000 Server line of server operating systems.
  • Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition is designed specifically for the needs of larger customers, as their needs surpass the functional levels of Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition. Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition is the progressive replacement for the Windows NT4 Server Enterprise Edition / Windows 2000 Advanced Server line of server operating systems.
  • Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition is designed specifically for high-end hardware deployments for use on business-critical and mission-critical applications where the highest levels of scalability and availability are required. Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition is the progressive replacement for the Windows 2000 Datacenter Server line of operating systems.
Hardware Requirements for Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition.

The minimum system requirements for Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition is as follows;

The minimum supported processor speed is 133 MHz.
The minimum recommended processor speed is 550 MHz
Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition supports a maximum of four CPUs per server.
The minimum amount of RAM supported is 128MB
The minimum amount of RAM recommended is 256MB

The maximum amount of RAM supported by Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition is 4GB.
The minimum amount of space required for installation is approximately 1.5GB. Additional space may be required under the following circumstances;

  • When a FAT16 partition is in use, it requires 100 MB to 200 MB more free disk space than other supported file systems because of cluster sizes. NTFS is the recommended file system for any Server deployment.
  • If you are installing Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition from a network share, you will need approximately 100 MB to 200 MB more space than if you ran the Setup from the CD-ROM because setup needs to use that space for TEMP files that are associated with the installation. Also, the drive will need to have a formatted partition before the installation process starts so those files can be initially copied. If the partition does not exist beforehand, the over the network installation will fail.
  • The amount of disk space required for the swapfile will affect the size of the initial partition as it is directionally proportional to the amount of physical memory installed in the system. Larger amounts of RAM installed require a larger swapfile and thus, the minimum hard drive free space requirements would need to increase.

  • VGA or higher-resolution monitor is required and an SVGA 800x600 or higher is recommended.
    Keyboard and mouse (or other pointing device) are also on the minimum requirements list.

    The optional hardware list includes items such as CD-ROMs or DVD drives, which are only required if a local installation is to be performed or it is otherwise deemed necessary. The optional hardware list also includes a listing for network adapters and related cables from the Hardware Compatibility List. (Personally, I don't see how you can have a server product and list a network connectivity peripheral as an optional requirement, but that is what is printed.)

    Here is the table of all of the different requirement levels of the Windows Server 2003 family as provided from Microsoft on their website. There is also an additional table on the site comparing the major features for each version.

    Windows Server 2003 System Requirements at RC2
    Requirement Standard Edition Enterprise Edition Datacenter Edition Web Edition
    Minimum CPU Speed 133 MHz
    • 133 MHz for x86-based computers
    • 733 MHz for Itanium-based computers
    • 400 MHz for x86-based computers
    • 733 MHz for Itanium-based computers
    133 MHz
    Recommended CPU Speed 550 MHz 733 MHz 733 MHz 550 MHz
    Minimum RAM 128 MB 128 MB 512 MB 128 MB
    Recommended Minimum RAM 256 MB 256 MB 1 GB 256 MB
    Maximum RAM 4 GB
    • 32 GB for x86-based computers
    • 64 GB for Itanium-based computers
    • 64 GB for x86-based computers
    • 512 GB for Itanium-based computers
    2 GB
    Multi-Processor Support Up to 4 Up to 8
    • Minimum 8 required
    • Maximum 64
    Up to 2
    Disk Space for Setup 1.5 GB
    • 1.5 GB for x86-based computers
    • 2.0 GB for Itanium-based computers
    • 1.5 GB for x86-based computers
    • 2.0 GB for Itanium-based computers
    1.5 GB

    You can view the current Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) at the Microsoft Web site at or you can FTP the text files for the desired Operating System. (On the site there is a section that reads "Windows Server 2003 (coming soon)")

    There are a number of Technical Overviews that can be found on the Microsoft website as well.

    If you elect to upgrade your current Server Operating system you need to be aware that the Setup program will automatically install Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition into the same folder as the currently installed operating system, regardless of it's naming convention.

    You can perform direct upgrades to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition from the following versions of Windows:
    • Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 5 or later
    • Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition, with Service Pack 5 or later.
    • Windows 2000 Server.
    Remote Storage is not included on Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition. If you are using Windows 2000 Server with Remote Storage, you will not be able to upgrade the system to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition. You have the option to either upgrade to Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition, as Remote Storage is included, remove Remote Storage through Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel and then upgrade to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition or install Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition as a new installation (which will effectively negate any remote storage attached to the system.)

    You cannot upgrade from Windows 9x, ME, Windows NT Workstation, Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Home or Professional directly to any of the Windows Server 2003 versions. (Clean installations from within those existing operating systems to other partitions or over the existing partition is allowed.) Also, if you have Windows NT 4.0 Server Enterprise Edition running Service Pack 5 or later, you can upgrade directly to Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition, but not to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition. A clean installation to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition is available. (See items below.) If you have a version of Windows NT earlier than 4.0, such as Windows NT Server 3.x you cannot upgrade directly to any product in the Windows Server 2003 family. You can first upgrade to Windows NT 4.0 and apply Service Pack 5 and then perform a direct upgrade if desired. (This is not recommended, however.)

    As I mentioned above, you cannot "downgrade" (so to speak) from Windows 2000 Advanced Server to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition as part of an upgrade installation to Windows Server 2003.

    You do have the option of performing a New Installation in this situation.

    You can to confirm that your hardware is compatible with Windows Server 2003 by running a pre-installation compatibility check from the Setup CD.

    Typing <CDROM DRIVE>\i386\winnt32 /checkupgradeonly either from a command line or the RUN box will launch the Setup Wizard to perform only a system check of the current hardware from within an existing operating system. You can also perform this from the context menu that appears after AUTORUN starts.

    The results screen will appear with any pertinent information after a few moments.

    Regardless of whether you intentionally run the pre-installation compatibility check step ahead of time or not, the Setup Wizard checks hardware and software compatibility at the beginning of a "standard" installation or upgrade and displays a report if there are any known incompatibilities.

    As you can see, an error is generated as I am not allowed to upgrade from Windows 2000 Professional to Windows Server 2003. (Again, it reads "Windows .NET Server 2003" and not "Windows Server 2003" as it should at once it is released to market (RTM))

    This does not prevent you from installing Windows Server 2003 as a clean installation in this particular instance.

    Clean Install of Windows Server 2003 (RC2)

    After performing the standard BIOS configurations to allow booting from the CD-ROM you can load the bootable disk and begin the installation.

    The first screen you'll see will be the black “Setup is inspecting your computers hardware configuration.” (If there is an active partition on any of the installed hard drives in the system, you will see a "Press any key to boot from the CD" message before you reach this screen. If you do not hit a key before the timeout, the CD-ROM will be bypassed in favor of your local active partition.)

    From here, Setup continues to the Windows Server 2003 Setup screen where all of the drivers are loaded.

    After the drivers load, the Windows Setup screen appears and Setup copies the required temporary files to the local hard drive after you acknowledge the location of the setup files.

    After the file copy is complete, the Setup Program will append any existing boot.ini file (or write a new one) and will reboot and continue the installation from the locally copied temporary files.

    After the system restarts and continues past the splash screen, you'll arrive at the Windows .NET Standard Server Setup screen where you will select ENTER to continue with the a normal installation. (This is also where you would be able to repair a failed installation using the Recovery Console.)

    After you enter past that screen you will come to the license agreement screen where you would agree to the license by hitting F8. (The 360 day license that you see noted here is due to the fact that RC2 is designed with this built in limitation. The GOLD product would not have this limitation.)

    You will then arrive at the partition selection screen. The hardware layout of your system and whether or not you have any existing partitions installed will affect what this next screen displays.

    You will need just a little more than 1 GB of free space on a hard drive to install the operating system and about 300 to 400 MB more available afterwards for the swapfile. This is why the Disk Space for Setup is pegged at 1.5 GB. After selecting the partition and hitting ENTER, you arrive at the file system selection screen as shown below. Here you can choose to format the partition as FAT32 or NTFS. (NTFS is always recommended and is the default setting. If you choose FAT32 you can always perform CONVERT after the operating system is installed.)

    You will need to pick a previously partitioned space of the hard drive that has enough free space, use an existing section of unpartitioned space that has enough room for the total installation or you will need to delete existing partitions and then choose that space to create a new partition. Once you have made one of these choices you would then pick a file system to use and Setup will format it.

    Setup continues from here by copying files to the default installation folder <DRIVE LETTER>\Windows. As with Windows XP Professional, you can only select the installation path drive letter and not the name of the systemroot folder during a standard installation. (If you use an unattended setup file you can then include a path designation other than WINDOWS. Also, if you started an upgrade from within an existing operating system and choose New Installation, you would be able to go to the Setup options page and select the Advanced button and edit the installation path of the system files.)

    When this section of the installation is finished the system will reboot.Once the system comes up again the GUI will engage and display the current status of the final phases of setup.

    During this attended installation, the Setup program will pause for needed user input, such as the Regional and Language Option page as shown below.

    After making any changes or accepting the defaults, Setup will continue to the Personalize your Software screen, where you would enter your personal information as you would like it to be shown on subsequent software installs. (This is the information that populates automatically in the name and organization fields of all the software installed on the system from this point forward.)

    After this point you are directed to choose a licensing mode. All of the Windows Server 2003 brands support either the Per Server option where each connection to the server must have its own license or Per Device or Per User licensing option where each person or device must have a client access license.

    When you choose Per Device or Per User licensing, each device or user that needs to access a server running Windows Server 2003 requires a separate Client Access License (CAL). With client side licensing, clients can connect to any number of servers running products in the Windows Server 2003 family or downlevel Windows Operating systems. Client side licensing is the most commonly used licensingmethod for companies with many servers.

    Per Server licensing means that each concurrent connection to the server requires a separate CAL. This means that the server can support a fixed number of connections at any one time. Whether or not the clients have a license or not doesn't come into play. The server will only be allow to "serve" the number of concurrent connections to it allowed under its Per Server licensing configuration. (Think of this along the lines of, "It doesn't matter how many people in the lobby want to pay to see the movie, there are only so many seats.")

    Per Server licensing mode is often preferred by small companies with only one or two servers.

    You can perform a one time change from Per Server mode to Per Seat mode at any given time after installation but this is a one shot, one way only operation for the most part. Once performed, there is no way of practically reversing it, short of re-installing the Operating System or paying a transfer fee of some sort. (I keep seeing that as a reference, paying to perform the function of converting from Per Seat back to Per Server, but I haven't read much about what's involved and documentation on it seems non-existent.)

    After you have made your licensing choice and continued, the next window that will prompt you for information will be the Computer Name and Administrator Password screen where you will choose the name of the system. (Setup will autogenerate a name and you can use it if you wish.)

    Computer names should be 15 characters or less and they can contain letters (A through Z), numbers (0 through 9), and hyphens (-), but no spaces or periods (.). While the names can contain numbers, they cannot consist entirely of numbers.

    The maximum allowable length for a computer name is 63 characters. While names longer than 15 characters are permitted, computers running operating systems earlier than Windows 2000 will recognize systems only by the first 15 characters of the name only and this may cause certain network naming and resolution issues.

    This same screen is where you will need to enter the password to be used with the default Administrator account.

    For security reasons you should supply a password for the Administrator account. If you are allowed to leave the Administrator password blank and continue, this would tell the system that there is no password for this account and this is very insecure to have in any environment.

    Passwords can have up to 127 characters, but this is impractical and cumbersome to remember. It is recommended that passwords have at least 7 characters, and they should contain a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and other allowed special characters such as *  ? : ; @ or $ to name a few.

    After entering the password and verifying it, you would select NEXT to continue and arrive to the screen where you can set the date, time, and time zone settings. This is also where you would specify whether the system should automatically adjust for daylight saving time or not.

    The next screen is the Specifying Networking Settings where you can allow the Typical Settings to be applied. You can also elect to Customize the settings now as well. (You are always free to customize the network settings after the operating system is loaded and under normal operation.)

    There are a few changes to the Network Protocol additional settings options in the Windows Server 2003 family, most noticeable is the addition of the Reliable Multicast Protocol as well as support for Microsoft TCP/IP version 6.

    The next step of the installation process after Specifying Networking Settings is the Specifying the Workgroup or Domain Name screen where you would choose to either have your Windows Server 2003 build as a stand alone server in a workgroup or a member server in a domain.

    If you are going to add the server to an existing domain you would need to supply the necessary credentials at this time if an account for the server hadn't already been created.

    If you choose to add the server to a workgroup you need only to supply the name of the workgroup.

    This is the final interactive step. The Setup program will continue for a few more minutes on its own. Once it has completed, the setup program will reboot the server and upon restart it will await user input at the logon screen.

    The Configure Your Server Wizard appears on the screen the first time you log on locally to the server with the administrator account.

    You can enable the Configure Your Server Wizard to finish installing optional components that you chose during setup or add additional components as well. There are options to configure domain controllers or member servers, file servers, print servers, Web and media servers, application servers, and networking and communications servers, all through this wizard.

    Product Activation

    The Windows Server 2003 line of server operating systems is like any other current Microsoft product when it comes to product activation.

    All current versions of Microsoft Office and Microsoft desktop and server operating systems require that you activate the product either via the internet or through a telephone call to Microsoft in order to fully utilize them.

    If you do not activate the software it will shut down in 30 days and either run in limited operating mode, as in the case of Office XP, or not at all, as in the case of Windows XP and the Windows Server 2003. (Windows Server 2003 (RC2) has a 14 day activation window. This is a common timeline for BETA and RC products. This RC2 software will also expire in 360 days, regardless of my activation status. Again, this is a common timeline for these products.)

    Once you open the product activation program the first screen you will see is as follows;

    You can see that you have the option to activate over the internet or over the phone. After you make your selection and continue, you are presented with the Microsoft REGISTRATION screen. This is NOT a mandatory function and it can be skipped by simply selecting NO and then clicking on NEXT to complete the product activation from the previous screen.

    Once this is complete you will arrive at the THANK YOU screen and you can close it. Your product will be fully activated for your use on that specific system.

    Well, that wraps up my Introduction to Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition RC2 (3718) article. I hope you found it informative.

    If you have any questions, comments or even constructive criticism, please feel free to drop me a note.

    I want to write solid technical articles that appeal to a large range of readers and skill levels and I can only be sure of that through your feedback.

    Until the next time, remember,

    “Security isn't about risk avoidance, it's about risk management.”

    Jason Zandri