Start by changing the computer name and the DNS suffix
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Ready to get a basic Windows Server 2008 Server Core system working? First, you need to change that unwieldy computer name that the OS saddles you with, and then you need to specify the systemâ€™s DNS suffix.
As Iâ€™ve said before, Iâ€™m very excited that Windows Server 2008 offers Server Core, a command-lineâ€“only alternative installation option. I like it because Iâ€™m a commandline guy, but even more, I like it because a version of Server 2008 that runs only from the command line seems to have impelled Microsoft to actually consider how we perform tasks from the command line in the first place. With that in mind, I want to take a look at a couple of the tasks involved with getting a basic Server Core system workingâ€”namely changing the unwieldy computer name that the OS saddles you with and specifying the systemâ€™s DNS suffix. Prepare to get a little creative!
A New Name
Microsoft has a laudable policy of not requiring you to babysit your servers during the installation process, and that policy continues in Server 2008. The setup program doesnâ€™t ask you to name your servers; instead, the servers get long, ugly names. So, letâ€™s first try changing the systemâ€™s name.
You can use an old friendâ€”the Netdom commandâ€”to rename your Server Core computer. (Depending on the version of Windows, this tool used to be in the resource kit or Support Tools, but now Microsoft has made it an official part of Windows.) To rename the computer, type
netdom renamecomputer <currentname> /newname:<newname> /force /reboot
Netdom can be wordy, but itâ€™s straightforward. The first parameter is the name of the machine whose name you want to change. Thus, the Netdom Renamecomputer command has remote functionality! Thatâ€™s coolâ€”at least, assuming youâ€™ve left a bunch of ports open on the target system, which (by default) you donâ€™t do on anything thatâ€™s running Windows XP SP2 or later. The /newname parameter is obvious; the /force parameter lets you skip the OS warning that asks whether youâ€™re sure you want to rename the system; and /reboot instructs the system to perform the reboot that Windows needs to complete the renaming procedure. (By the way, why is a reboot necessary? I can rename UNIX and Linux systems without rebootingâ€”why not Windows?)
As an example, if Windows had given my Server Core system the name WIN-6MBQNYYV5EG, I could rename it to Server1 by typing
netdom renamecomputer WIN-6MBQNYYV5EG /newname:Server1 /force /reboot
The ugly aspect of that command is typing the long, silly name that Windows gave your system. You can get around that in two ways: You can simply type the Hostname command (which will show you the serverâ€™s name), then use the clipboard to copy and paste the name into Netdom, or you can exploit the fact that Windows systems store their computer name in the %computername% environment variable. Thus, to change my serverâ€™s name to Server1, I could type
netdom renamecomputer %computername% /newname:Server1 /force /reboot
Add the DNS Suffix
When I change the system name, I often want to specify not only the host name but also the systemâ€™s DNS suffix. For example, for security reasons, suppose I want to build a system that will be in a workgroup. (Yes, I could make my Web server a domain member, but Iâ€™d have trouble sleeping if I did that). Or perhaps I want to create the first DNS server in the network. (If I donâ€™t do that, the serverâ€™s host records donâ€™t show up correctly in the Start of Authorityâ€”SOAâ€”records, and Iâ€™ve got to monkey with them.) You can specify a DNS suffix easily enough in the GUI, but not from the command line. Thatâ€™s where a little creativity comes in handy.
Now that youâ€™ve renamed the system; how do you add a DNS suffix from the command line? As far as I can see, your only option is to modify the registry. Open Regeditâ€”one of the few GUI tools that work on Server Coreâ€”and navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters key. Change the NV Domain entry to the DNS suffix you want. If NV Domain isnâ€™t there yet, just create itâ€”itâ€™s a REG_SZ entry.
If you want to go completely cold turkey on the GUI, you can perform this procedure from the command line by using the Reg command. For example, to set my DNS suffix to bigfirm.com, I used the command
reg add HKLM\System\currentcontrolset \services\tcpip\parameters /v â€śNV Domainâ€ť /d â€śbigfirm.comâ€ť /f
Stay tuned for more Server Core configuration!