Server Manager Technical Overview

Applies To: Windows Server 2008

In this guide

  • What is Server Manager?

  • Who should use Server Manager?

  • Benefits of Server Manager

  • What are server roles and features?

  • Running Server Manager

  • Prerequisites for using Server Manager

  • Tasks you can perform in Server Manager

  • Additional resources

What is Server Manager?

Server Manager is a new feature that is included in Windows Server 2008, which is designed to guide information technology (IT) administrators through the process of installing, configuring, and managing server roles and features that are part of the Windows Server 2008 release. Server Manager is launched automatically after the administrator completes the tasks listed in Initial Configuration Tasks. If the Initial Configuration Tasks window has been turned off, Server Manager is also launched automatically when an administrator logs on to the server.

Who should use Server Manager?

Server Manager can be useful to you if you are one of the following:

  • An IT administrator, planner, or analyst evaluating Windows Server 2008

  • An enterprise IT planner or designer

  • An early adopter of Windows Server 2008

  • An IT architect responsible for computer management and security throughout your organization

  • An IT operations engineer who is responsible for the day-to-day management and troubleshooting of networks, servers, operating systems, or applications.

  • An IT operations manager who is accountable for network and server management, IT hardware and software budgets, and technical decisions.

Benefits of Server Manager

Server Manager is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that provides a consolidated view of the server, including information about server configuration, status of installed roles, and links for adding and removing roles and features. Server Manager replaces a number of features from Microsoft Windows® Server® 2003 such as Manage Your Server, Configure Your Server, and Add or Remove Windows Components. It is composed of the following elements:

  • Initial Configuration Tasks   A new feature in Windows Server 2008 that is started automatically after setup is complete, Initial Configuration Tasks helps the administrator complete the setup and initial configuration of a new server. It includes tasks such as joining the server to an existing domain, enabling Windows Update, and configuring feedback sent to Microsoft.

  • Add Roles Wizard   Use this wizard to add one or more roles to the server. The Add Roles Wizard automatically checks for dependencies between roles, and ensures that all required roles and features are installed based on user selections. For some roles, such as Terminal Services and Active Directory Certificate Services, the Add Roles Wizard also provides configuration pages that allow the user to specify how the role should be configured as part of the installation process.

  • Add Role Services Wizard   Some roles, such as File Services, Terminal Services, and Active Directory Certificate Services, are composed of multiple sub-elements, which are identified as role services in the Server Manager interface. After a role is installed, you can add more role services by using the Add Role Services Wizard.

  • Add Features Wizard   Similar to the Add Roles Wizard, this wizard enables you to install features on the server.

  • Remove Roles Wizard   Use this wizard to remove a role that is no longer needed on the computer.

  • Remove Role Services Wizard   Use this wizard to remove a role service that is no longer needed on the computer.

  • Remove Features Wizard   Use this wizard to remove a feature that is no longer needed on the computer.

  • Role management home pages   When Server Manager starts, it detects which roles are installed. For each installed role, a role management home page is added to Server Manager. Role home pages provide a high-level view of the status of each role (for example, which services are running, errors that are logged to the event log) as well as links to role-specific tools and Help content. Tools on the role management home page allow you to filter events displayed in the Summary area, and set preferences for Windows system services that are required by the role.

  • Command-line tools   A new command-line feature in Server Manager allows unattended installation and removal of Windows Server 2008 technologies. The ServerManagerCmd.exe command-line tool exposes the key set of Server Manager tasks, such as installation or removal of roles, role services and features, validation, and querying the current state of the computer. It also allows for installation or removal of multiple roles, role services, or features in a single command instance by using XML answer files. For the complete XML schema for ServerManagerCmd.exe answer files, see the Server Manager Technical Overview Appendix.

What are server roles and features?

Server Manager organizes server deployment into three basic units of configuration: roles, role services, and features.

What are server roles?

What are features?

What are server roles?

A server role describes the primary function of the server. Administrators can choose to dedicate an entire server to one role, or install multiple server roles on a single computer. Each role may include one or more role services, or optionally installable elements of the role. The following roles are available in Windows Server 2008 and can be installed and managed by using Server Manager:

Role Name Description

Active Directory® Certificate Services

Active Directory® Certificate Services provides customizable services for creating and managing public key certificates used in software security systems employing public key technologies. Organizations can use Active Directory Certificate Services to enhance security by binding the identity of a person, device, or service to a corresponding private key. Active Directory Certificate Services also includes features that allow you to manage certificate enrollment and revocation in a variety of scalable environments.

Applications supported by Active Directory Certificate Services include Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME), secure wireless networks, virtual private networks (VPN), Internet Protocol security (IPsec), Encrypting File System (EFS), smart card logon, Secure Socket Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS), and digital signatures.

Active Directory Domain Services

Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) stores information about users, computers, and other devices on the network. AD DS helps administrators securely manage this information and facilitates resource sharing and collaboration between users. AD DS is also required to be installed on the network in order to install directory-enabled applications such as Microsoft Exchange Server and for applying other Windows Server technologies such as Group Policy.

Active Directory Federation Services

Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) provides Web single-sign-on (SSO) technologies to authenticate a user to multiple Web applications using a single user account. AD FS accomplishes this by securely federating, or sharing, user identities and access rights, in the form of digital claims, between partner organizations.

Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services

Organizations that have applications which require a directory for storing application data can use Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS) as the data store. AD LDS runs as a non-operating-system service, and, as such, it does not require deployment on a domain controller. Running as a non-operating-system service allows multiple instances of AD LDS to run concurrently on a single server, and each instance can be configured independently for servicing multiple applications.

Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS)

Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS) (AD RMS) is information protection technology that works with AD RMS -enabled applications to help safeguard digital information from unauthorized use. Content owners can define exactly how a recipient can use the information, such as who can open, modify, print, forward, and/or take other actions with the information. Organizations can create custom usage rights templates such as "Confidential - Read Only" that can be applied directly to information such as financial reports, product specifications, customer data, and e-mail messages.

Application Server

Application Server provides a complete solution for hosting and managing high-performance distributed business applications. Integrated services, such as the .NET Framework, Web Server Support, Message Queuing, COM+, Windows Communication Foundation, and Failover Clustering support boost productivity throughout the application life cycle, from design and development through deployment and operations.

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Server

The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol allows servers to assign, or lease, IP addresses to computers and other devices that are enabled as DHCP clients. Deploying DHCP servers on the network automatically provides computers and other TCP/IP based network devices with valid IP addresses and the additional configuration parameters these devices need, called DHCP options, that allow them to connect to other network resources, such as DNS servers, WINS servers, and routers.

DNS Server

Domain Name System (DNS) provides a standard method for associating names with numeric Internet addresses. This makes it possible for users to refer to network computers by using easy-to-remember names instead of a long series of numbers. Windows DNS services can be integrated with Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) services on Windows, eliminating the need to add DNS records as computers are added to the network.

Fax Server

Fax Server sends and receives faxes, and allows you to manage fax resources such as jobs, settings, reports, and fax devices on this computer or on the network.

File Services

File Services provides technologies for storage management, file replication, distributed namespace management, fast file searching, and streamlined client access to files.

Network Policy and Access Services

Network Policy and Access Services delivers a variety of methods to provide users with local and remote network connectivity, to connect network segments, and to allow network administrators to centrally manage network access and client health policies. With Network Access Services, you can deploy VPN servers, dial-up servers, routers, and 802.11 protected wireless access. You can also deploy RADIUS servers and proxies, and use Connection Manager Administration Kit to create remote access profiles that allow client computers to connect to your network.

Print Services

Print Services enables the management of print servers and printers. A print server reduces administrative and management workload by centralizing printer management tasks.

Terminal Services

Terminal Services provides technologies that enable users to access Windows-based programs that are installed on a terminal server, or to access the Windows desktop itself, from almost any computing device. Users can connect to a terminal server to run programs and to use network resources on that server.

Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) Services

UDDI Services provides Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) capabilities for sharing information about Web services within an organization's intranet, between business partners on an extranet, or on the Internet. UDDI Services can help improve the productivity of developers and IT professionals with more reliable and manageable applications. With UDDI Services you can prevent duplication of effort by promoting reuse of existing development work.

Web Server (IIS)

Web Server (IIS) enables sharing of information on the Internet, an intranet, or an extranet. It is a unified Web platform that integrates IIS 7.0, ASP.NET, and Windows Communication Foundation. IIS 7.0 also features enhanced security, simplified diagnostics, and delegated administration.

Windows Deployment Services

You can use Windows Deployment Services to install and configure Microsoft® Windows operating systems remotely on computers with Pre-boot Execution Environment (PXE) boot ROMs. Administration overhead is decreased through the implementation of the WdsMgmt Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in, which manages all aspects of Windows Deployment Services. Windows Deployment Services also provides end-users an experience consistent with Windows Setup.


Hyper-V provides the services that you can use to create and manage virtual machines and their resources. Each virtual machine is a virtualized computer system that operates in an isolated execution environment. This allows you to run multiple operating systems simultaneously.

What are features?

A feature does not generally describe the primary function of the server. Instead, it describes an auxiliary or supporting function of a server. An administrator typically installs a feature not as the primary function of the server, but to augment the functionality of an installed role. For example, Failover Clustering is a feature that administrators can choose to install after installing specific roles, such as File Services, in order to make the File Services role more redundant. The following features are available in Windows Server 2008 and can be installed by using Server Manager.

Feature Description

Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 Features

Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 combines the power of the .NET Framework 2.0 APIs with new technologies for building applications that offer appealing user interfaces, protect your customers’ personal identity information, enable seamless and secure communication, and provide the ability to model a range of business processes.

BitLocker Drive Encryption

BitLocker Drive Encryption helps to protect data on lost, stolen or inappropriately decommissioned computers by encrypting the entire volume and checking the integrity of early boot components. Data is only decrypted if those components are successfully verified and the encrypted drive is located in the original computer. Integrity checking requires a compatible trusted platform module (TPM).

BITS Server Extensions

Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) Server Extensions allow a server to receive files uploaded by clients using BITS. BITS allows client computers to transfer files in the foreground or background asynchronously, preserve the responsiveness of other network applications, and resume file transfers after network failures and computer restarts.

Connection Manager Administration Kit

Connection Manager Administration Kit (CMAK) generates Connection Manager profiles.

Desktop Experience

Desktop Experience includes features of Windows Vista®, such as Windows Media Player, desktop themes, and photo management. Desktop Experience does not enable any of the Windows Vista features by default; you must manually enable them.

Group Policy Management

Group Policy Management makes it easier to understand, deploy, manage, and troubleshoot Group Policy implementations. The standard tool is Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), a scriptable Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that provides a single administrative tool for managing Group Policy across the enterprise.

Internet Printing Client

Internet Printing Client allows you to use HTTP to connect to and use printers that are on Web print servers. Internet printing enables connections between users and printers that are not on the same domain or network. Examples of uses include a traveling employee at a remote office site, or in a coffee shop equipped with Wi-Fi access.

Internet Storage Name Server (iSNS)

Internet Storage Name Server (iSNS) provides discovery services for Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) storage area networks. iSNS processes registration requests, deregistration requests, and queries from iSNS clients.

LPR Port Monitor

Line Printer Remote (LPR) Port Monitor allows users who have access to UNIX-based computers to print on devices attached to them.

Message Queuing

Message Queuing provides guaranteed message delivery, efficient routing, security, and priority-based messaging between applications. Message Queuing also accommodates message delivery between applications that run on different operating systems, use dissimilar network infrastructures, are temporarily offline, or that are running at different times.

Multipath I/O

Microsoft Multipath I/O (MPIO), along with the Microsoft Device Specific Module (DSM) or a third-party DSM, provides support for using multiple data paths to a storage device on Microsoft Windows.

Peer Name Resolution Protocol

Peer Name Resolution Protocol (PNRP) allows applications to register on and resolve names from your computer, so other computers can communicate with these applications.


Quality Windows Audio Video Experience (qWave) is a networking platform for audio and video (AV) streaming applications on Internet protocol home networks. qWave enhances AV streaming performance and reliability by ensuring network quality-of-service for AV applications. It provides admission control, run time monitoring and enforcement, application feedback, and traffic prioritization. On Windows Server platforms, qWave provides only rate-of-flow and prioritization services.

Remote Assistance

Remote Assistance enables you (or a support person) to offer assistance to users with computer issues or questions. Remote Assistance allows you to view and share control of the user’s desktop in order to troubleshoot and fix the issues. Users can also ask for help from friends or co-workers.

Remote Server Administration Tools

Remote Server Administration Tools enables remote management of Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 from a computer running Windows Server 2008 by allowing you to run some of the management tools for roles, role services, and features on a remote computer.

Removable Storage Manager

Removable Storage Manager (RSM) manages and catalogs removable media and operates automated removable media devices.

RPC Over HTTP Proxy

RPC Over HTTP Proxy is a proxy that is used by objects that receive remote procedure calls (RPC) over Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). This proxy allows clients to discover these objects even if the objects are moved between servers or if they exist in discrete areas of the network, usually for security reasons.

Services for NFS

Services for Network File System (NFS) is a protocol that acts as a distributed file system, allowing a computer to access files over a network as easily as if they were on its local disks. This feature is available for installation on 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2008 only; in other versions of Windows Server 2008, Services for NFS is available as a role services of the File Services role.

SMTP Server

SMTP Server supports the transfer of e-mail messages between e-mail systems.

Storage Manager for SANs

Storage Manager for Storage Area Networks (SANs) helps you create and manage logical unit numbers (LUNs) on Fibre Channel and iSCSI disk drive subsystems that support Virtual Disk Service (VDS) in your SAN.

Simple TCP/IP Services

Simple TCP/IP Services supports the following TCP/IP services: Character Generator, Daytime, Discard, Echo and Quote of the Day. Simple TCP/IP Services is provided for backward compatibility and should not be installed unless it is required.

SNMP Services

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is the Internet standard protocol for exchanging management information between management console applications—such as HP Openview, Novell NMS, IBM NetView, or Sun Net Manager—and managed entities. Managed entities can include hosts, routers, bridges, and hubs.

Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications

Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications (SUA), along with a package of support utilities available for download from the Microsoft Web site, enables you to run UNIX-based programs, and compile and run custom UNIX-based applications in the Windows environment.

Telnet Client

Telnet Client uses the Telnet protocol to connect to a remote telnet server and run applications on that server.

Telnet Server

Telnet Server allows remote users, including those running UNIX-based operating systems, to perform command-line administration tasks and run programs by using a telnet client.

Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) Client

Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) Client is used to read files from, or write files to, a remote TFTP server. TFTP is primarily used by embedded devices or systems that retrieve firmware, configuration information, or a system image during the boot process from a TFTP server.

Failover Clustering

Failover Clustering allows multiple servers to work together to provide high availability of services and applications. Failover Clustering is often used for file and print services, database and mail applications.

Network Load Balancing

Network Load Balancing (NLB) distributes traffic across several servers, using the TCP/IP networking protocol. NLB is particularly useful for ensuring that stateless applications, such as a Web server running Internet Information Services (IIS), are scaleable by adding additional servers as the load increases.

Windows Server Backup

Windows Server Backup allows you to back up and recover your operating system, applications, and data. You can schedule backups to run once a day or more often, and can protect the entire server or specific volumes.

Windows System Resource Manager

Windows System Resource Manager (WSRM) is a Windows Server operating system administrative tool that can control how CPU and memory resources are allocated. Managing resource allocation improves system performance and reduces the risk that applications, services, or processes will interfere with each other to reduce server efficiency and system response.

WINS Server

Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) Server provides a distributed database for registering and querying dynamic mappings of NetBIOS names for computers and groups used on your network. WINS maps NetBIOS names to IP addresses and solves the problems arising from NetBIOS name resolution in routed environments.

Wireless LAN Service

Wireless LAN (WLAN) Service configures and starts the WLAN AutoConfig service, regardless of whether the computer has any wireless adapters. WLAN AutoConfig enumerates wireless adapters, and manages both wireless connections and the wireless profiles that contain the settings required to configure a wireless client to connect to a wireless network.

Windows Internal Database

Windows Internal Database is a relational data store that can be used only by Windows roles and features, such as UDDI Services, Active Directory Rights Management Services, Windows Server Update Services, and Windows System Resource Manager.

Windows PowerShell

Windows PowerShell is a command line shell and scripting language that helps IT professionals achieve greater productivity. It provides a new administrator-focused scripting language and more than 130 standard command line tools to enable easier system administration and accelerated automation.

Windows Process Activation Service

Windows Process Activation Service (WAS) generalizes the IIS process model, removing the dependency on HTTP. All the features of IIS that were previously available only to HTTP applications are now available to applications hosting Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) services, using non-HTTP protocols. IIS 7.0 also uses WAS for message-based activation over HTTP.

Running Server Manager

Server Manager is automatically started when an administrator logs on to a computer running Windows Server 2008. If you close Server Manager and want to start it again, Server Manager can be started from the following locations:

  • On the Start menu

  • On the Start menu, right-click Computer, and then click Manage

  • On the Start menu, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Server Manager

  • On the Quick Launch toolbar available on the Windows taskbar

Controlling automatic launch of Server Manager

If you do not want to run Server Manager or Initial Configuration Tasks automatically when a member of the Administrators group logs on to the computer, or every time Initial Configuration Tasks is closed, you can modify default opening behavior of the Server Manager and Initial Configuration Tasks windows by editing the following registry settings.

Setting name Location Default value Possible values

Do not open Server Manager at logon



0 to disable and open the window normally; 1 to enable and prevent the window from opening.

Do not open Initial Configuration Tasks at logon

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Server Manager\Initial Configuration Tasks


0 to disable and open the window normally; 1 to enable and prevent the window from opening.

Prerequisites for using Server Manager

Server Manager is installed by default as part of the Windows Server 2008 setup process. To use Server Manager, you must be logged on to the computer as an administrator.


If you log on to the computer by using an account other than the built-in Administrator account, a dialog box similar to the following requesting your permission to run Server Manager might open. If this dialog box opens, click Continue to start Server Manager.

Tasks you can perform in Server Manager

The following table lists tasks that can be performed in Server Manager

Task Description

Add a role

The Add Roles Wizard provides you with a complete list of roles that can be installed on the computer, and based on your selections, guides you through the process of installing the role and making it functional.

Please note that some roles require that other roles or features be installed on the same computer. For example, AD RMS requires that Web Server (IIS) be installed on the same server. During the installation of AD RMS, observe how Server Manager notifies the user about the dependency, and ensures that this requirement is met. Some roles have multiple dependencies. Active Directory Federation Services, for example, depends on Web Server (IIS), but also on the feature Windows Process Activation Service.

Also note the navigation pane in the left margin of the Add Roles Wizard pages. This page updates dynamically, based on your role selections in the wizard. You can experiment with navigating back and forward through the wizard pages by using this pane. The navigation pane is also part of other Server Manager wizards, such as the Add Features Wizard and the Remove Roles Wizard.

Add multiple roles at the same time

The Add Roles Wizard can install multiple roles in a single session.

Add a role service (after adding a role)

Some roles, such as File Services, Terminal Services, and Active Directory Certificate Services, are composed of multiple sub-elements, or role services. After you add a role that includes role services, open Server Manager, go to the respective role management home page, and then add role services as needed by using the Add Role Services Wizard.

Remove a role

When a particular role is no longer needed on the server, you can remove it so that it no longer uses resources or requires updating.

After you have installed a few roles on your server, we recommend that you try to remove one of them by using the Remove Roles Wizard. You can find a link for opening the Remove Roles Wizard in the Roles Summary section of the Server Manager main window.

Remove a role service

When a role service is no longer needed, you can remove it. To do so, open the role's home page, and then remove role services as needed by using the Remove Role Services Wizard.

Observe that if other role services associated with the same role are also installed, they remain installed even after the selected role service is removed.

Add a feature

Much as you would add roles, you can also add features to your server by using the Add Features Wizard. You can find commands for opening the Add Features Wizard both in the Initial Configuration Tasks window and the Features Summary section of the Server Manager main window.

Remove a feature

Much as you would remove roles, you can also remove features from your server when they are no longer used. You can find a link for opening the Remove Features Wizard in the Features Summary section of the Server Manager main window.

Unattended installation and removal of roles by using the Server Manager command-line interface

Use ServerManagerCmd.exe -help, or simply ServerManagerCmd.exe, with no arguments, to learn how to use the command-line tool.

Add the –query parameter, or refer to Server Manager Technical Overview Appendix for the list of command identifiers for roles and features that are used with ServerManagerCmd.exe.

You can install each role service one at a time, or use the –allSubFeatures option to install all the child elements of a role or feature. Server Manager automatically skips those elements that are already installed on the computer.

Additional resources

The following resources provide additional information about Windows Server 2008 and Server Manager.