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I have never used Windows Server 2012, but I am considering upgrading. Before I do, I must know if I can completely disable metro if I remotely log-into a Windows Server 2012 machine. Is it possible? If I RDP into a machine, I'd like the traditional start menu and desktop to be the first thing I see.

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Why do you care about the GUI on a server? You should almost never log directly into a server after the initial setup - definitely not enough to have a strong feeling about the UI. – MDMarra Mar 15 '14 at 2:39
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Sure, you can disable "Metro" by using the Uninstall-WindowsFeature Powershell cmdlet and turning off the GUI.

But no you cannot leave the GUI turned on and have your old "traditional" Start Menu. You will log in directly to Desktop on Server 2012 and 2012R2, but the Start Button does not work like it used to and it never will unless you install some sort of 3rd party mod.

The Windows key still flips back and forth from Desktop to the "Start Screen" like it does in Win 8/8.1.

In 2012 R2, they brought a "Start Button" back to the task bar, but left-clicking it takes you to the Start Screen, and right-clicking it brings up a simplified menu that contains things like Control Panel, Event Viewer, almost everything you need except installed apps.

I prefer the button in 2012 R2 because right clicking it is more convenient than in 2012 where you had to mouse over the corner, wait for the preview tile to come up and right click that.

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"I hate the UI" - "UNINISTALL IT!" I love it. Side note about right clicking the start button: win+x – MDMarra Mar 15 '14 at 2:41
Yeah, I use Win+X every single day on both Win 8.1 and Server 2012/R2. Win+R is another good one, because I'm constantly doing Win+R and mmc to use MMC snapins. Also, get used to using full screen for your RDP sessions, because a lot of these shortcut keys tend to work better in full screen RDP sessions rather than windowed ones. – Ryan Ries Mar 15 '14 at 2:55
When you say turn off the GUI, what does that mean exactly? Would it just be a command prompt? – eek142 Mar 15 '14 at 3:01
It looks like StartIsBack is a plug-in that re-adds the start menu and makes it look just like Windows 7. Would installing that solve my problem or is there something else that would still make Server 2012 very different from Server 2008? – eek142 Mar 15 '14 at 3:05
@eek142 There are two distinct Windows features that can be installed and uninstalled at will on Server 2012/R2: Server-Gui-Shell, and Server-Gui-Mgmt-Infra. You can uninstall just the shell, or uninstall both the shell and the "management infrastructure." The shell is the stuff like Start Screen and taskbar. The "management infrastructure" also removes things like MMC snapins. Then all you are left with is Command Prompt, Powershell, and Task Manager, pretty much. – Ryan Ries Mar 15 '14 at 3:05

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