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When I configure a minimal Server (unselecting any role in SCW) I still have quite a number of (obscure) services running or set up as manual.

Requirements in my project say that the Server shall only run well-motivated services, i.e. services that are essential to the custom application running on the server.

I have been looking for official Microsoft documents saying Don't mess with the default services or else you have an unstable system. But the best I found was the STIG listing baseline services. Old rumour has it that it is not a good idea to randomly disable seemingly unneeded services (Disabled Print hindered Update, problems when disabling RPC service) and see if the system still works. Also, given that there are 30+ services, fully testing the system, including software update scenarios, would be a daunting task.

How can I achieve a minimal working system with only services that are truly needed?

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What does your team usually do in situations like this? – MichelZ Jun 23 '14 at 11:30
Why not use the server Core role? – tombull89 Jun 23 '14 at 13:26
@tombull89 The Server needs to run a GUI application. But you mean I could start from Server Core and enable what is truly needed? Server Core does not have any default services? Will look into that. – AHalvar Jun 23 '14 at 14:05
@AHalvar There are only a handful of services that really take the toll on your server, and I think they are mostly manually installed. What are you aiming at by disabling services? thining? reducing interfaces for security? – EliadTech Jun 23 '14 at 20:26
@EliadTech Reducing attack interfaces – AHalvar Jun 23 '14 at 20:40

Well disabling services is not hard. As for which ones to disable, I usually just read the descriptions of the service, and the majority of the time it becomes clear if I will ever need that service on that system. If there's any doubt, I'll leave it on. To disable a service, I'll make a note of the service name, and just disable them in bulk with Powershell.

When you talk about testing, it's really quite simple. This is a server being used for a specific purpose, your test will be running that machine for it's intended purpose, and troubleshooting if/when any errors occur. Be mindful that errors may or may not be a result of the services you've disabled, so keep an open mind when troubleshooting.

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I'd vote against bulk-disabling services - if a problem does come up, you'll have a harder time discerning (that's the right word?) the root cause. – EliadTech Jun 23 '14 at 20:23

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