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I've been searching nearly an hour for a definitive answer and I've come up empty so far. Can anyone confirm, one way or another, whether SQL Express (version 2012 or later) can be installed on Windows Server Core 2012 R2?

I tried it myself with command line parameters, and I got an error message that the parameter "userName" was missing. I couldn't find any documentation that made reference to such a parameter.

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According to Microsoft, it can:

Not all SQL Server features are supported though.

To install SQL Server Engine only, hiding all dialogs whilst showing the progress log, with Mixed Mode authentication with the MyServer\Administrator being an administrator and setting the "sa password to MySekretPasswyrd, with TCP/IP enabled and specifying the product ID of ABCDE-FGHIJ-KLMNO-PQRST-UVWXY:

Setup.exe /QS /ACTION=Install /FEATURES=SQLEngine /INSTANCENAME=MSSQLSERVER /SQLSVCACCOUNT=”NT Authority\System” /SQLSYSADMINACCOUNTS=”MyServer\Administrator” /AGTSVCACCOUNT=”NT AUTHORITY\Network Service” /SECURITYMODE=SQL /SAPWD="MySekretPasswyrd" /TCPENABLED=1 /PID=ABCDE-FGHIJ-KLMNO-PQRST-UVWXY /IACCEPTSQLSERVERLICENSETERMS=1

If you are installing several database servers, it might make more sense for you to put most of these parameters into a configuration file and use that during installation.

See Install SQL Server from the Command Prompt | Microsoft Docs for more on the command line parameters

As for your error, is it possible you didn't specify a system administrator account at all?

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I'm going to mark Pak's answer correct, for confirming that it can indeed be done. I tried a few more times before finally hitting upon the correct combination of parameters. Here's the one that worked:

Setup.exe /q /ACTION=Install /FEATURES=SQL /INSTANCENAME=MSSQLSERVER /SQLSVCACCOUNT="<Domain>\Administrator" /SQLSVCPASSWORD="<password>" /TCPENABLED=1 /IACCEPTSQLSERVERLICENSETERMS

This was for SQL 2014 Express on Windows Server Core 2012 R2

  • Glad to be of help. – Pak May 27 '17 at 11:05

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