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As the best practice of the latest few years, .local domain is not a good way to be deployed in any environment. The main reason for this is that since November 1 2015, will end the ability to have .local domains in public certificates. This will also apply in small environments, because we also use that certificates (for example we use them in Remote desktop services, Exchange, Remote web workplace…). On the other way, it is also not a good choice to have the internal domain name the same as the external. I would suggest you, for the internal domain name, to choose some kind of subdomain of the public domain name. For example, we can use as public (external) domain name and as internal (Active Directory) domain name.
When you install the Essentials Server 2012R2, you will not be able to choose the internal domain name as you want, but this is simply your NetBIOS domain with.local extension in the end – exactly the type of extension we want to avoid.
Here is the step-by-step guide how to install Essentials server with different, more accurate options. In the example we have below, we will install Essentials server with NetBIOS domain name MyCompany, AD domain name, server name MyServer and company name MyCompany. In your installation, you have to change the variables to your desired values.

The installation begins with a normal server installation from a media and after the server restarts, when the Configure Windows Server Essentials wizard will appear, you can see that you have no place to write your AD domain name (picture 1).

Picture 1
At this point, just close this wizard with cancel (picture 2).

Picture 2
Open the PowerShell as Administrator and write the syntax:
Start-WssConfigurationService -CompanyName “MyCompany” -DNSName “” -NetBiosName “MyCompany” -ComputerName “MyServer” –NewAdminCredential $cred -Setting All
The explanation of all used switches is available on TechNet. Enter your AD administrator credentials in the window that will appear. This will be the new administrator – the same as you configure it in the Essential server wizard (picture 3).

Picture 3
When the system will prompt, if you want to continue the Essentials server configuration, just click Y (picture 4).

Picture 4
Exit from PowerShell and the server will restart. After this, when you log in, you will see that the wizard Configure Windows Server Essentials will run. You have just to wait that it will finish. At this point the wizard has all the information it needs and you are not able to change them (picture 5).

Picture 5
This is all you need to do. As you can see in the picture 6, now we have installed the server with a non .local domain and with all the settings we want.

Picture 6

20 Responses to Step-by-step install Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2 with non local domain

    • elvis says:

      Of course. You can use any domain name, but my suggestion is to use a subdomain of public used company domain.

      • Olea says:

        Thanks for your answer! i tryed with a different domain name (as well as subdomains) and seems like it does not allow me to use the .mx suffix.

        if i use something like “” its ok for the setup process …
        it reports me an error if I add the “.mx” Do you know if it is restricted?

        or can you try and test this example: “”?
        than you very much for your help!

        • elvis says:

          Hm, I don’t know why. The “.mx” domain is just a domain. Maybe it was something wrong with resolving it? Internet connection?

  • Randy says:

    I found this article and have used the technique 3 times now. I was thrown by the fact that the “Enter your AD administrator credentials in the window that will appear. This will be the new administrator – the same as you configure it in the Essential server wizard” REQUIRES an answer DIFFERENT than the “administrator” login created when first installing Windows 2012r2. Once I got past trying to figure out what the error message was all about and put in a different user name and password. (I am NOT joining this to an existing domain so I am setting up a new AD Administrator) It worked exactly as expected.

    There is a noticeable time delay between when you exit power shell and the system reboots. Something that is a little disconcerting after just seeing several errors (because of the user/password miss understanding) and wondering if something is broken.

    Third time’s the charm! :)

    Thank you very much for this article. I wonder why the world is not beating down your door. I have chosen to register a second “short as possible” for my clients to use as their internal domain. I also use the “short” domain name for their Office 365 account initial internal domain.


  • JamesH says:

    Thanks for this tip – extremely useful. I have been testing it for use with a Windows 2012 R2 Std on which the Essentials Experience role has been enabled (not a Windows 2012 R2 Essentials SKU). So this is Windows 2012 R2 Std install with the Essentials Experience role installed, then a reboot performed and then the PowerShell script is run. It works well with one or two small changes that i would like to document here if anyone else stumbles across this blog page.

    1) The server rejects the -Setting All parameter for some reason. I omitted it in the end because it is simply the Windows Updates config which you can do later in the GUI.

    2) I discovered that whatever I did, the server completely ignored the -ComputerName “MyServer” parameter. When the server rebooted the server name had not changed. This was annoying because once AD is installed, you can’t change the server name through the GUI. I believe there may be some registry hack or script you can use to change the name but this seems unclean. So, I started again and simply named the server to my required name when it was in workgroup mode, then ran the script. I kept the parameter in the script, just in case, but reading Technet, it seems it’s not required, so you can probably leave it out.

    So this is the script I used:

    Start-WssConfigurationService -CompanyName “MyCompany” -DNSName “” -NetBiosName “MyCompany” -ComputerName “MyServer” –NewAdminCredential $cred

    And as Randy says, there is a noticeable time delay between closing PowerShell and the server rebooting – it appears as though nothing is happening but just leave it and it will reboot (you can check Task manager to see that it is indeed doing something behind the scenes).

    • elvis says:

      Thank you for comments.
      You are totally right.
      1. As you write, this is an Windows Update setting and can be changed later without any problem. The succes of this setting of course depend on many things (internet connection, …) and can fail.
      2. True. My Mistake. DC name can not be changed, but you can use the same script if you want to install a new domain on Essentials server (if you don’t want a .local domain). There you need to specify a computer name.
      Thank you for a comment.

  • Ken Royer says:

    This article was found after trying to use an answer file a few times, thanks for writing it. I had no errors and now I am having trouble after reboot joining PC’s to the
    Anyone else have this? to me it sounds like a DNS lookup issue but I see nothing wrong

  • Ken Royer says:

    Figured it out, small office everyone was on wifi and I didnt have the server as primary DNS, !!
    Thanks again for the instructions can’t believe <S just didnt allow the .com in the first place

    • elvis says:

      Not really agree with you. If you have server in company, it is always the best choice to put this server as DNS.
      Otherwise, if you look to company without server, then this article is not for you and it doesn’t matter if it is on wireless or wired network. As I know all access points and routers they have an option to disable DHCP and change DNS server.

  • PhilFCS says:

    After running this command upon reboot I’m finding I have no active directory users and computers tools and I cannot edit group policies on the domain, almost like I’m not a full admin for some reason. Anyone else run into this?

    • elvis says:

      Something went wrong between instalation. The istalation in this mode could not modify the installation of ADDS tools or roles.
      In any case, you can try to add this snap ins manually, but I am affraid that there are more problems in the installation.

      • PhilFCS says:

        My bad, I made too many changes at once it seems, I had a few dozen updates still pending reboot when I ran the powershell command, I let it reboot and it finished the updates. After the reboot I had some issues, no ADDS tools (found an article that says the powershell doesn’t add them like the wizard does, so added them manually)

        I had other strange issues, couldn’t authorize DHCP server, error said it couldn’t find AD. Couldn’t edit the 2 default group policies. (edit greyed out)
        I had a robocopy running so didn’t want to reboot until it was done but the good old “Did you reboot it?” seems to have solved the strangeness. After a second reboot I can auth the dhcp and edit gp.
        Hopefully this helps someone else!

  • Chris Hall says:

    I am installing Windows 2012 Essentials that came with my new Dell R320 server and I can perform the Cancel as you describe. It only has back and next.

    What am I missing? I really need this to be a .com server. I had found steps to change it later, but I worry there will be lingering issues later.


  • Chris Hall says:

    I am trying to use your script, but I keep getting an error message saying Start-WSSConfiguraitionService does not exist.

    I am doing it a bit different. my install CD does not allow me to exit where yours does, so I was following James’s post about doing it after the install and the restart. But as I said it keeps saying that it is not a valid program script.

    • elvis says:

      You have to instal complete server from CD! You have to breake role instalation after the logon to the server is done.

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About me


I am working in IT for more than 10 years, concerning most of my time with small companies. A result of this work is a good knowledge of problems and products used in that companies, like Windows Small Business Server, System Center Essentials, Windows OS ecc.
In the last three years I am also Microsoft Partner Area Lead for CEE and Slovenia and I lead a Slovenian SBS Community on Microsoft.
In my privat life I like listen to rock music, archery and constructing biiig houses with Lego cubes – of course with my son!