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How to navigate Start in Windows Server 2012

Scott Lowe offers some tips for IT Pros new to navigating Start in the Windows Server 2012 environment. Here are some of the basics to finding your way around.

By now, everyone knows that Windows 8 sports a radical new interface, which, up until recently, Microsoft referred to as the "Metro" interface. Although the company has pulled back on using that name for the new interface, you won't escape it so easily, even if you use Windows Server 2012. Windows Server 2012, like its desktop cousin, carries with it the Metro Start screen and, like it or not, administrators will need to learn the basics behind navigating and managing this new method of interaction with a Windows server.

Getting to the Start screen

If you're using a keyboard, getting to the Start screen in Windows Server 2012 is as simple as pressing the Start button. For mouse users, getting to the Start screen involves mousing to one of the two right-hand hot spots on the screen. These are located in the upper- and lower-right hand corners of the screen. When you hover your mouse in one of those locations, you're greeted with the Charms bar, which you can see in Figure A below.

Figure A

The Charms bar in Windows Server 2012
To open the Start screen, click the Windows icon in the middle of the Charms bar. This will open a screen like the one shown in Figure B. This is the new Start screen, which replaces the eminently usable Start menu from older versions of Windows. Now, rather than a single click on an obvious screen location to open it, it requires multiple mouse movements into what seem to be random portions of the screen before that single click opens a Start screen for administrators to use.

Note that the Start screen shown in Figure B shows some options next to the Administrator account name. By clicking the icon next to the Administrator account, it becomes obvious how you either lock the server console or log out of the server altogether using the new Start screen.

Figure B

The Windows Server 2012 Start screen

The Start screen in Windows Server 2012 is a little bit less feature-filled than the one in Windows 8. This is because Windows Server 2012 doesn't actually include the WinRT/Metro runtime that enables Metro apps to execute under Windows 8. As such, some of the features that make sense in Windows 8 may not translate well into Windows Server 2012.

One such feature is an app preview mode that works quite nicely in Windows 8, but that is somewhat out of place in Windows Server 2012. Shown in Figure C, this preview area shows only a thumbnail of the desktop and nothing else.

Figure C

The preview mode isn't quite as useful in Windows Server 2012

Finding your tools

At first glance, you might wonder where all of your server tools went. After all, there are only a few tiles (the individual icons are referred to as tiles) to see, right? You see, the Start screen isn't showing you everything. If you want to see everything, just right-click somewhere in an empty space on the screen. A bar will pop up along the bottom of the screen and an icon named All Applications will appear. Click it. The result will be a window like the one shown in Figure D.

Figure D

All Apps

What you're seeing here are all of your installed applications, grouped into categories. Think of the categories as the individual folders on the old Start menu and the tiles inside each category as the utilities you need to access.

Adding a tool to the Start screen

If you have a tool you access on a regular basis, you can add it to the Start screen so that it's more immediately accessible. Right-click the tool to open the option bar at the bottom of the window (Figure E).

Figure E

The option bar has a lot of, well, options

To add the tile to your Start screen, choose the Pin to Start option.

There are a number of other options from which to choose, too:

  • Pin to taskbar. Windows 7 introduced the ability to pin applications to the taskbar. This capability is retained in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.
  • Open new window. Open the app in a new window.
  • Run as administrator. Run the application under the context of a user with administrative rights.
  • Run as different user. Run the application using a different user name and password.
  • Open file location. Open Windows Explorer at the location at which the selected tile's program exists (Figure F).

Figure F

I asked Start to open the location of the Local Security Policy shortcut.

How do I shut down or restart my server?

I'll admit it. The first time I used Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 they were in early betas and my biggest frustration was trying to figure out how to shut down my system. Fortunately, it looks like Microsoft has eased that pain just a little.

To shut down your server, open the Charms bar and go to Settings. From there, you will see an icon marked Power. You can see this option in Figure G. Simply click Power and then choose to either Shut Down or Restart your server.

Figure G

Shut down or restart your server.

Summary

With the latest Windows wave, Microsoft has made significant enough changes to the interface that many users will be initially confused about how to accomplish some of the tasks they perform every day. Hopefully, this short Start screen primer will help Windows Server admins navigate the changes a bit more easily.

About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

54 comments
murney_itservices
murney_itservices

Check out ClassicShell.net.....I've put that on ALL of our Windows8/8.1 desktops, and just installed my first 2012 Server with it. And I must say, it made Server 2012 usable for me. No problems remoting in either.

djc1309
djc1309

Thanks for the article Scott. Some things did help. I found this article by doing a google search on "Where is the Start Button in Server 2012". When I first booted up 2012 I was flabbergasted. I mean - cmon man - this is a server environment, not a gaming computer. Now you have to click on the start screen in the lower left hand corner to get to a "Start Screen" You can then right mouse click on the screen to get a bar to pop up on the bottom. You can then click on "Apps" to get SOME of the functionality that we had in Server 2008. Yes kiplandiles, I am angry. What a PITA, just to get to the run bar.

kiplandiles
kiplandiles

What a bunch of angry folks. Scott - I just fired up a 2012 VM and was flabergasted. Your post got me where I needed to be in minutes. Good post! I'm an old *nix guy and have been using various systems since 1980. 2012 is loaded with new features even if the interface is lousy it still works. I found the command line and I'm happy.

revelation.now
revelation.now

Scott..... You had one job: Tell us how to access the start menu in server 2012. You have failed at that one task.


Sorry, Scott, in the real world nobody sits in front of a real server with a real keyboard. The only time that might happen is in the middle of a lab or class or something. In the real world servers are remoted to. Sometimes through a number of hops. 


For example, Scott, to get to the Exchange server of a company, you might need to connect to the gateway server of a company, then remote from the gateway server to the exchange server. So, you have a remote desktop session (exchange) running inside a remote desktop session (gateway). Reading this article helps in absolutely no way if you want to do something as simple as bring up the start menu on remote desktop session (exchange) (if it just so happens to be running Server 2012) as the start menu runs the start menu on the local machine, and the charms don't magically appear after 1 hop.

sfurey
sfurey

GREAT post Scott, I just wanted to say thank you.  I found everything I needed, plus a learned a little bit more about some things in which I had no idea (e.g. Classic Shell).  I also read all the comments below, and while I'm still trying to keep an open mind, I have now been struggling with this for 2 full work-days (almost 20 hours now).  This is much too great of a learning curve for someone like myself (and many of the people who also posted responses), with over 20 years of experience with Windows.  It's like they hired engineers from Fisher- Price or Playskool to develop the GUI, then sat back and laughed whilst the rest of us are still trying to figure out the logic (or lack thereof).  I'm not sure if anyone is aware, but the Microsoft phones are the worst selling devices on the market - why on earth would they intentionally try to sabotage their own operating systems like this?  It just doesn't make any sense to me...

Doug_Scott
Doug_Scott

Anyone figure out how to get the charms or Start menu, or switch tasks on a Server2012 machine that I am accessing via full screen remote desktop from my Windows 8 machine?  Hot spots give me the start menu and charms that apply to my Windows 8 machine.

tipslead
tipslead

It is better to use  key combination Alt + F4 to restart the server instaed of using mouse, so that we can eliminate normal human mistakes.

b372028
b372028

 lol! What a "charm"! Someone who designed this need to understand that most of the time Servers get "remote desktop"-ed. Like me, if you were one of the few who may not have the Remote Desktop session maximized, it is crazy to discover this mysterious "charm bar" to the farthest corner at right (which may be well outside the Remote Desktop windows view)

WNangatua
WNangatua

Update.  I totally forgot of Classic Shell.  In fact, I wasted so much time gutting my servers for the upgrade that I'm almost single again!  Classic Shell has come back from the dead for me.  Have you all seen the beta?  I will try for one more time to become a single man again by forgetting I have time for a wife.  lol.

WNangatua
WNangatua

My first reaction?  I downloaded windows server 2012, installed it, and seen the win 8 interface.., quickly went back to server 2008 reinstalled Ubuntu 13.04 as a virtual machine using hyper-v and no more headaches!  I have no time to waste.  Any how, windows server 2008(r2) is great.   So it's not a total failure for ms.  They will just never be taken serious as a server foundation with me.  Just not happening!

Chf71
Chf71

Whoever decided that using the Metro interface on a server OS would be a good idea, should be fired to be never employed in IT again. And I'm being mild now... My first reaction when I tried to use Win2012 is not suitable for print.

Another solution is to make them a car with gas and brake pedal switched, steering wheel on the roof, and to open the door you have to wave your hands in a particular pattern and sequence. Then they might get the ridiculous idea out of their thick skulls that change is always better.

technomom_z
technomom_z

This sh*t makes me want to rip out my eyeballs and feed them to Steve Ballmer.

babywhy9
babywhy9

i'm a big MS fan. i love metro for my windows phone. i love the idea of metro on desktops/tablets and all using same code to deploy to all 3. but forcing metro is a prick move. its like having a toy car, gocart, and fullsize car all sharing the same engine. and the reasoning behind it is because with minor tweaks, u can use the same engine in all 3. so we will strip down the functionalities of the full size car so that it can use the same engine as my toy car. just stupid. why not allow the same engine but allow a full size 800horse power engine in the full car if the user prefers that. don't take away what isn't broken. especially something that is loved by millions of their users. i bet they spent alot of time and money trying to take out the code for the start menu when its easier for them and better for all to leave it in. i always loved MS for their advanced options when compared to apple's "1-3 options per screen so not to confuse the simple minded kids under 5 and older retired crowd and others who are simply computer illiterate or just those who see too many options and hyperventilate" MENTALITY. in the past, MS kept it as simple as possible for most users to understand while still embracing the advanced users. but with the rise of apple in the recent years, and how apple is winning overall since they design for the dummies and made a name for themselves caterring to the masses and telling them what they can or can't do and restricting them (part of my frustration with apple) is now a frustration i see in MS. i seriously don't see why MS had to force metro in desktop and especially server. MS was always about choice in the past. if u want to see advanced features, u can always do it and had shortcuts or ways to custumize the UI so u can do more with less clicks. now i'm spending so much time trying to figure out simple things as shutting down my computer disabling a service. don't get me wrong, the engineers have done a great job on the backend with some neat new technology. especially hyperV and IIS and i was so excited to start playing with it, but my frustration of navigation is really making it tough to enjoy and a waste of time. one thing i really really really hate right now (and some of u have pointed out) is having to mouse over the top right corner cuz it seems to be maybe 10pixel area so i have to move around a few times and wait another full second till i find the right spot for that charm bar to show up. i want buttons for "instant no questions asked" access. stop forcing gestures which is only accurate sometimes. also the interface of server 2012 looks very half baked, especially the color scheme of new task manager. i'm hoping 2012 R2 brings back the start menu i might have to jump to ubuntu/linux. vista was a flop, but they learned from their mistake and came out with win7. i'm sure win8 is the same situation so i'm gonna hold off for the next version.

jeff.jones
jeff.jones

I thought we put the 'screen full of icons' UI to bed when we got rid of Windows 3.1. Now its back, but with hidden 'Charms' and a crippled desktop that has to be navigated to. Once you're there, don't bother trying to launch anything from the Start Menu; you have to go back to the 'Charms' bar again to find the (don't call it Metro) start screen. At least this new UI will make it easier to run Windows 2012 on my tablet servers.

eye4bear
eye4bear

More clicks and less direct control, and this is better how MS???

feral
feral

This bringing the "Smartphone", "Tablet" to the desktop is for the next generation of dumb admins who will not be able interact with a system unless it has pictures provided to show them what to click. Microsoft are dropping the ball more and more with their interface design. They tried to appeal to the Nix crowd with Server Core but never really pushed it. Now this.

ejakob
ejakob

It’s pretty cool since you can easily bring back the functionality that has been there for decades, and which Microsoft thinks that we don’t need anymore??? It can be used in W8 and Server 2012 see http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/index.html

joe.haight
joe.haight

Why would they add additional steps to complicate the server interface? Administrators don't need a pretty interface, they need one that is easy and quick to navigate. And if "Windows Server 2012 doesn’t actually include the WinRT/Metro runtime that enables Metro apps to execute under Windows 8," maybe it's time to fork the desktop and server OS.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Using a pre-school interface on a server. Is this a joke? How can MS expect to be taken seriously in the server business with this crap? Maintaining servers is enough of a chore now. The Unix/Linux guys will be laughing their a**es of when they see this. Windows admins take enough crap as it is from them. As was mentioned by someone else, trying to fumble through this ridiculousness in a hurry is not going to make you look good.

tech
tech

Sure, everyone can bash it ... and I'm just as tempted, "but" I did enjoy server "core" with powershell for performance and security reasons (he says trying to add something positive to the comment rack). 2012??!? I do not like what I'm seeing either! I'm already starting on my Linux Redhat re-certification and will NOT be using 2012 in my corp environment. Another flop as far as I'm concerned.

simonh
simonh

While I agree that using what was called Metro on a server is just a crap idea I also have to question how often some of you guys are rebooting your servers? There are other issues you should be concerned about if you are rebooting (or shutting down) your servers more than a few times a year. And PSEXEC will continue to work fine with 2012 as it has with 2k, 2k3, 2k8 etc. we'll probably never have to use the stupid "Metro" interface anyway. Saying that, once I have a Surface Pro (or equivalent) it may be kinda nice to have the same UI when I'm RDP'ing to a server...

Gisabun
Gisabun

It's really pathetic - especially on a server - when you have to play around to find something on a server. Think of this: There is a major issue with a server. It's causing [for example] clients to shut vdown. You get on the server but because you are in a major rush, you are fumbling your way in trying to solve the problem but have to figure out the formerly-named Metro interface.

alan.schuh
alan.schuh

So, making Server look more and more like a toy. Only Microsoft would think the metro interface is any kind of improvement. Sort of reminds me of Bob. Useless.

anvanster
anvanster

That's a new moto of the Microsoft. They took "not perfect" interface of W7 and done the usual - made it suck more. I'm not a big fan of moving around with mouse and clicking menus myself, it is always being Window + R and typing required command there, or Start and typing inside search box (e.g. real improvement in W7). And I suppose new interface won't affect my life very much, but come on... But, really guys? What's the reason for my grandma to take computer courses again? She just got used to the W7 interface few months ago...

SCADAman10
SCADAman10

I have not tried "Metro" interface hands-on, but from reading this post it seems to me that it - may be fairly well suited for touchscreens on tables - somewhat worse for touch-enabled larger screens - I have much experience using touchscreens, and having to hold out your arm to reach different areas on the screen is an ergonomic nightmare, not to mention, tires you out - poorly suited for mouse users, where you need to move the mouse all over the screen in order to perform basic tasks - absolutely horrible for when you have to use a rack-mounted KVM console with a tiny trackpad, which as a system admin I have to do on more than one occasion - moving cursor to the right locations on screen will be a nightmare Previously, Microsoft have been good at making functions accessible in multiple ways - some, menu/toolbar better suited for novice users, others for power users (e.g. right-click menus) or keyboard shortcuts. I hope They will return to this philosophy with regards to the user interface.

USBPort1
USBPort1

Both Windows 8 and, now that I've seen it, Server 2012 looks like it was truly made for the computer illiterate. I've used Windows since 3.0 and remember how flat and 2-D everything looked. Through the years backgrounds, icons, etc. started to become more 3-D looking. Now, in order to sell another bell-and-whistle upgrade to Windows, it's been dumbed downed to look like a cell phone with a color palate of 1 color. Woo Hoo - makes me really want to run out and get it - NOT. What were they thinking making Server look that stupid? It's not supposed to look like a stupid cell phone. Microsoft need to get their techs out of their cubicles once in a while and see a real 3-D world again.

earlehartshorn
earlehartshorn

If you really NEED to reboot the server that often, or, if you're like me and like to reboot your workstation once a day, just make a shortcut with the command "shutdown.exe -r -t 0 -f". It's not that hard guys. I'm still trying to get used to Win8, I like my highly tweaked Win7 workstation, but if I'm going to continue to support a corporate MS environment then I have to learn to deal with Server 2012 and eventually Win8. Whining about how bad it is isn't going to fix it. And PowerShell ain't that bad.

cybershooters
cybershooters

Go to desktop mode and use powershell and the command prompt which is what Microsoft seem to be forcing us to do. Or use a Windows 7 client with RSAT (which I assume will be updated slightly for Server 2012). The reality is though that even the most hardcore server admin has to use the console on the server at least occasionally, in fact more occasionally over time, so picking up familiarity with this mess of a UI will be even harder. I had the same problem with the shutdown commands by the way, also the power settings. Use the shutdown command from the run box was my preferred way, and the power settings are still in control panel in desktop mode, what a PITA to get to them though. Anyway there are only a few genuinely new features in 2012 worth having, one of which is SMB3 and you need Windows 8 on the clients to leverage most of them. I think I can cope with 2012 on a filing server but that's about it. Unfortunately the licensing model is better for 2012 so I know clients are all going to want it because it sounds cheaper.

stephanie.white
stephanie.white

and now a "Charms Bar"? When will Microsoft realize that "Server" software should have fewer clicks to get the task at hand done, and no, mouse overs and hidden icons are not helpful. The really scary part is that most often these "new" paths to functions open the same old dialog box we had with XP and Server 2000. Sad.

RNR1995
RNR1995

Windows 8 is the ugliest interface I have ever seen in my life How this made it to the public is a definite result of Microsoft dominance in the market place, this pig would of been laughed out of any board room anywhere. We have been using MS products forever, except for Windows ME and Vista. No one is going to convince me that this interface is easier or more elegant than the previous one, I have eyes. Most people are not going to use a touch screen, I just do not understand why you would force all of your users to use a touch interface with a keyboard...OH that's right your the 800 lb Gorilla.....

allenm
allenm

"If you’re using a keyboard, getting to the Start screen in Windows Server 2012 is as simple as pressing the Start button." I'm sorry but my keyboard doesn't have anything labeled "Start." I had the dame problem when they switched to the "Office Button." I guess I'm a little dense. Don't assume I already know what you are taking about. Thank you.

nick.ferrar
nick.ferrar

It's like Microsoft are deliberately making the GUI painful to use to force everyone to switch to Powershell. Thing is for vast majority of server admins Powershell is just a PITA, they don't do enough routine admin jobs to warrant scripting and infrequent tasks are generally much better handled via a GUI which not only can incorporate validation and warnings much easier but also allows the admin to check things as he's going (like security group names) rather than gather all the info in advance.

djc1309
djc1309

@Doug_Scott  I have found that if you drag your mouse down to the lower left hand corner you will see the start screen. If you right mouse click on the little start screen you can get a portion of the start menu that you have in server 2008. The task manager is in this menu.

dmood
dmood

Classis Shell - Very nice! thank you, ejakob!

rick@Hogans-Systems.com
rick@Hogans-Systems.com

Perhaps it might be a good idea to spend a few minutes learning how the new interface works, before you are faced with a major issue in a production environment? I don't know, I guess I'm just an old-fashioned computer guy... Rick

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

The Windows Server 2012 Start screen may be in question, but the OS itself is far from dumbed down. I see it as a huge step forward for MS... except for the Start screen. Scott

nathan
nathan

You don't have to learn to deal with Windows 8 or Server 2012. You can do like most of corporate world did with Vista. Refuse to buy it. If there is a strong enough backlash then MS will have to reconsider both. I predict that Windows 8 and server 2012 will be largely ignored by MS biggest customers. THAT will make them reconsider it.

jcbronson
jcbronson

I have been screaming for years about this very fact. Make the name / intuitive path / etc completely different, but still lead you to the same old & busted dialog box - c'mon M$. Is the only purpose of the expensive upgrade to make us learn a new process for the same work just so that you can change the certification exam answers? Why not focus on something a little more near and dear to our hearts like ending, once-and-for-all that damn focus stealing behavior that is the bane of every multi-tasking user's existence?

cybershooters
cybershooters

It's usually between Ctrl and Alt on the bottom left of the keyboard.

cybershooters
cybershooters

...is that powershell appeared to me (when Microsoft showed me how to use it in a product demo that I went to) to be a way of making IT systems jobs very specialized so we could all master this stupid piece of software and then say to employers how wonderful we are. Which everyone thought was a backward step because it was like going back to DOS but hey, at least it would keep us in a job. Few years later, now they're trying to put us out of a job with the "cloud" and they think developers are all that matters. It's all revenue driven, okay make administrators Gods then they'll thank us by buying our software because it's so specific, oh we can't make any more money out of that, let's move to a subscription based licensing model and call it the "cloud", oh Apple is killing us with the iPad, let's make Windows work better on tablets because we can't sell anything more to enterprises, etc. Microsoft has just created this monster that needs to be kept fed with large amounts of money and so they keep lurching from one thing to another, it'll be interesting to see what happens if Windows 8 is a major flop as most people are predicting.

info
info

They want the 'power-user' nerds to take them more seriously, because without the serious CLI of a *NIX system, you're not a 'real' admin or super-user, right? But they also want the 'Computers for Dummies' crowd that are flocking to tablets and the like for the 'easy to use' interface that serves up their Email and 'Angry Birds' apps. In trying to be all things to all people, they're rapidly becoming nothing for anybody. If anything, this will push MORE people towards Mac and the other alternatives. We went from 'Start Button' -> 'Shutdown' to 'Invisible Area' -> 'Settings on Charms Bar' -> 'Power' -> 'ShutDown'? I can sort of see this on a Server OS, but if it's the same on Windows 8...*Shakes head* How do you intuitively conclude that turning off the system is a 'setting'?!? Maybe they're also trying to coax us to leave our computers on 24/7? Because why wouldn't we, I guess...

simonh
simonh

Always include a restart button... Any other instances where the option to restart will be difficult to find, once a month?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

just as soon as it looks like I'm going to have it inflicted on me.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I just made a mistake. After all, I am human ;-) Scott

Craig_B
Craig_B

Businesses have realized that people owning an item only leads to the initial sale of the item, though a subscription brings in constant money since you never really own anything. Another option is vendor lock in, such as Apple's model where all sales go through Apple. Some may take a hybrid approach. Microsoft big play is to get people into the cloud so they can use the subscription based model. IT Administrative jobs will dwindle with this model as more things are centralized though you need applications so developers will grow. Microsoft seems to be limiting Partners, OEMs, etc and attempting to funnel more things through them. Microsoft never really seems to create anything new but just copies what works for others, in this case they are following Apple. That seems to only leave the Linux model as giving people the freedom of choice without subscriptions and vendor lock in.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Who saw this interface coming from two version back?

simonh
simonh

I'm getting a restart button today on my 2012 server once the updates are installed.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Always include a restart button..." No, updates for previous version of Windows Server have always included a Restart button. As we're seeing, the past doesn't always predict the future.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We just finished getting the last servers off 2003 and either upgraded to or replaced by 2008. We're still wrestling with the Exchange migration. We don't usually upgrade servers anyway, choosing to install or provision new instead. It may be a while before I see Server 12. Fortunately, unlike desktop operating systems, I usually have no problem getting time and money to go to training.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

While I question the overall interface decision, unlike Windows 8, I see Windows Server 2012 as a must-have over time. It has a boatload of improvements over older versions. I definitely don't see it as an negative option at all. Scott

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I wondered if this was another change I missed. Thanks for the clarification.