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.


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.