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Server 2016 Essentials domain restrictions?


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I see domain restrictions mentioned in places here and by Microsoft, but I really do not understand what domains are and I do see that 2016 Essentials install requires a domain location to be defined what cannot then be changed other than by complete install.


For instance, can I still have WHS2011 and Win 10 Microservers (also 2 QNAP NAS) on the same home network as a new Gen 10 with 2016 essentials?


I'm a real newbie as far as this is concerned, so helpful advice would be much apppreciated.

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  • schoondoggy


  • TomP


  • nrf


while you must assign a active directory domain name for the essentials server, if you are very careful you can register your clients without having them become domain members. if you use the 'workgroup' for anything just note that the essential server will be in a domain not a workgroup.


you should be able to find instructions on how to do it via your favorite search engine, for example... server-essentials site . I saved the registry snippet in a .reg file and kept it handy. some odd things can go wrong, you will find some discussions in these forums :( . my approach for the client join includes the following which someone might consider voodoo but as I said odd things...

  • manually set dns servers to the target essentials server's IP then the router
  • turn off ipv6
  • launch the downloaded connector file with 'run as administrator'

at the end, if it tells you it is necessary to log off you will know you forgot to run the skipdomainjoin script.


good luck and as always have fun learning!


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Thanks Neil. I have a number of questions on your comments..


"while you must assign a active directory domain name for the essentials server"

> as a newbie, I have heard the terms but do not understand the significance of active directory or domain, although I do know the domain name has to be fixed during installation. Can you help?


"if you use the 'workgroup' for anything just note that the essential server will be in a domain not a workgroup"

All my clients are in Workgroup so what is the significance of the server being in a domain instead?


"for example... server-essentials site . I saved the registry snippet in a .reg file and kept it handy"

> The link shows a process very similar to WHS2011 connector install, but does not mention the registry snippet. where do I find this?


"at the end, if it tells you it is necessary to log off you will know you forgot to run the skipdomainjoin script"

> what is the skipdomain script as I do not see this described in the link?


Also do you have a comment on Essentials having a restriction on being the only domain server and whether my WHS2011, Win 10 and 2x QNAP servers can co-exist on the same network?


Finally can 2016 Essentials license keys be re-used / migrated from de-commisioned servers to my new installation?


Apologies in advance if my newbie questions have blindingly obvious answers, but I'm entirely ignorant at the moment sand don't want to launch into the time and cost of a new server without knowing what I'm doing and how to re-install the license if I get it wrong.


Thanks in advance for your patient help...TomP


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I was hoping you would get out there and read some stuff.

1) just make up a name like "FLUFFYDOM" and try to ignore the domain in general
2) practically speaking no significance other than perhaps the server may not show up in the "network" tab of file explorer
3,4) the "snippet" is

reg add "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Server\ClientDeployment" /v SkipDomainJoin /t REG_DWORD /d 1

which you can put in a text file to copy/paste into a comand line or a .bat file to double-click. I stopped doing the '.reg' approach a while back but that will work too, for your purposes the .bat or pasting into cmd should be sufficient.
5) I don't think there is anything keeping you from having multiple domains if that is your thing. but you can't set up a secondary domain server to go with the essentials server as I understand it

6) I won't even begin to try to understand the legal ins-and-outs of the licensing. I can say from experience that from time to time when rebuilding servers I have had to do manual validations of the license via phone/app and certify at that time that I have only one instance running with that key.


in general I find server16 a more stable upgrade from the old whs based on 2008r2. However I find the "windows server backup service" still has oddities and I am considering replacing that with Veeam.

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Hi Neil.

I certainly have indeed tried to Google stuff, but when I come across links, they seem to assume existing knowledge of what a domain is, then quickly jump to Active Directory, DNS, Network Discovery, etc which seem corporate stuff far beyond my current knowledge. 


The only think I'm certain of is that I don't want a Domain controller (my router can do part of that, DHCP at least) as I just want to replace my WHS2011. However once you helpfully indicate a problem, that enables me to search for specifics about a solution. I have come across this which seems to indicate that 2016 Essentials can be part of my workgroup instead...



...so am I misreading this, but if not, how would I install 2016 Essentials in the first place as a Domain name seems to be mandatory? Also would this mean that it would appear on my Network on File Explorer?


I did also find 2016 Essentials Client Restore problems caused by UEFI client settings. Most web pages show a method that is incorrect on all my Win 7 Pro PCs but a helpful page showed how to check if I am using it and fortunately all my PCs are BIOS.


I have also found conflicting web pages on whether or not I could migrate my current hard drives from my N40L into the new 2016 Essentials server, then configure backup to use the transferred old backups. Could you help clarify?


Many thanks for your patient help...TomP

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some of that article didn't make sense. essentials is not essentials? it also mentions 2012r2 a lot. what I see on my 2016 essentials machine is I cannot rename it until I remove some rolese/services, which I am not about to play around with. maybe someday when I am really bored. (not likely)


I for one don't use the network part of the explorer much, I pin file shares/folders of interest to my explorer icon and in the odd case of something else use windows-run and start typing from the \\server.... part.


I am not sure what you are afraid of, you don't have the server doing dhcp unless you tell it so. you can add and remove roles as you wish. (ymmv)


the UEFI stuff is interesting. When I build my USB thumb drives, be they for win10 full install or server 2016 client recovery I always do them in pairs, one for uefi and one for bios, and carefully mark them as such.


as to using old client backups in a newer server I have no experience to contribute. I can say that the fact that one of my servers is a domain has not stopped me from anything I wanted to do.

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Hi Neil,

I have bought and read a book on installing / configuring 2016 Essentials as well as going through many sites on the web to understand what I need to do, but constantly see many WHS2011 users have problems migrating. These issues seem to centre on DHCP, DNS, Domain access and Connector install with very long threads trying to fix things without fully resolving the issues. These are also echoed on in the book where frequently I see comments "..if this does not work, then try (that)...". I also have many non-Windows devices which have use the router for DHCP and DNS so even partial solutions offered are not feasible.


I've decided that this is all significantly beyond my ability to comprehend and implement, let alone maintain myself in the future, so the significant cost of buying a new server is too high a risk to be comfortable and I have officially given up on Server 2016 Essentials.


To be honest, if I had to buy a new server to replace my N40L, I would re-install WHS2011, but that is impractical given the need to support W10 and larger disks. My thinking now is more to update my Gen 8 (currently W10) CPU / memory / more hard  disk capacity, so is there some other more home-newbie-friendly application that might be worth considering?


Thanks again...TomP

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I am sure there are good reasons to run a domain at home, There may be requirements to run a domain with Windows Server. I gave up on running a domain at home years ago. There always seemed to be issues and maintenance. As much as I like playing with tech, I don't want to be a network and server admin all the time. I let my firewall handle DHCP, DNS and such. My storage devices are setup for backup and recovery points and media streaming. If you want to stay with Microsoft, Windows 10 Pro works OK for a storage OS. If you want something light to run on the N40l, FreeNAS or OpenMediaVault are worth looking at. For your MS Gen8, you may want to look at unRAID.

Just my two cents. 

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so what is your use case for the whs replacement? for backing up clients I've been playing with Veeam (free version), which lets you create one backup schedule on each machine without $$$...and I do some manual backups with it. The recovery keys it produces are great for including drivers that might not be in microsoft's recovery keys and thus trigger some weird behavior should you try to do a bare metal recovery. for pure NAS solutions there are many many choices of which only a few involve windows. In fact, as I have been let down by hyper-v and windows server backup service, I am working toward alternate environments all around.

Edited by nrf
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