Those who have taken the plunge and upgraded their servers to Windows Server 2012 will notice that, like earlier versions of Windows Server, you cannot change the window border colours like you can on their desktop counterparts. This will be down to Microsoft stripping out any features that may present a security risk out of the OS, leaving you with a nice, simple and secure environment – after all, you don’t need hot pink borders in a server environment. With Windows 2008 and below this was fine, as you were stuck with the boring, yet very functional grey theme. Those who have made the move to Server 2012 however will be greeted with a slightly less pleasing neon blue affair.
Once your pupils have adjusted and your retinas have stopped burning, let’s find out what we need to do to change the colours…
Installing the Desktop Experience feature in Server 2012.
When you log into your server, you should be greeted with the Server Manager. If you have this set to not appear on startup, you can find it in the Taskbar or by hitting the Windows key and typing ‘Server’. You can then select it from the results.
In the top right of the window, click the Manage menu and select the Add Roles and Features option.
By default, the radio button for Role-based or feature-based installation should be selected. If not, select it and click Next.
Again, on this page, the Select a server from the server pool radio button should be selected. If you need to manage another server, then you will need to select that server from the list. Click Next.
On the next page, the Server Roles menu is selected. Click the Features menu and then find User Interfaces and Infrastructure in the list. Expand this and tick the Desktop Experience box, then click Next.
If you want the server to automatically restart after installing the feature, tick the box. If not, just click Install.
The next page will show the progress. Once the bar is filled, you will be reminded to restart the server. You can do this by hovering your mouse at the top-right of the screen, selecting the Settings option, then Power, then Restart. You can also open a Command Prompt and type shutdown -r.
Once the server has restarted and you have logged back in, you can right-click on the desktop and you will see the Personalize option available to you.
If you are familiar with the process, you can take it from here. If not, read on.
Changing the border colours.
Once you are in the Personalisation screen, select Color at the bottom of the window.
You can then select the colour from the palette. You can also use the mixer to select a custom colour. Click Save Changes when you’re done.
If you want to change the Start Menu colour theme, you can do this by hovering your mouse at the top-right of the screen and selecting Settings, then clicking Change PC settings.
In the PC settings menu, the Personalize menu should already be selected. At the top on the right panel, click the Start screen menu and select the desired theme. Close the window with Alt+F4 or by dragging the whole page down to the bottom of the screen with the mouse.
And that’s all there is to it. Of course it does mean installing some additional features, and ideally Microsoft would have picked a colour that is more pleasing to the eye if they are omitting the option to change the colours by default. I must point out that I wouldn’t recommend performing this change to your Server 2012 installation if you are running in a live production environment. As I pointed out at the start, Microsoft disabled this feature in the first place to tighten up security. The Desktop Experience feature not only includes the ability to change the visuals, but it also installs some other desktop applications, such as sound recorder and Windows Media Player. By installing the Desktop Experience feature, you are adding those potential attack zones back into Server 2012, so be warned!