Getting to Know Windows 2012

Windows Server 2012 provides a new and quite different user experience. If you are an old-timer Windows user, you may experience a little bit of a shock initially. The Start menu is gone.  The Desktop is empty, except for a Recycle Bin (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. The Windows Server 2012 Desktop (default).

How do I open the Internet Explorer? How do I populate the Desktop with some familiar and common tools, such as Control Panel and Command Prompt? How do I restart or shutdown the machine?

Well, Windows 2012 requires us to change behaviors and learn new ways of doing things. For example, to browse the web, you hover the mouse near the top-right or bottom-right corners of the screen. After a brief moment, you will see some icons (such as Search, Start and Settings). Click on the Start icon to open the Start screen. Then click on the Internet Explorer icon to open the browser.

Another good example is shutting down or restarting the server. Again, hover your mouse, click on the Settings icon. And you will see some Settings options. Notice a Power icon on the lower half of the Settings screen. Click on the Power icon, and you can then click on either Shout down or Restart.

By now, we have realized that it takes quite a few mouse clicks to perform common tasks as simple as browsing the web or shutting down the machine. Is there a simpler way? You bet. Below I’ll describe some tips and shortcuts, and hopefully, they can save some mouse clicks and help you (and myself) perform common operations more efficiently.

Populating the Desktop with shortcuts

Recall that on Windows Server 2008 or prior, we can create shortcuts for applications and tools on the Desktop. To launch an application or a tool, we only need to double click on its shortcut icon. We can do the same on Windows Server 2012. Below are three examples.

  • Control Panel – To create a shortcut for Control Panel, simply click on the folder icon on the Task bar to open the Desktop folder (see Figure 2). Notice that the Control Panel icon is already there. Simply drag it to the Desktop as shown in Figure 3. Now, we can double click on the shortcut to open the Control Panel, just as we used to.

Figure 2. Clicking the folder icon on the Task bar.

Figure 3. Drag and drop the Control Panel icon to create a shortcut.

  • Internet Explorer – To create a shortcut for Internet Explorer, navigate to the C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer folder (see Figure 4), right click on iexplore, select Send to, then click on Desktop (create shortcut). This will create a shortcut for Internet Explorer on the Desktop (see Figure 5).

Figure 4. Creating a shortcut for Internet Explorer.

Figure 5. The Internet Explorer shortcut on the Desktop.

  • Command Prompt – To create a shortcut for Command Prompt, navigate to the C:\Windows\System32 folder (see Figure 6), right click on cmd, select Send to, then click on Desktop (create shortcut). This result is shown in Figure 7.

Figure 6. Creating a shortcut for Command Prompt. 

Figure 7. The Command Prompt shortcut on the Desktop.

Creating a Restart button

Restarting the server involves a mouse hover and several clicks. It can be done by a single mouse click if we create a Restart button. Here are the steps.

  • Create a Shutdown shortcut – This step is similar to how we created the shortcut for Command Prompt. Navigate to the C:\Windows\System32 folder, right click on shutdown, select Send to, and click on Desktop (create shortcut). This results in a Shutdown shortcut on the Desktop (see Figure 8).

Figure 8. The Shutdown shortcut on the Desktop.

  • Specify the Restart action – The shutdown command can do either shutdown or restart, depending on which command-line option we use: “/r” means restart and “/s” means shutdown. Right click the Shutdown shortcut and bring up its Properties dialog box. Append “/r” to the Target: edit box (see Figure 9).

Figure 9. Appending command line option /r.

  • Change the icon – Next, click on the Change Icon button, select the Shutdown icon (see Figure 10) and click OK to close the Change Icon dialog box. Click OK again to exit the Properties dialog box.

Figure 10. Changing icon for the Shutdown shortcut.

  • Add the Restart button to the Task bar - Simply drag the customized Shutdown (i.e., Restart) shortcut to the Task bar (see Figure 11). Then, delete the Shutdown shortcut on the Desktop to avoid accidentally hitting it. Now, you will be able to restart the server by just single click on the Restart button on the Task bar.

Figure 11. Adding the Restart button to the Task bar.

Windows Server 2012 offers a new user experience, a lot of opportunities for learning and discovery, and some surprises too. At the same time, it is not too difficult to customize it to your liking.

Thanks for reading.

  • You probably know the Windows key launches Start. What if there’s no Windows key?Ctrl+Esc also does the job; hitting the combination a second time returns you to the desktop. Just like Windows 8, when the Start Menu is displayed, you can simply start typing in an application’s name.
  • Another way is to position your cursor in the very upper right of the screen to bring up the Charms menu (next), then choose Start. (Too slow, in my book.)
  • Or, you can hover in the lower left corner by the task bar, wait for a miniature version of the Start screen to appear, and choose that. I’ve had mixed success with this, and I generally have little patience to get my cursor just right.