Connecting a Windows Home Client to Windows Server Essentials
As mentioned, if you have a PC running a Home edition of Windows, it’s still invited to the Essentials party. Just remember that while PC Backups and Shared Folder features of Essentials will be available to you, any feature that requires a domain, such as Group Policy configuration and management, will not. You’ll continue to sign into the Home PC with your local account or Microsoft account credentials.
The process to connect a Home PC to Windows Server Essentials is very similar to that which we just walked through. However, you’ll need to supply the server administrator’s account details in the Configuration wizard. Obviously, the steps we took to create and configure domain accounts on the Windows Pro PC are not required.
The Third Way: Connecting a Windows Pro PC to Windows Server Essentials Without Joining the Domain
So far we’ve connected a Windows Pro PC to Windows Server Essentials and joined the PC to the server domain. This creates a new, clean and sparking domain user account. We’ve also connected a Windows Home PC to the Essentials network, retaining our existing local account details and associated files and folders. There’s a third scenario you may have guessed.
What if you have a Windows Pro PC that’s been around for some time, with local or Microsoft accounts packed full of apps, folders and files? Connecting it to the server requires a new domain account, and none of those files and folders will be automatically migrated to that domain account. Some users out there simply don’t want the hassle of having to migrate everything over to a new account!
This scenario can be served by an unsupported workaround. One that has been published by Microsoft, but is strictly unsupported. Meaning: “don’t come to us (or me, for that matter) if everything blows up.”
The workaround, as outlined on Microsoft Technet (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2752321) requires you to edit the Windows Registry with a setting that will skip the domain join process. Before proceeding with this option, you should backup your registry settings (details here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/322756).
Remember, this option is supported only on PCs running a “Pro” version of Windows, such as
- Windows 10 Enterprise
- Windows 10 Pro
- Windows 8 Enterprise
- Windows 8 Professional
- Windows 7 Enterprise
- Windows 7 Ultimate
- Windows 7 Professional
- All features that are available only to domain-joined computers (for example, domain credentials, Group Policy, and VPN) will not be available to this PC
- All third-party add-ins and applications that are available only to domain-joined computers will not work on this PC
Happy to proceed? OK, first, open an elevated command prompt on the client computer. To do this, on a Windows 10 PC, right-click the Start button and select Command Prompt (Admin). If you’re running an earlier release of Windows you can get to an elevated Command Prompt via the following steps:
- In Windows 8, go to the Start screen, type cmd, right-click the Command Prompt icon on the left side of the screen, and then click Run as administrator at the bottom of the screen.
- In Windows 7, click Start, type cmd in the Start search box, right-click cmd.exe, and then click Run as administrator.
At the command prompt, type the following command, and then press Enter (ignore the line break below, it’s just one command):
reg add “HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Server\ClientDeployment” /v SkipDomainJoin /t REG_DWORD /d 1
Now, follow the steps outlined earlier to connect your Windows Pro client PC to the Windows Essential Server. When you reach the step below, which asks you for your “new network user name and password”, you actually need to enter your Server Administrator details, rather than your user account details.
If you try entering standard server user account credentials at this point, they will be rejected.
Proceed with the remaining steps of configuration, which will flow just as if you’re connecting a Windows Home PC.
You can back up and restore your Windows Pro PCs and take advantage of many Windows Server Essentials features, without the need to migrate the data from your existing Windows Pro PC account to a new domain-joined user account.
As mentioned, this is an unsupported feature and should only be implemented by the brave, foolish or desperate! There’s absolutely no guarantee that issues will not happen down the line – however, many users successfully run client PCs with Windows Server Essentials using this workaround. Your mileage may vary however and if it does, you’re on your own!
You can proceed to install the Windows Server 2016 Essentials Connector on your remaining PCs and continue on to your next adventure. Before we leave this section, however, there is one more item to take a quick look at, which is our growing “devices” list in the Dashboard. Remember, you can connect up to fifty devices in Windows Server 2016 Essentials. If you lose a hard drive on a computer, you can perform a Bare Metal Restore of that computer in only a few hours. If you lose the complete computer, you can restore any of the data needed to a new PC.