What's some neat stuff I can use Windows Server for?

I haven’t got any professional IT certifications, or any IT qualifications beyond a generic “I can do the computer” grade from school. At university, I did a social sciences degree. So basically I lack the educational background for a gig in IT. I run a bunch of Linux servers on a voluntary basis for a global non-profit so I’m not without any level of experience, just don’t really have any pieces of paper to show for it.

I recently landed an interview for an IT position managing a school network, providing IT support to staff, configuring new systems - basic stuff to a lot of you. The job went over to a “slightly more experienced candidate”. The interviewer, who was the head of IT at the school, seemed genuinely impressed with my Linux background even without the professional / educational background, but when asked if I’d ever used Windows Server in a production environment I had to say no. This seemed to put me back a few points.

Not saying I didn’t get the job solely because I haven’t used Windows Server in production, but I’m of the mind that it had something to do with the position to someone “slightly” more experienced.

Trouble is - when I think of stuff that I could do with a server, Windows never seems to fit the bill so I don’t really know what I could work on to get a foothold in Windows IT administration. So how could I get started? Or is the answer to seek some courses / certification?


To be honest, I think you do have something to show by running Linux servers – most IT professionals never get the chance to do anything with Linux.

Honestly, I have been in IT for about 6 years and I now in my 7th year I finally have a gig doing Linux stuff – and I REALLY enjoy it due to how deep I can dig into these issues. My biased suggestion is to keep digging with Linux because when you go to the interviews an actual technical person will respect your knowledge and skills. Try to look for job postings that require Linux experience because they are so much more fun and actually build your knowledge versus just being a statistic on a help desk.


You’re in an interesting position. Most of the time I’m answering this from the other direction. The answer that way is, “Whatever you’re familiar doing in Windows, do it in Linux.” So take Windows and Linux, and swap them. You need to fire up a new web server, fire up a Window VM and IIS. Need a MySQL database for something? Fire up Windows and SQL Server. Or fire up whatever you need in a Windows VM rather than a Linux VM.

You can download the trial edition of Windows Server. When I get home, I can post the wget command so you won’t have to give them your email address, and you can just have the Windows Server 2016 ISO.


@Levitance that’s awesome I didn’t know you could just wget windows server

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Alright then. I went the extra mile, forwarded the email I sent to my friends to my work address, and now here’s the command for the forum.

wget http://care.dlservice.microsoft.com/dl/download/1/4/9/149D5452-9B29-4274-B6B3-5361DBDA30BC/14393.0.161119-1705.RS1_REFRESH_SERVER_EVAL_X64FRE_EN-US.ISO

Or you can just throw that in a web browser and download it. Whatevs. I got that link because I was sick of registering every time I lost my Server 2016 ISO. So I registered one more time, hovered over the link, and that’s the result.


That’s an interesting perspective, thank you. But does it not highlight the issue a bit more, do you think? If IT positions are generally Windows based, then isn’t it the lack of Windows knowledge on my part a prohibitive factor in getting an IT role more fundamentally?

I might be a pretty decent and competent Linux guy, but if an organisation isn’t using Linux, they’ve got no use for me. This school was, and their person spec had “Linux server proficiency” in their list of highly desirable traits. I feel like I struck gold that the position was even open, I’ve not seen many non-programming IT positions locally that asked for Linux proficieny.

Forgive me, I’m going to jump in on this. For this, I’d give a definite “kinda.” There are a lot of businesses that will be like, “Oh, we’re running Windows, and if someone doesn’t know Windows, then they won’t know how to work in our environment.” Which simply isn’t true, but that’s a potential problem that you need to help the interviewer around. As much as Microsoft may like to stray from standards, the fact of the matter is the standards are still relevant.

For example, if you needed to set up a PXE boot environment, you need to modify DHCP to set the DHCP option. If you’ve done this in Linux, you know that this is a step that you must take. But the DHCP server is Windows based. You still know what you need to look for in order to accomplish your goal, even if you don’t know exactly where to look.

Where is this example relevant in Windows? Windows Deployment Services. It relies on PXE to get images out to computers. So the next time you see Windows Deployment Services on a job posting, you can know to talk a bit about what you know about DHCP, and DHCP options. Or if you’re not familiar with PXE in general, web servers then, or databases, or whatever. Look at the Microsoft specific jargon, Google it, and break it down into its base components. Now you’ve got something to talk about in an interview, which is far better than just talking about how you don’t have Windows experience.

If a business doesn’t hire you because you know Linux better than you know Winodws, they’re missing out. Unfortunately you’re also missing out. So the goal in an interview is to show them how you’d go about working in an environment you’re not necessarily fluent in. The way you do that is to drum up your knowledge of the other pieces of the environment.


Logically, I can see your point.

However, in the IT industry, having tons of Linux experience can only help you be better than the next guy that only works in windows environments. Generally Linux users understand computers on a deeper level than most other IT do not. You may have been denied the position for other reasons – perhaps this manager really wanted you but his boss wanted his nephew for the role. I would push hard for feedback as to why you didn’t get hired, even as far as a face to face meeting if you can.

Yeah I was dumb and didn’t respond to the email notifying me of the rejection when I got it. Asking a week later for feedback seems faux pas - but maybe that’s just general anxiety speaking and I should do it anyway.

I appreciate everything you and @Levitance have said on this - I think I asked the wrong question, and have been looking at what happened the wrong way. I was about ready to give up on trying for IT roles.

I would completely agree with this. But also it always depends on the companie’s style. I work in pharmacy because most pharmacy apps run on Linux due to licensing fees. Everywhere else I have been has been Windows running on Centos. The good news Linux is everywhere!

Don’t give up because of one bad interview!

Hang in there.

And still ask for the feedback – you might be surprised at the result because let’s say the guy he hired just sucks bad and gets busted watching pr0n the first week on the job… Who gets to stay relevant? Mr. Second in line!!

I learned a better perspective on interviewing watching this 2 hour video – it’ll clarify a lot for you.


This video seems really worthwhile, I’m going to watch it when it isn’t 1am. Sort of wish I knew about it before I had the interview.

Thanks so much!

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Hey man this video is worth every minute. You’ll definitely learn what to start watching out for and how to prep for phone, in person and other situations. There takes a bit of research in finding organizations you want to be a part of.

I’d suggest starting by learning Active Directory and Group Policy management. Everything else pretty much ties into that, so once you have a decent grasp of Active Directory you can start tinkering with other roles and services.

Learning Powershell is also a good thing to do if you’re working with Windows a lot. But that should come AFTER learning the GUI crap, because it’s a really amazing bastardization of CMD and the GUI tools that feels similar to how Bash functions.

And like anything when you’re looking to learn new software that you’ll be troubleshooting: do stupid sh** to it, watch it break, then try to fix it.

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All depends what you wish to learn in Windows server, at the company I am contracted to we use AD DS, SCCM as well as some bespoke systems like WinCC on servers for automation.

But there are new techologies to learn, MDM and Intune are two I have no idea how they work, but i’ll learn eventually.
Just remember Windows server and desktop underneath are the same, so currently if you get this job instead of looking at certifications read things like Windows internals 7th edition and Troubleshooting with the Windows Sysinternals tools
Watch TechEd and Ignite talks from professionals, Sami Laiho and Mark Russinovich are two I follow closely as they focus on my interests, I would say in the last few months I have learned more than the last 2 years working in IT following these two, learning how permissions work was a big one for me.

If you get rejected don’t take it personally, use it to learn, you’ll get there eventually!

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get an old Enterprise surplus PC and run Windows server + AD + other roles that you like, its not hard and it will be easier for someone with linux background, on windows theres a great emphasis on the GUI but you can learn Powershell for Automation and CLI