I recently replaced my aging HP EX470 Windows Home Server (v1) with a custom-built machine running Windows Server 2012 Essentials (WSE). There are already several articles online that go into detail on the new server OS from Microsoft (like here), so I won't spend much time repeating it. However, what is interesting to note is that WSE is not really a replacement for Windows Home Server. It does many of the same things, but Microsoft targets WSE at small businesses, not home users. To that end, WSE sets up its own Active Directory domain and client computers are automatically added to that domain when they run through the connection routine.
As a home user, I don't really have any need for my machines to be connected to a domain. Not only do I not have a need, I'd actually prefer that they're not on a domain. WSE has no option to support such a scenario, but fortunately there is a Registry setting you can specify on the client before running the WSE connection setup that will prevent the setup routine from adding the client to the domain.
Simply open a command window (run as Administrator) and execute this command:
reg add "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows Server\ClientDeployment" /v SkipDomainJoin /t REG_DWORD /d 1
See this TechNet forum post for more details: How to skip domain joining during client deployment in a Windows Server 2012 Essentials network
That works great, but I've recently come across another problem. It turns out that the WSE Connector software alters the network settings on the client computer to route all DNS requests through the WSE server. I generally wouldn't mind this so much, but I frequently get name resolution errors in my web browser on my client machine when the DNS settings are pointing to the WSE server. Manually changing the DNS settings back to their defaults works for a while, but I found something would reset the DNS setting back to the WSE machine a short time later.
Today, I finally found a blog post that outlines how to fix this behavior. Paul Braren at TinkerTry spells it all out in his article Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate Essentials remote client loses its Internet connection, here’s your DNS-related fix. In short, the problem is caused by the Windows Server LAN Configuration service on the client computer. Disabling this service prevents the DNS settings from being altered to point to the WSE server.
All is well again.
UPDATE: For Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2, the DNS fix is different. Make sure to edit this Registry value as follows:
Set “SkipAutoDNSServerDetection” to True.