How can I install Microsoft Server 2012 Essentials as a Workgroup member?

In our small office, we have several Windows desktops installed as peers in a workgroup. We want to install Microsoft Server 2012 Essentials (bare-bones server O/S) on a new machine in this network as "just another server" to use for file shares and a couple of client/server applications. It's our first server - everything else is a desktop PC. It seems to want desperately to be a domain controller, and once installed that way you can't "downgrade" it to just a workgroup member. If it is installed as a domain controller, then all the other machines can't even see it unless they are brought into the domain - a disruptive process and a gross overkill for what we need.  Is there a way to make this machine be just another workgroup member?  I can blow it away and install again, if I know what to do to make it stop its obsession with being a domain controller.
Bill WaltonAsked:
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Cliff GaliherCommented:
The essentials product must be a domain controller. There is no way to run it as a workgroup.
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Bill WaltonAuthor Commented:
Rats.  Is there another flavor of Microsoft server O/S that will do what we want?  Or do I have to install this powerful headless box as a desktop with all the overhead of desktop software that we don't need?
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Cliff GaliherCommented:
Foundation is an OEM-only edition that you can buy with a new server that can operate as a workgroup for very small networks (15 user max.) otherwise you have to go the more expensive standard or datacenter route. No matter what, I don't think a desktop OS would be a good choice.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
The question is why NOT have it as a domain?  Resources required for a domain controller are minimal.  Additionally by creating a domain, you can use some of the features of Essentials to provide Remote Access to the workstations and backup to all the workstation PCs.  AND simplify your accounts (assuming you are using BUSINESS class operating systems for your business.

Even if you don't want to do things properly (which puts your company in a support disadvantage, by the way), you could just set it up as a domain ANYWAY and simply not join any workstation to it.  The net result is the same - you have a server with a separate accounts database.
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Bill WaltonAuthor Commented:
This "business" is a church - 5 workstations, no onsite talent. I am their support, and my knowledge of ActiveDirectory is rudimentary (and old).  I last worked with it 7 years ago. I understand it's better to do it right, but after years of using homeowner-level Windows, the migration process has complication and downtime written all over it. Some of the workstations are Win7, some Win8, configured individually not based on a corporate standard. I'm afraid of getting some in the domain, some not, and losing what little collaboration capability we have for weeks while I figure it out. There are client/"server" apps based on peer networking that will break, etc.

If I set up the server in its own domain, and don't join the workstations to it (the current situation), none of the workstations can see the file shares, printers, or anything else on the server.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I can imagine the budget is minimal however, DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE of treating Essentials like Windows Server.  It's not.  It's a bundled, Wizard driven system designed to be easy to deploy, in theory by non-admins.  (I think most pros would say that while MS WANTS it to be easy enough for your grandmother to do it and might even suggest it is, IT'S NOT.  BUT, that said, if you can keep yourself out of preconceived notions and ideas based on prior knowledge and be open minded, you might just find it to be "easy".

Now that said, if you have no experience with it, take the license and set it up yourself TWO OR THREE times.  Follow the deployment directions - don't do things based on vague memories that you MIGHT remember.  LEARN IT.  Or ask the church to hire someone to do it properly the first time.  THEN, once you've learned it at least somewhat - and used your test installs to explore how things work and should be setup - WIPE IT OUT and re-install properly.

Cheaply, Competently, Quickly... pick 2.  You're not going to get all three ESPECIALLY if you're not an expert.  (And I would REALLY HOPE that you don't pick "Cheaply, Quickly" - that's just unwise in my opinion as it means you're NOT doing iit competently).

As for the workstations not seeing the shares - you've made no indication of how you have things setup.  The same rules apply in a workgroup as for the domain - you must create user accounts with matching names and passwords, adjust the firewall, create the shares.  I don't remember the browsing issues you might face, but just skip browsing and map the drives.
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Bill WaltonAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your insights.  I'll buy a book and do some learning before I go further.
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