What is a Server Core installation?

The Server Core installation option is a Windows installation option available for Windows servers. This installation option debuted in Windows Server 2008 and is available for all recent Windows Server versions. A Server Core installation provides a minimal environment for running specific server roles, which reduces the maintenance and management requirements and the attack surface for those server roles. A server running a Server Core installation supports the following server roles:

  • Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS)
  • Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS)
  • DHCP Server
  • DNS Server
  • File Services
  • Print Services
  • Streaming Media Services
  • Web Server (IIS)

To accomplish this, the Server Core installation option installs only the subset of the binary files that are required by the supported server roles. For example, the Explorer shell is not installed as part of a Server Core installation. Instead, the default user interface for a server running a Server Core installation is the command prompt.

About the Server Core installation interface

Unlike a full Windows Server installation with a graphical user interface included, the Server Core installation option requires initial configuration at a command prompt. A Server Core installation does not include the traditional full graphical user interface. Once you have configured the server, you can manage it locally at a command prompt or remotely using a Terminal Server connection. You can also manage the server remotely using the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) or command-line tools that support remote use.

Benefits of a Server Core installation

The Server Core installation option provides the following benefits:

  • Reduced maintenance: Because the Server Core installation option installs only what is required to have a manageable server for the AD DS, AD LDS, DHCP Server, DNS Server, File Services, Print Services, and Streaming Media Services roles, less maintenance is required than a full Windows Server installation with a graphical interface.
  • Reduced attack surface: Because Server Core installations are minimal, there are fewer applications running on the server, which decreases the attack surface.
  • Reduced management: Because fewer applications and services are installed on a server running the Server Core installation, there is less to manage.
  • Less disk space required: A Server Core installation requires only about 1 GB of disk space to install and approximately 2 GB for operations after the installation.

Known issues for deploying a Server Core installation

  • Server Core installations are only intended to run server roles and cannot be used to run applications such as a Microsoft Office suite or any other applications that depend on a graphical user interface.
  • There is no way to upgrade from a previous version of the Windows Server operating system to a Server Core installation. Only a clean installation is supported.

The information in this document was originally adapted from the Microsoft TechNet Server Core Installation Option Getting Started Guide.

This is document awsn in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2017-05-16 12:08:45.

  • Fill out this form to submit your issue to the UITS Support Center.
  • Please note that you must be affiliated with Indiana University to receive support.
  • All fields are required.

Please provide your IU email address. If you currently have a problem receiving email at your IU account, enter an alternate email address.

  • Fill out this form to submit your comment to the IU Knowledge Base.
  • If you are affiliated with Indiana University and need help with a computing problem, please use the I need help with a computing problem section above, or contact your campus Support Center.

Please provide your IU email address. If you currently have a problem receiving email at your IU account, enter an alternate email address.