About Windows Server Installation Options

Each version of Windows Server has a different set of installation options. Every version of Windows Server has the option to install the standard GUI, which is called Full Server Installation, Server Graphical Shell, or Server with a Desktop Experience. Windows Server also has several smaller, more efficient options than the standard GUI.

The image below displays the installation options for each version of Windows Server.

Windows Server Installation Options diagram

Server Core

Server Core is a minimal server installation option that is available on Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2016. The Server Core installation option does not include the standard user interface and is managed using the command line, Windows PowerShell, or with remote tools.

For more information about Server Core, see the following topics:

Minimal Server Interface

Minimal Server Interface is a GUI installation option that you can install with Server Core. It contains a subset of the Server Graphical Shell components, making it faster and more resource efficient than a Server Graphical Shell installation. This option is only available on Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. Minimal Server Interface is intended to transition users from a Server Graphical Shell installation to a headless server installation. For more information, see Minimal Server Interface for Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012.

Nano Server

Nano Server is new installation option that is a future replacement for Server Core. It is only available for Windows Server 2016 and later versions of Windows Server. Nano Server is a headless, more compact installation option than Server Core, and it has lower resource consumption. In addition, Nano Server is designed to run cloud applications, virtual machines, and containers with lower OS resource consumption than other installation options. For more information, see Microsoft Announces Nano Server for Modern Apps and Cloud.

Windows Server Installation Options