What is the Server Core installation option in Windows Server?
Applies to: Windows Server 2022, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2016
The Server Core option is a minimal installation option that is available when you are deploying the Standard or Datacenter edition of Windows Server. Server Core includes most but not all server roles. Server Core has a smaller disk footprint, and therefore a smaller attack surface due to a smaller code base.
Server (Core) vs Server with Desktop Experience
When you install Windows Server, you install only the server roles that you choose - this helps reduce the overall footprint for Windows Server. However, the Server with Desktop Experience installation option still installs many services and other components that are often not needed for a particular usage scenario.
That's where Server Core comes into play: the Server Core installation eliminates any services and other features that are not essential for the support of certain commonly used server roles. For example, a Hyper-V server doesn't need a graphical user interface (GUI), because you can manage virtually all aspects of Hyper-V either from the command line using Windows PowerShell or remotely using the Hyper-V Manager.
The Server Core difference - core capabilities without the frills
When you finish installing Server Core on a system and sign in for the first time, you're in for a bit of a surprise. The main difference between the Server with Desktop Experience installation option and Server Core is that Server Core does not include the following GUI shell packages:
In other words, there is no desktop in Server Core, by design. While maintaining the capabilities required to support traditional business applications and role-based workloads, Server Core does not have a traditional desktop interface. Instead, Server Core is designed to be managed remotely through the command line, PowerShell, or a GUI tool (like RSAT or Windows Admin Center).
In addition to no UI, Server Core also differs from the Server with Desktop Experience in the following ways:
- Server Core does not have any accessibility tools
- No OOBE (out-of-box-experience) for setting up Server Core
- No audio support
The following table shows which applications are available locally on Server Core vs Server with Desktop Experience. Important: In most cases, applications that are listed as "not available" below can be run remotely from a Windows client computer or Windows Admin Center to manage your Server Core installation.
Versioning and Downloads of Feature on Demand for Server Core
The list below reflects the FoD level as of Version 1809 (Server 2019 LTSC). You can greatly enchance your Server Core compatibility by applying a FoD package, newer than 1809.
Later Windows Server (SAC) FoD can be obtained from your specific MS Licensing Center, if you have got active Software Assurance. You'll need a Microsoft Work or School Account enrolled to VLSC or Business Center to access the FoD download.
Alternatively, you might have access to a Visual Studio Subscription. You'll need a Microsoft Home, Work or School account, enrolled to an active Visual Studio subscription, to access the FoD download.
Latest Server Insider FoD. This is downloadable at the Server Insider webpage. You'll need a Microsoft Home, Work or School account, enrolled to the Insider Program, to access the FoD download.
Feature on Demand - available features in Feature on Demand Package 1809
This list is intended for quick reference - it is not intended to be a complete list.
|Application||Server Core||Server with Desktop Experience|
|Windows PowerShell/ Microsoft .NET||available||available|
|Server Manager||not available||available|
|Wevtutil (Event queries)||available||available|
|Control Panel||not available||available|
|Windows Update (GUI)||not available||available|
|Windows Explorer||not available||available|
|Taskbar notifications||not available||available|
|Internet Explorer or Edge||not available||available|
|Built-in help system||not available||available|
|Windows 10 Shell||not available||available|
|Windows Media Player||not available||available|
|PowerShell ISE||not available||available|
|Remote Desktop Services||available||available|
|Hyper-V Manager||not available||available|
For more information about what is included in Server Core, see Roles, Role Services, and Features included in Windows Server - Server Core. And for information about what is not included in Server Core, see Roles, Role Services, and Features not included in Server Core
* To read .RTF files locally stored on a Server Core SKU, users can copy the file(s) to a different Windows computer where WordPad is present.
Get started using Server Core
Use the following information to install, configure, and manage the Server Core installation option of Windows Server.
Server Core installation:
- Roles, Role Services, and Features included in Server Core
- Roles, Role Services, and Features not in Server Core
- Install the Server Core installation option
- Configure Server Core with the SConfig tool
Using Server Core: