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Microsoft IT's Benefits of a Server Core Installation of Windows Server 2008


Published: March 07, 2008

The following content may no longer reflect Microsoft’s current position or infrastructure. This content should be viewed as reference documentation only, to inform IT business decisions within your own company or organization.


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Server Core is a minimal installation option for the Windows Server® 2008 operating system that does not provide a fully integrated graphical user interface (GUI) or other components and applications that are not required for supported server roles and features. A Server Core installation helps reduce the attack surface and allows for easier installation and configuration management.

Microsoft Information Technology (Microsoft IT) deployed Windows Server 2008 to help develop product usage scenarios and test the product's features and functions prior to release. A Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 supports Microsoft IT's vision of a standardized environment by improving the total cost of ownership and improving the delivery of services to the team's customer base. Microsoft IT received the following benefits from deploying a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008.

Reduced Management and Maintenance

By using the Server Core installation option of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft IT administrators can now install a minimal Windows Server 2008 operating system environment. Because fewer applications and services are installed on a server running a Server Core installation, there is less to manage. This allows for a more robust and dependable server configuration.

Because there is no GUI included in a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008, Microsoft IT administrators must initially configure the system by using the tools within the Windows Automated Installation Kit, unattended installation, or command-line tools and scripts.

Microsoft IT administrators can also manage the Server Core installation remotely by using the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins and tools from another computer running Windows Server 2008 by selecting the server running a Server Core installation as a remote computer.

Servers running a Server Core installation support development of management tools and agents, which can be divided into two categories:

  • Remote management tools. These tools do not require any changes, as long as they use one of the protocols supported in Server Core installations to communicate with the remote management workstation, such as remote procedure call (RPC).
  • Local management tools and agents. These tools may require changes to work with Server Core installations because they cannot have any shell or user interface dependencies, and they cannot use managed code.

Note: A Server Core installation can only be used to run the supported server roles and management tools. The Windows Server 2008 Software Development Kit (SDK) includes a list of application programming interfaces (APIs) that Server Core installations support.

Reduced Attack Surface

A Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 includes only a minimal number of services and applications that run on the server. This reduces the attack surface that is exposed to security threats in addition to reducing configuration errors. Having a reduced number of services also means that the server requires minimal software updates to stay up to date, which enables Microsoft IT to provide a higher degree of availability and reduce server downtime to remain security compliant.

Approximately 60 percent of the server updates available for Windows Server are for subsystems that are not part of a Server Core installation. The reduction in the attack surface of a Server Core installation gives the potential hacker far fewer options.

Fewer Hardware Resources

A Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 requires only a fraction of the disk space of a typical Windows Server 2008 installation. The initial Server Core installation consumes about 1 gigabyte (GB) of disk space, and an additional 2 GB of disk space is required for the additional roles and features.

Server Virtualization

To help reduce the cost of installing multiple operating systems in a test environment, the Server Core installation option for Windows Server 2008 now supports Hyper-V™ server virtualization technology. Hyper-V provides a stable virtualization platform that enables Microsoft IT to host multiple operating systems on a single server, including both Windows® and Linux operating systems.

The server virtualization technology enables Microsoft IT to maximize hardware utilization by providing the following advantages:

  • Helps Microsoft IT to reduce the total amount of required hardware and helps reduce server management costs
  • Enables Microsoft IT to create a flexible test environment to test various deployment and management scenarios
  • Improves server availability by eliminating the need for additional physical computers
  • Enables Microsoft IT to increase or reduce server resources in response to changes in demand

Improved Failover Clustering and Network Load Balancing

Microsoft IT took advantage of the improved failover clustering support available in a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 to help build redundancy and fault tolerance for services and applications that require them. The improvements to failover clusters (formerly known as Microsoft Cluster Server) in Windows Server 2008 are aimed at simplifying cluster creation and management to enable greater availability without an arduous amount of additional investment or expertise.

Microsoft IT uses Network Load Balancing (NLB) frequently to distribute network resource requests to multiple systems in order to optimize resource utilization, decrease response time, and help ensure content and service availability.

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products or services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada information Centre at (800) 563-9048. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information through the World Wide Web, go to:



This document is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Microsoft, Hyper-V, Windows, and Windows Server are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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