How to install Windows Server 2016

The following guide will show you how to install Windows Server 2016 with step by step instructions.
First lets go over the general info, requirements and comparisons for Windows Server 2016.

  • Minimum System Requirements

Processor: 1.4GHz 64-bit

RAM: 512MB ECC – Server Core Installation option

RAM: 2GB ECC – Desktop Experience Installation option

Disk Space: 32GB

  • Maximum Physical Server Specs (Standard & Datacenter  Edition)

Processor Sockets (Physical Processors): 64

Logical Processors: 512 (Cores including Hyperthreading)


  • Maximum Virtual Machine Specs

Virtual Processors: 240


  • Editions

Datacenter – Highly virtualized datacenters & cloud
Unlimited Virtual Machines
Storage Spaces Direct
Storage Replica
Shielded Virtual Machines
Software Defined Networking

Standard – Physical or lightly virtualized environments
2 OSE’s (Operating System Environment)
Option 1: You can have 2 Virtual Machines if your 1 Physical Machine is used only to manage the 2 Virtual Machines.
Option 2: You can have 1 Virtual Machine and 1 Physical Machine if the physical is not being used to manage Virtual Machines).

Essentials – Small business (25 to 50 users)
1 OSE (Operating System Environment)
Option 1: 1 Virtual Machine with 1 Physical Machine if the physical is only used to manage the 1 Virtual Machine.
Option 2: 1 Physical Machine if the physical is not being used to manage the other Virtual Machine.

Multipoint Premium Server – Academic only, shared computer solution

Storage Server – OEM only, dedicated storage solution

Hyper-V Server – Free, stand-alone headless hypervisor

  • Licensing

Every physical core must be licensed (excluding hyperthreads)

Minimum 8 core licenses per CPU

Minimum 16 core licenses per Server (2 CPU minimum even if you only have 1 physical CPU)

Additional core licenses are sold in packs of 2

For every 2 additional Virtual Machines that you require (in addition to the 2 included in Windows Server 2016 Standard) you must re-licensing every core in the host. This does not apply to Datacenter since Datacenter is licensed for unlimited Virtual Machines. With Datacenter you only need to purchase the additional cores. But you will still need a Datacenter license for every host.

  • Roles and Features

Server Roles: primary functions of a server (Web Server. DHCP, DNS)

Role Services: the components that make up a Server Role. (Not all Server roles have role services)

Features: used to augment the server or support an existing Server Role. (.Net Framework, Bitlocker, etc)

  • Installation Options

Desktop Experience: Full Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Server Core: Minimalistic, command-line only

Nano Server: Completely headless

  • Upgrade Paths

These are the possible upgrade paths to Windows Server 2016. If you have an older version of Windows Server that is older then Windows Server 2012 then you must follow the upgrade requirements for your version of Windows Server to Windows Server 2012 first. Once your have Windows Server 2012 then you can follow the the upgrade paths listed below.

Windows Server 2012 Standard to Windows Server 2016 Standard or Datacenter

Windows Server 2012 Datacenter to Windows Server 2016 Datacenter

Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard to Windows Server 2016 Standard or Datacenter

Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter to Windows Server 2016 Datacenter

Installing Windows Server 2016

Step 1: When you boot to the installation media for Windows Server 2016 you will see the screen below. Here you will select your Language to install preference, Time and Currency format and Keyboard or input method. Choose your preferences and click “Next” to continue.

Step 2: You will be prompted to start the setup process. Click the “Install now” button to continue.

Step 3: You will be given a choice to install either Standard or Datacenter with Server Core or Desktop Experience options. The 1st and 3rd options are for Server Core while the 2nd and 4th options are for Desktop Experience. Desktop Experience will give you the full GUI while server core will be minimalistic and command-line only. Choose your preference and click the “Next” button”.

*For demonstration purposes we will be installing Windows Server 2016 Standard (Desktop Experience).

Step 4: You will be prompted to accept the license terms. Make sure to check the check box labeled “I accept the license terms” and click the “Next” button.

Step 5You will be prompted to choose an installation type. If you currently have an older version of Windows Server that you would like to perform an in-place upgrade then choose the Upgrade option. If you are installing Windows Server for the first time on this drive then choose Custom.

*Remember to follow the upgrade paths when choosing the Upgrade option. Only Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 are upgradable to Windows Server 2016. Downgrading Windows Editions are not allowed. If you have a previous installation of Windows Server Datacenter Edition then you can only upgrade to Windows Server 2016 Datacenter. Going from Datacenter to Standard is not allowed. (Optionally and it is also highly recommended that you perform a migration to a clean install of Windows Server 2016 when possible)

*For demonstration purposes I will be performing a clean install and choosing the Custom option.

Step 6: You will be prompted with a choice on which drive and/or partition you would like to install Windows Server on. Choose the drive and/or partition then click the “Next” button. If you have a blank drive with no partitions then the setup will automatically create a System Reserved Partition and a Primary Partition or you can manually create custom partitions by clicking the “New” button.

*If you don’t see your drive listed and you are sure your drive is configured properly, you can try downloading your RAID or SATA controller driver onto a flash drive and choosing “Load driver”. This option is used to install controller drivers that are not included in Windows Setup. Microsoft tries their best to include all storage controller drivers but sometimes you will have to provide your own if you do not see your hard drive listed.

Step 7: After you click “Next” from the previous step you will begin the Windows Installation. Once the installation is complete the system will reboot automatically.

Step 8: After the system reboots you will be prompted to type a password for the Administrator user account. The password has to meet complexity requirements. The default password length is 0 to 128 characters long. It must contain 3 out of the 4 following character types: 1 uppercase letter, 1 lowercase letter, 1 number and/or 1 special character. Once you are done typing in your password click the “Finish” button.

*Microsoft’s recommends a minimum password length of 8 characters

Step 9: You will be presented with a login screen. To login press and hold the Control + Alt + Delete keys simultaneously on your keyboard.

Step 10: You will be prompted for a password. Type in the password you created in step 8 and hit enter on your keyboard (Optionally you can click the arrow pointing to the right next to your password.)

Step 11: You are now logged into Windows Server 2016 with the Administrator user account!

Congratulations! You have installed Windows Server 2016! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

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