With Microsoft set to release Windows Server 2016 Essentials at the end of this month, I thought it would be a great time to take a look at platform. Those of you that have been running Windows Server 2012 Essentials or Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials will be aware that Microsoft hasn’t done the best job of maintaining their “first server” platform. Support for Windows 10 clients, in particular, was slow to arrive and feature enhancements have been practically non-existent over the last few years.

So, the launch of Windows Server 2016 Essentials – alongside the Nano, Standard and Datacenter editions – gives the company the opportunity to start with a reasonably clean slate. In Part 1 of this series, we’ll get Windows Server 2016 Essentials installed (we’ll be using a preview edition for now) and then in subsequent posts, we’ll take a look at the features available.

If you want to install the platform yourself as we walk through the steps, head over to Microsoft Technet where you can find a free evaluation copy of Windows Server 2016 Essentials.

This walkthrough is part of our 625 page guide to Windows Server 2016 Essentials. Pick up a copy today!


System Requirements

Unlike with client editions of Windows, Microsoft do not publish “recommended” system requirements for Windows Server 2016 – given the breadth of environments and roles that are applicable to the platform (from headless nano servers, through prosumer or small business file servers up to datacenter applications and beyond) the recommended specs will vary wildly.

Instead, the company offers a minimum specification guideline with non-too-subtle hints that you’ll need to exceed these for a comfortable operation. Here’s what they have to say: 


Processor performance depends not only on the clock frequency of the processor, but also on the number of processor cores and the size of the processor cache. The following are the processor requirements for this product:


  • 1.4 GHz 64-bit processor
  • Compatible with x64 instruction set
  • Supports NX and DEP
  • Supports CMPXCHG16b, LAHF/SAHF, and PrefetchW
  • Supports Second Level Address Translation (EPT or NPT)

Coreinfo is a tool you can use to confirm which of these capabilities you CPU has.


The following are the estimated RAM requirements for this product:


  • 512 MB (2 GB for Server with Desktop Experience installation option)
  • ECC (Error Correcting Code) type or similar technology

Storage controller and disk space requirements

Computers that run Windows Server 2016 must include a storage adapter that is compliant with the PCI Express architecture specification. Persistent storage devices on servers classified as hard disk drives must not be PATA. Windows Server 2016 does not allow ATA/PATA/IDE/EIDE for boot, page, or data drives.

The following are the estimated minimum disk space requirements for the system partition.

Minimum: 32 GB

Network adapter requirements

Network adapters used with this release should include these features:


  • An Ethernet adapter capable of at least gigabit throughput
  • Compliant with the PCI Express architecture specification.
  • Supports Pre-boot Execution Environment (PXE).

A network adapter that supports network debugging (KDNet) is useful, but not a minimum requirement.

Other requirements

Computers running this release also must have the following:

  • DVD drive (if you intend to install the operating system from DVD media)

The following items are not strictly required, but are necessary for certain features:

  • UEFI 2.3.1c-based system and firmware that supports secure boot
  • Trusted Platform Module
  • Graphics device and monitor capable of Super VGA (1024 x 768) or higher-resolution
  • Keyboard and Microsoft® mouse (or other compatible pointing device)
  • Internet access (fees may apply)

You can, obviously, try out Windows Server 2016 Essentials  in a virtual machine before installing it on dedicated hardware. In fact, that’s an approach I recommend if you’re at all interested in checking out the platform. I’ve encountered various issues that have prevented me from installing Windows Server 2016 Essentials on my usual test hardware, but throwing up a test VM in Virtualbox worked just fine.

One note on the specifications listed above. I was slightly disconcerted to see that ECC (error checking) RAM was mandated in the minimum specifications. However, in the Test Preview 5 release I’m installing here, there doesn’t seem to be a hard stop if you go with standard RAM. That may chance in the final release, however. Otherwise, it’s all straightforward – I’d always recommend at least 4 GB RAM, preferably 8 GB+ for a Server Essentials configuration, with plenty of storage available, but you shouldn’t need to go crazy with an Intel Xeon CPU or similar unless you’ll be asking the server to do some serious processing. Even a modern dual or quad-core Intel Celeron should be sufficient for the basics.