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Windows Server 2008 (codenamed Windows Longhorn Server) is one of Microsoft Windows' server line of operating systems. Released on February 4, 2008, it is the successor to Windows Server 2003 R2. Windows Server 2008 is the server counterpart to Windows Vista.

A second release, named Windows Server 2008 R2 (codenamed Windows Longhorn Server R2), was released alongside Windows 7 on October 22, 2009.

Like Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 is built on Windows NT 6.x.


Originally known as Windows Server Codename "Longhorn", Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced its official title (Windows Server 2008) during his keynote address at WinHEC 16 May 2007.[6]

Beta 1 was released on 27 July 2005, Beta 2 was announced and released on 23 May 2006 at WinHEC 2006 and Beta 3 was released publicly on 25 April 2007.[7] Release Candidate 0 was released to the general public on 24 September 2007[8] and Release Candidate 1 was released to the general public on 5 December 2007. Windows Server 2008 was released to manufacturing on 4 February 2008 and officially launched on 27 February 2008.[9]


See also: Features new to Windows Vista

Windows Server 2008 is built from the same code base as Windows Vista; therefore, it shares much of the same architecture and functionality. Since the code base is common, it automatically comes with most of the technical, security, management and administrative features new to Windows Vista such as the rewritten networking stack (native IPv6, native wireless, speed and security improvements); improved image-based installation, deployment and recovery; improved diagnostics, monitoring, event logging and reporting tools; new security features such as BitLocker and ASLR (address space layout randomization); improved Windows Firewall with secure default configuration; .NET Framework 3.0 technologies, specifically Windows Communication Foundation, Microsoft Message Queuing and Windows Workflow Foundation; and the core kernel, memory and file system improvements. Processors and memory devices are modeled as Plug and Playdevices, to allow hot-plugging of these devices. This allows the system resources to be partitioned dynamically using Dynamic Hardware Partitioning; each partition has its own memory, processor and I/O host bridge devices independent of other partitions.[10]

Server Core

Default user interface for Server Core. Because the default file dialog is removed from Server Core, programs such as Notepad use the Windows 3.x/Windows NT 3.1-style file dialog.

Windows Server 2008 includes a variation of installation called Server CoreServer Core is a significantly scaled-back installation where no Windows Explorer shell is installed. All configuration and maintenance is done entirely through command-line interface windows, or by connecting to the machine remotely using Microsoft Management Console. However, Notepad and some control panel applets, such as Regional Settings, are available.

Server Core does not include the .NET Framework, Internet Explorer, Windows PowerShell or many other features not related to core server features. A Server Coremachine can be configured for several basic roles: Domain controller/Active Directory Domain Services, ADLDS (ADAM), DNS Server, DHCP server, file server, print server, Windows Media Server, IIS 7 web server and Hyper-V virtual server. Server Core can also be used to create a cluster with high availability using failover clustering or network load balancing.

Andrew Mason, a program manager on the Windows Server team, noted that a primary motivation for producing a Server Core variant of Windows Server 2008 was to reduce the attack surface of the operating system, and that about 70% of the security vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows from the prior five years would not have affected Server Core.[11]

Active Directory

The Active Directory domain functionality that was retained from Windows Server 2003 was renamed to Active Directory Domain Services (ADDS).[12]

  • Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) enables enterprises to share credentials with trusted partners and customers, allowing a consultant to use their company user name and password to log in on a client's network.
  • Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS), (formerly Active Directory Application Mode, or ADAM)
  • Active Directory Certificate Services (ADCS) allow administrators to manage user accounts and the digital certificates that allow them to access certain services and systems. Identity Integration Feature Pack is included as Active Directory Metadirectory Services.
  • Active Directory Rights Management Services (ADRMS)
  • Read-only domain controllers (RODCs), intended for use in branch office or other scenarios where a domain controller may reside in a low physical security environment. The RODC holds a non-writeable copy of Active Directory, and redirects all write attempts to a full domain controller. It replicates all accounts except sensitive ones.[citation needed] In RODC mode, credentials are not cached by default. Also, local administrators can log on to the machine to perform maintenance tasks without requiring administrative rights on the domain.[citation needed]
  • Restartable Active Directory allows ADDS to be stopped and restarted from the Management Console or the command-line without rebooting the domain controller. This reduces downtime for offline operations and reduces overall DC servicing requirements with Server Core. ADDS is implemented as a Domain Controller Service in Windows Server 2008.
  • All of the Group Policy improvements from Windows Vista are included. Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) is built-in. The Group Policy objects are indexed for search and can be commented on.[13]
  • Policy-based networking with Network Access Protection, improved branch management and enhanced end user collaboration. Policies can be created to ensure greater Quality of Service for certain applications or services that require prioritization of network bandwidth between client and server.
  • Granular password settings within a single domain - ability to implement different password policies for administrative accounts on a "group" and "user" basis, instead of a single set of password settings to the whole domain.

Failover Clustering

Main article: Microsoft Cluster Server

Windows Server 2008 offers high availability to services and applications through Failover Clustering. Most server features and roles can be kept running with little to no downtime.

In Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, the way clusters are qualified changed significantly with the introduction of the cluster validation wizard.[14] The cluster validation wizard is a feature that is integrated into failover clustering in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. With the cluster validation wizard, an administrator can run a set of focused tests on a collection of servers that are intended to use as nodes in a cluster. This cluster validation process tests the underlying hardware and software directly, and individually, to obtain an accurate assessment of how well failover clustering can be supported on a given configuration.

This feature is only available in Enterprise and Datacenter ions of Windows Server.

Disk management and file storage

  • The ability to resize hard disk partitions without stopping the server, even the system partition. This applies only to simple and spanned volumes, not to striped volumes.
  • Shadow Copy based block-level backup which supports optical media, network shares and Windows Recovery Environment.
  • DFS enhancements - SYSVOL on DFS-R, Read-only Folder Replication Member. There is also support for domain-based DFS namespaces that exceed the previous size recommendation of 5,000 folders with targets in a namespace.[15]
  • Several improvements to Failover Clustering (High-availability clusters).[16]
  • Internet Storage Naming Server (iSNS) enables central registration, deregistration and queries for iSCSI hard drives.
  • Self-Healing NTFS: In Windows versions prior to Windows Vista, if the operating system detected corruption in the file system of an NTFS volume, it marked the volume "dirty"; to correct errors on the volume, it had to be taken offline. With self-healing NTFS, an NTFS worker thread is spawned in the background which performs a localized fix-up of damaged data structures, with only the corrupted files/folders remaining unavailable without locking out the entire volume and needing the server to be taken down. S.M.A.R.T. detection techniques were added to help determine when a hard disk may fail.[17]


Hyper-V architecture

Main article: Hyper-V

Hyper-V is hypervisor-based virtualization software, forming a core part of Microsoft's virtualization strategy. It virtualizes servers on an operating system's kernel layer. It can be thought of as partitioning a single physical server into multiple small computational partitions. Hyper-V includes the ability to act as a Xen virtualization hypervisor host allowing Xen-enabled guest operating systems to run virtualized.[18] A beta version of Hyper-V shipped with certain x86-64 ions of Windows Server 2008, prior to Microsoft's release of the final version of Hyper-V on 26 June 2008 as a free download. Also, a standalone version of Hyper-V exists; this version supports only x86-64 architecture.[19] While the IA-32 ions of Windows Server 2008 cannot run or install Hyper-V, they can run the MMC snap-in for managing Hyper-V.

Windows System Resource Manager

Main article: Windows System Resource Manager

Windows System Resource Manager (WSRM) is integrated into Windows Server 2008. It provides resource management and can be used to control the amount of resources a process or a user can use based on business priorities. Process Matching Criteria, which is defined by the name, type or owner of the process, enforces restrictions on the resource usage by a process that matches the criteria. CPU time, bandwidth that it can use, number of processors it can be run on, and allocated to a process can be restricted. Restrictions can be set to be imposed only on certain dates as well.

Server Manager

Server Manager is a new roles-based management tool for Windows Server 2008.[20] It is a combination of Manage Your Server and Security Configuration Wizard SCW from Windows Server 2003. Server Manager is an improvement of the Configure my server dialog that launches by default on Windows Server 2003 machines. However, rather than serve only as a starting point to configuring new roles, Server Manager gathers together all of the operations users would want to conduct on the server, such as, getting a remote deployment method set up, adding more server roles etc., and provides a consolidated, portal-like view about the status of each role.[21]

Protocol and cryptography

  • Support for 128- and 256-bit AES encryption for the Kerberos authentication protocol.
  • New cryptography (CNG) API which supports elliptic curve cryptography and improved certificate management.
  • Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol, a new Microsoft proprietary VPN protocol.
  • AuthIP, a Microsoft proprietary extension of the IKE cryptographic protocol used in IPsec VPN networks.
  • Server Message Block 2.0 protocol in the new TCP/IP stack provides a number of communication enhancements, including greater performance when connecting to file shares over high-latency links and better security through the use of mutual authentication and message signing.


  • Fully multi-componentized operating system.
  • Improved hot patching, a feature that allows non-kernel patches to occur without the need for a reboot.
  • Support for being booted from Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI)-compliant firmware on x86-64 systems.
  • Dynamic Hardware Partitioning supports hot-addition or replacement of processors and memory, on capable hardware.
  • Windows Deployment Services replacing Automated Deployment Services Windows Server 2008 home entertainment and Remote Installation Services. Windows Deployment Services (WDS) support an enhanced multicast feature when deploying operating system images.[22]
  • Internet Information Services 7 - Increased security, Robocopy deployment, improved diagnostic tools, delegated administration.
  • Windows Internal Database, a variant of SQL Server Express 2005, which serves as a common storage back-end for several other components such as Windows System Resource Manager, Windows SharePoint Services and Windows Server Update Services. It is not intended to be used by third-party applications.
  • An optional "Desktop Experience" component provides the same Windows Aero user interface as Windows Vista, both for local users, as well as remote users connecting through Remote Desktop.

Removed features

See also: Features removed from Windows Vista

  • The Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) routing protocol component in Routing and Remote Access Service was removed.[23]
  • Services for Macintosh, which provided file and print sharing via the now deprecated AppleTalk protocol, has been removed. Services for Macintosh were removed in Windows XP from client operating systems but were available in Windows Server 2003.[23]
  • NTBackup is replaced by Windows Server Backup, and no longer supports backing up to tape drives.[24] As a result of NTBackup removal, Exchange Server 2007 does not have volume snapshot backup functionality; however Exchange Server 2007 SP2 adds back an Exchange backup plug-in for Windows Server Backup which restores partial functionality.[25] Windows Small Business Server and Windows Essential Business Server both include this Exchange backup component.[26]
  • The POP3 service has been removed from Internet Information Services 7.0.[27] The SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) service is not available as a server role in IIS 7.0, it is a server feature managed through IIS 6.0.
  • NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol) is no longer part of Internet Information Services 7.0.
  • ReadyBoost is not supported.


Most editions of Windows Server 2008 are available in x86-64 and IA-32 versions. These editions come in two DVDs: One for installing the IA-32 variant and the other for x64. Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based Systems supports IA-64 processors. The IA-64 version is optimized high-workload scenarios like database servers and Line of Business (LOB) applications. As such, it is not optimized for use as a file server or media server. Windows Server 2008 is the last 32-bit Windows server operating system.[28] Editions of Windows Server 2008 include:[29]

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard (IA-32 and x86-64)
  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise (IA-32 and x86-64)
  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter (IA-32 and x86-64)
  • Windows HPC Server 2008 (Codenamed "Socrates") (replacing Windows Compute Cluster Server)
  • Windows Web Server 2008 (IA-32 and x86-64)
  • Windows Storage Server 2008 (Codenamed "Magni") (IA-32 and x86-64)
  • Windows Small Business Server 2008 (Codenamed "Cougar") (x86-64) for small businesses
  • Windows Essential Business Server 2008 (Codenamed "Centro") (x86-64) for medium-sized businesses[30] (Discontinued)[31]
  • Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based Systems
  • Windows Server 2008 Foundation (Codenamed "Lima") (x86-64) for OEMs only[32]

The Microsoft Imagine program, known as DreamSpark at the time, used to provide verified students with the 32-bit variant of Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition, but the version has since then been removed. However, they still provide the R2 release.

The Server Core feature is available in the Web, Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter editions.


One Service Pack was released for Windows Server 2008. Because Windows Server 2008 is based on the Windows Vista Service Pack 1 kernel, the RTM release is considered to be Service Pack 1; accordingly, the service pack is called Service Pack 2. Announced on October 24, 2008,[33] this service pack contains the same changes and improvements as the Windows Vista Service Pack 2, as well as the final release of Hyper-V 1.0, and an approximate 10% reduction in power usage.

The first SP2 beta build was sent out in October 2008, a public beta arrived in December 2008, and an RC-escrow build was given to testers in January 2009. Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 share a single service pack binary, reflecting the fact that their code bases were joined with the release of Server 2008. On May 26, 2009, Service Pack 2 was released.

Windows Server 2008 R2

Main article: Windows Server 2008 R2

A second release, Windows Server 2008 R2, was released on October 22, 2009.[34] Retail availability began September 14, 2009.[35] Windows Server 2008 R2 reached the RTM milestone on July 22, 2009.[36] Like Windows 7, it is built on Windows NT 6.1. New features include new virtualization features, new Active Directory features, IIS 7.5, and support for 256 logical processors. Support for 32-bit-only processors (IA-32) has been removed. On July 22, 2009, Microsoft officially announced that they had released both Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 to manufacturing. Windows Server 2008 R2 was generally available for download from MSDN and Technet on August 19 and for retail purchase from October 22, 2009.

System requirements

System requirements for Windows Server 2008 are as follows:

Criteria 2008 2008 R2
Minimum[37] Recommended[37] Minimum[38] Recommended[38]
  • 1 GHz (IA-32)
  • 1.4 GHz (x86-64 or Itanium)
2 GHz or faster 1.4 GHz (x86-64 or Itanium) 2 GHz or faster
RAM 512 MB 2 GB or greater 512 MB 2 GB or greater
  • Other ions, 32-bit: 20 GB
  • Other ions, 64-bit: 32 GB
  • Foundation: 10 GB[39]
40 GB or greater
  • Foundation: 10 GB
  • Other ions: 32 GB
  • Foundation: 10 GB or greater
  • Other ions: 32 GB or greater
Devices DVD drive, 800 × 600 or higher display, keyboard and mouse


Windows Server 2008 supports the following maximum hardware specifications:[40][41][42]

Specification Windows Server 2008 SP2 Windows Server 2008 R2
Physical processors


  • Standard: 4
  • Enterprise: 8
  • Datacenter: 32
  • Standard: 4
  • Enterprise: 8
  • Datacenter: 64
Logical processors

when Hyper-V is disabled[41]

  • IA-32: 32
  • x64: 64
Logical processors

when Hyper-V is enabled[41]

  • IA-32: N/A
  • x64: 24

on IA-32[42]

  • Standard, Web: 4 GB
  • Enterprise, Datacenter: 64 GB

on x64[42]

  • Standard, Web: 32 GB
  • HPC: 128 GB
  • Enterprise, Datacenter: 1 TB
  • Foundation: 8 GB
  • Standard, Web: 32 GB
  • HPC: 128 GB
  • Enterprise, Datacenter: 2 TB

on Itanium[42]

2 TB 2 TB

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