Windows Server 2012 (codenamed Windows Server 8) is the sixth release of the Windows Server series of operating systems. It is the server version of Windows 8, and is the successor to Windows Server 2008 R2 and the predecessor to Windows Server 2016. It was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012, and to the public on September 4, 2012.

Notable new features and improvements include:

Windows Server 2012 will be available in only 4 editions:

  • Foundation - Limited to 1 CPU and limited connections, AD must be forest root. Available through OEM only
  • Essentials - Limited to 2 CPUs, higher limits than Foundation. Available through Retail, VL and OEM.
  • Standard - Adds Hyper-V, Server Core, ADFS, and uses CALs. Available through Retail, VL and OEM.
  • Datacenter - Unlimited virtualization rights. Available only though VL or OEM

System requirements

Microsoft has indicated that Windows Server 2012 will not support 32-bit (IA-32) or Itanium (IA-64) processors,[1] but has not officially released any other system requirements, except for the Release Candidate. The following system requirements are for the Release Candidate, and are subject to change in the final release.

Minimum system requirements for Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate [2]
Architecture x64 (64-bit)
Processor 1.4 GHz
Memory (RAM) 512 MB
HDD free space 32 GB (more if there is 16 GB of RAM or more)

Upgrades from Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are supported, though upgrades from prior releases will not be supported.[2]


Windows Server 2012, unlike Windows Server 2008 R2, will have only four editions - the Enterprise, Small Business Server, Web, and HPC editions do not exist.[3][4][5][6]

Feature Foundation Essentials Standard Datacenter
Distribution OEM only Retail, Volume Licensing, OEM Volume Licensing and OEM
Licensing model Per server Per every pair of processor chips (although minimum on each server is 1 chip)[note 1] Per every pair of processor chips (minimum chip count on each server is 2)[note 1]
User limit 15 25 Unlimited, but one Client Access License per user required
Virtualization rights N/A Either in 1 VM or 1 physical server, but not both at once (per license) 2 VMs per license[note 1] Unlimited (on each licensed physical server)
Processor chip limit 1 2 Up to 64, 1 license for every 2
DHCP role Yes
DNS server role Yes
Fax server role Yes
File Services Limited to 1 standalone DFS root Limited to 1 standalone DFS root, automatically installed Yes
Hyper-V No Yes
Network Policy and Access Services Limited to 50 RRAS connections and 10 IAS connections Limited to 250 RRAS connections, 50 IAS connections, and 2 IAS Server Groups Yes (no limits)
Print and Document Services Yes
Remote Desktop Services Limited to 50 Remote Desktop Services connections Limited to 250 Remote Desktop Services connections Unlimited, but Client Access Licenses required
UDDI Services Yes
Web Services (Internet Information Services) Yes Yes (automatically installed) Yes
Windows Deploy Services Yes
Windows Server Update Services Yes
Active Directory Certificate Services Certificate Authorities only Certificate Authorities only (automatically installed) Yes
Active Directory Domain Services Must be root of forest and domain Yes
Active Directory Federation Services No Yes
Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services Yes
Active Directory Rights Management Services Yes
Application server role Yes Yes (installed automatically) Yes
Server Core mode No Yes
Server Manager Yes
Windows Powershell Yes
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Each license of Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter allows up to two processor chips. Each license of Windows Server 2012 Standard allows up to two virtual instances of Windows Server 2012 Standard on that physical server. If more virtual instances of Windows Server 2012 Standard are needed, each additional license of Windows Server 2012 allows up to two more virtual instances of Windows Server 2012 Standard, even though the physical server itself may have sufficient licenses for its processor chip count. Because Windows Server 2012 Datacenter has no limit on the number of virtual instances per licensed server, only enough licenses for the physical server are needed for any number of virtual instances of Windows Server 2012 Datacenter. If the number of processor chips or virtual instances is an odd number, the number of licenses required is the same as the next even number. For example, a single-processor-chip server would still require 1 license, the same as if the server were two-processor-chip and a five-processor-chip server would require 3 licenses, the same as if the server were six-processor-chip, and if 15 virtual instances of Windows Server 2012 Standard are needed on one server, 8 licenses of Windows Server 2012, which can cover up to 16 virtual instances, are needed (assuming, in this example, that the processor chip count does not exceed 16).
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