Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hardware Requirements and Recommendations


We are very close to the release of Microsoft Windows Server 2012 and I thought I would take a moment to discuss both hardware requirements and my recommendations. There are four new versions of Windows Server 2012: Foundation, Essentials, Standard and Datacenter. Gone are Web, Small Business Server, Enterprise and HPC server versions from Windows Server 2008 R2. As those responsible plan for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 deployments, I wanted to pass along some relevant information and my hardware recommendations for each version. I have been covering server components formally for years now and figure this would be a great thing for this site’s readers to see as Microsoft’s system requirements are rather paltry. After I saw the official Microsoft Windows Server 2012 hardware requirements I thought Microsoft was crazy because it would work with several generations old hardware and the expectation is that this version would last at least until 2016 given a four year per release cadence. Let’s have a look at the features, hardware requirements and recommendations for each version.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Versions and Features

Every single table I have found thus far comparing Windows Server 2012 versions and their features have a ton of extraneous rows. Many rows essentially say the same thing, that a feature is available across all versions. I made a small table with only differences to make this a quick view.

Windows Server 2012 Versions and Key Features
Windows Server 2012 Versions and Key Features

Here’s the deal, we know from the list that Foundation is for small businesses and really is targeting small single socket servers while Datacenter is meant for much larger installations. Gone are the days of Small Business Server and Windows Home Server. Odds are we will see something like Windows Server 2012 Foundation find its way onto HP Microserver N40L style servers.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hardware Requirements

Microsoft’s hardware requirements for Windows Server 2012 are absolutely ridiculously low.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hardware Requirements
Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hardware Requirements

Yikes! Throw a 32GB boot drive in my Intel Atom based pfsense appliance and the minimum specifications have been exceeded! I can tell you, Windows Server 2008 R2 on the Atom is a painful experience, so go get something faster if you are building a Windows Server 2012 machine. Sure, the Windows Server 2012 hardware requirement specs say you can do it, but would you really want to? I tried this with the release candidate and reached the same conclusion, spend a few dollars more and do not go Atom with Windows Server 2012. Note, I do have a very different opinion on the viability of the Atom platform for things like Linux web servers, but for Server 2012, get something a bit better.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Hardware Recommendations

I decided to put together a quick guide in terms of hardware recommendations. Although I am an AMD Opteron user, I do find it very hard to recommend that platform at the moment. AMD’s main differentiator is being able to scale to quad processor (4P) systems with the same CPUs and not incurring a huge premium. Unfortunately, software companies are doing per core and per CPU licensing so adding more slower cores and processors does not mean it is less expensive to do so. One of these days (hopefully) AMD will get competitive again, but as a note to AMD from a loyal user, you need to get back into the game. Here are my ballpark recommendations:

Windows Server 2012 Hardware Recommendations
Windows Server 2012 Hardware Recommendations

Looking at this, there is a huge envelope to push one way or the other in terms of hardware. Some installations will need more or less, but the big theme here is to get hardware that matches the software you are purchasing. One example might be for a big Essentials installation, the Intel Xeon E5-1650 is an interesting choice, especially as one can use more than 32GB of RAM as they are limited to with the Xeon E3-1200 series, but one can just as easily go with two big CPUs. Then again, it is easy to end up with more CPU and memory than you are going to use given licensing.

For those wondering, I did start a building a Microsoft Windows Server 2012 thread in the forums so feel free to discuss your build ideas there.


  1. I’m getting a 404 on the STH hardware recommendations image.

    The per CPU licensing model is flawed IMO, but if there ever comes out Windows Server for ARM I’m guessing we’re going to see a completely different licensing model.

  2. Finally you guys are covering Windows Server 2012. Agree there are many variations based on individual needs but at least your specs are a really good minimum requirement for buying new servers for WS2012. Keep the coverage coming.

  3. Hi Guys!
    Intel Dual Core B970 (2.3 GHz), 4GB RAM – Would this configuration work for a Windows 2012 server being used just as a home edition for a single user? I understand this processor is not meant to be used for servers but would it suffice my requirement?

  4. That will be no problem for a single user. You can run with minimum specs. Recommendations are just that. In our business the above Windows Server 2012 recommendations are very similar to what our customers use.


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