Compare of Microsoft Windows Server-2012 vs. 2012 R2 vs. 2016 vs. 2019

In this article, we compare different versions of Microsoft Windows Server. Click here to learn more about Microsoft Windows Server Versions.

Windows Server is Microsoft's operating system that was first released into the market back in 2003. Since its initial release, several versions of this operating system have been developed. Each version builds on the flaws of its predecessor, or new opportunities prompt developers to incorporate new features. 

The different versions of Microsoft Windows Server compare differently against each other based on the features each has. However, they all serve the same purpose; they are all windows operating systems. Here are the features that each of the above versions portrays that create a distinction between each other:

Microsoft Windows Server 2019

This is the most recent and most advanced version of Microsoft Windows Server. It was released into the market on the 2nd of October, 2018. It comes with the following impressive features:


  • Some intense changes have been made in the Microsoft Windows Server storage for a better experience. For instance, you are bound to experience the following:

Storage Migration Service

  • This feature allows you to quickly move servers to a new version of Microsoft Windows Server. It ensures you do not have to make any changes whenever you move to a new server. A graphic tool configures your data on your server, retains its identity, and then transfers it to the new server.  

Storage Spaces Direct

You will encounter the following new storage space direct system features:

  • Native support for persistence memory
  • Two-server clusters with a USB flash witness
  • Windows admin center support
  • Performance history
  • 2x faster mirror-accelerated parity
  • Drive latency outlier detection
  • Two-node hyper-converged infrastructure at the edge
  • You can scale up to 4 PB per cluster
  • Manually delimit the allocation of volume to step up fault tolerance.

Storage Replica

  • This comes with a test failover feature that allows mounting of destination storage to validate replication or data backup. Storage Replica log performance has also been massively boosted while the Windows Admin Support Center is readily at your disposal. 

System Insights

  • The system insight feature gives Windows Server 2019 to make the local predictive analysis. Such will give you insight into the functional status of your server. The system runs diagnostics on your servers and detects flaws early enough before they are problematic.

Hybrid Cloud

  • A new Server Core App Compatibility Feature on Demand (FOD) comes in handy to improve the app compatibility of the Windows Server Core Installation. As such, you can now enjoy a graphical environment that serves to increase the functionality and compatibility of Server Core yet keeping lean.


Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP)

This defense mechanism senses and responds to any memory and kernel-level attacks. It suppresses malicious files and cuts short malicious processes. The system works by initiating the following operations: 

  • Attack surface reduction, blocks malware from getting into the machine by blocking any suspicious and insecure files.
  • Network protection
  • Controlled folder access
  • Exploit protection it seeks vulnerabilities in systems and alerts you accordingly.

Security with Software Defined Networking (SDN)

  • SDN seeks to secure your data files, either on-premises or in your cloud. You and your clients have confidence in the security of your data. 

Shielded Virtual Machines Improvement

  • Branch office improvement, you can run shielded virtual machines on machines with connectivity to the Host Guardian Service by using the new fallback HGS and other offline mode features. Such allow you to configure a second-party set of URLs for Hyper-V to see if it won’t reach your primary server.
  • Offline modes give you the capabilities to launch your shielded VMs even in the absence of HGS. 

Troubleshooting improvement

  • Should you lose your connectivity to your VMs, new tools have been incorporated to detect any connectivity issues.
  • Even better, the tools need not be configured since they become available automatically. You place your VM on a Hyper-V host that is running on Window Server version 1803 or later.

Linux support

Windows Server 2019 can comfortably run in a mixed OS environment. It can support Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server inside the virtual machines.

  • HTTP/2 for a faster and safer Web
  • You will not have to worry about security issues when you are surfing on your internet on account of:
  • Coalescing of connections, to prevent interrupted and unencrypted browsing experience
  • Upgraded HTTP/2’S server cipher suite comes in handy for efficient mitigation of faulty connections and ease of deployment.
  • New TCP congestion provider to Cubic, such will give you more throughputs.

Upgrade Windows Admin Centre

A readily available windows admin center is at your beck and call and comes with no additional costs. This will enable you to manage your windows server, hyper-converged resources, and Windows 10 PCs. 

Microsoft Windows Server 2016

Lots of features were incorporated into the Microsoft Windows Server 2016, but the following make the app stand out from the rest of the servers:

Nano Server

This flaunts a 92% smaller installation footprint than a typical Windows Server Graphic User Interface (GUI). It further comes along with an array of good qualities:

  • Fewer updates and reboots since it is a bare-metal OS.
  • It has a much-reduced attack surface than GUI. Any server roles are injected from other sources; hence, a little window of opportunity for malware.
  • Small in size hence readily portable across servers, physical sites, and data centers.
  • It can easily host a standard Windows Server workload such as a Hyper-V host.
Nano Server


Containers allow you to isolate apps and services in an agile and administrative way. Microsoft Windows Server 2016 flaunts two containers:

  • Windows Server Container. Such aims to handle lower workloads that can comfortably share the same resources.i
  • Hyper-V Container. This is appropriate for high-trust workloads.

Linux Secure Boot

  • Linux Secure Boot protects the server's launch environment against attacks from rootkits and other boot-time malware. With this version, you can deploy Linux VMs without having to disable the otherwise stellar Secure Boot feature as you would with the windows server.


  • The new Resilient File System (ReFS) helps in Storage Spaces Direct and Hyper-V workloads. This system is much more stable and stronger than in preceding versions to optimize these functions.

Storage Spaces Direct

  • If you want to create redundant and flexible disk storage in an affordable environment, this feature comes in handy. The feature stretches storage spaces to allow failover cluster nodes to use their local storage inside this cluster, avoiding shared storage fabric. 

Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS v4)

  • Here is another excellent feature that seeks to support claims (token)-based identity. Claims-based identity is essential on account of the need for a single-sign-on (SSO) between on-premises Active Directory and various cloud services.
  • The feature will also support OpenID Connect-based authentication, hybrid conditional access, and Multi-factor authentication (MFA). Hybrid conditional access enables ADFS to respond to issues that could be attributed to security policy compliance.

Nested Virtualization

  • This is the ability of a virtual machine to host another virtual machine. A useful application of this feature is when a business wants to deploy additional Hyper-V hosts and requires stepping down hardware costs.

Hyper-V Hot-Add Virtual Hardware

  • With this feature, you can add virtual hardware or adjust the allocated Ram to a virtual machine. This was an impossible feat in the past, but Microsoft Windows Server 2016 has made it possible. Even more exciting, you can add this virtual hardware while the VMs are up and running. 

PowerShell Direct

  • You can now send PowerShell directly to the Hyper-V host’s VMs with Microsoft Windows Server 2016.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012

The highlight of this version is the effort to make it cloud-ready. Moreover, the addition of the following features makes it a worthy bargain.

Server Manager

  • The Microsoft Windows Server 2012 flaunts a new server manager with a new look and feel in the user interface. You can now group many servers on your network and manage them from a focal point in one window. Such will save you time that you used in past versions jumping from one window to another to work on your servers.
Server Manager

Windows PowerShell 3.0

  • PowerShell seeks to stretch more control of Windows servers. This tool works hand-in-hand with the GUI to executive your commands. However, it is the dominant force of the two; hence, fewer crashes and issues are likely to happen. PowerShell is a revolutionary feature that will make the administration of windows servers more efficient.
Windows PowerShell 3.0

Hyper-V 3.0

  • This virtualization platform will allow you to run multiple virtual machines on a single windows server. When used with Microsoft System Centre, the experience is even better. 


  • Storage space has also been massively boosted in Microsoft Server 2012. The different available pools of storage are divided into different spaces. Furthermore, in the pools, you can add up any physical disk as well as configure mirroring. This ability to add up more space as you please is quite an impressive feature.

Data Deduplication

  • This is a data compression technique that will help you eliminate duplicates of repetitive data. Large chunks are analyzed, and if any matches up, the extra copy is replaced with a reference that directs to the stored piece. 

Server Message Block (SMB) 3.0

  • SMB file sharing protocol comes with a set of beneficial features such as; hot pluggable interfaces, multichannel, encryption, deduplication, Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS), among others.

Dynamic Access Control (DAC)

  • DAC manages how files and folders are accessed. It classifies data files in order of device claims and resource claims.

Microsoft Server 2012 R2

Microsoft Server 2012 R2 was a significant improvement on Microsoft Server 2012. Some of the improvements made include:

File Services and Storage

  • Work folders. You can make corporate data available to your users since your users’ devices do not have to be domain-connected.
  • SMB. This feature was introduced in the server 2012 but made better in this version. Better performance, automatic rebalancing of Scale-Out File Server clients, and support for multiple SMB instances are some of the improvements.
  • DFS Namespace and DFS Replication. You can now recover any corrupt databases or files that are hidden in DFSR private folders.
  • Storage spaces have also been significantly extended to accommodate more data.

Health Report

  • A readily available health report is one of the highlights of this version. Furthermore, you can customize it according to your needs for it to display what you want to monitor.


  • BranchCashe is a Wide Area Network (WAN) bandwidth optimization technology that may come with Windows software. If you want to access an offsite server, you can use this feature to boost data access.

Remote Web Access

  • You can remotely access your servers online with many Microsoft servers, but with this version, this feature is boosted extensively. It is further with HTML5 support.

Pre-configured Auto-VPN Dialing

  • A client VPN comes in handy if you need to access an on-site network resource.

Server Deployment

  • With this version, you can install Microsoft Server 2012 as a member server in a domain of any size. Furthermore, as you install as a member server, you can have multiple servers running Essential on your domain. 

All the above Microsoft Servers are built upon each other; the more recent versions are built on the flaws of their predecessors. As such, the later the release, the better features you are bound to enjoy.

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