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Windows Server 2025

Windows Server 2025 Preview Download and Install

The latest version of Microsoft Windows Server is coming along very nicely, as we can download and test it out via the Windows Server Preview program via the Windows Server Insiders. Recently, Microsoft released the first Windows Server 2025 Preview Build release. Let’s look at this along with the new installation screens you will see when installing the Windows Server 2025 operating system.

Preparing for Installation

Before installing Windows Server 2025, ensure your systems meet the appropriate hardware requirements. For my test environment, I will be using a VMware vSphere virtual machine with 4 processors and 8 GB of RAM.

Download the Windows Server 2025 preview via the Insider Program download page. The download is available in ISO and VHDX formats.

Download microsoft preview build
Download microsoft preview build

Once you confirm the download type and the language, you can click the Download Now button to download the installation file.

Clicking the download now button
Clicking the download now button

Installing Windows Server 2025

If you are looking to install Windows Server 2025 in VMware vSphere, you can connect directly to your ESXi 8.0 Update 2 host and you will see an option for Guest OS version for Windows Server 2025 (64-bit). In vCenter, you won’t see this option yet.

Creating a windows server 2025 virtual machine in esxi
Creating a windows server 2025 virtual machine in esxi

You can see the hardware I have configured for the Windows Server 2025 VM.

Virtual hardware configuration for windows server 2025
Virtual hardware configuration for windows server 2025

Booting the vNext installation media.

Booting windows server 2025 installation
Booting windows server 2025 installation

New screens! First screen we are asked to select the Microsoft server languages, including the language and time and currency format.

Windows server 2025 language settings installation screen
Windows server 2025 language settings installation screen

Select your keyboard settings.

Keyboard language settings in windows server 2025
Keyboard language settings in windows server 2025

ON the new Select setup option screen, you will see you have three options:

Select the setup option screen
Select the setup option screen

The product key screen.

Product key screen in windows server 2025
Product key screen in windows server 2025

Enter the product key provided by Microsoft. Based on the product key, the installer will either display the options for Windows Server Standard edition or Windows Server Datacenter.

Microsoft has provided free keys on this page for use with Windows Server 2025 Standard and Datacenter: Announcing Windows Server Preview Build 26040 – Microsoft Community Hub.

Product key populated with the available keys
Product key populated with the available keys

A quick note about the differences between Standard and Datacenter. Dataenter edition generally makes sense if you are running virtual machines and want to be licensed for Windows on your virtualization platform.

Select the image you want to install:

  • Windows Server 2025 Datacenter – this is Server Core installation options
  • Windows Server 2025 (Desktop Experience)
Select the installation image for windows server 2025
Select the installation image for windows server 2025

Accept the EULA.

Accept the eula
Accept the eula

Now, we select the location to install Windows Server. You will see your hard disk here.

Select the disk location to install windows server 2025
Select the disk location to install windows server 2025

Ready to install Microsoft Windows Server. Click the Install button.

Ready for the windows server 2025 install
Ready for the windows server 2025 install

Now we see the Installing Windows Server screen.

Installation process begins
Installation process begins

The server boots after the installation.

Windows server 2025 booting for the first time
Windows server 2025 booting for the first time

Set the password for the Administrator account.

Customize the administrator password
Customize the administrator password

CTRL+ALT+DEL to login.

Login screen for windows server 2025
Login screen for windows server 2025

Logging into the Administrator.

Logging in as administrator
Logging in as administrator

Send diagnostic data to Microsoft configuration.

Send diagnostic data to microsoft
Send diagnostic data to microsoft

I am still surprised to see Server Manager. You can see that Server Manager is still installed to take care of adding server roles like DNS DHCP, managing group policy, backup, restore, managing services, launching PowerShell, etc.

Server manager lives on in windows server 2025
Server manager lives on in windows server 2025

One of the new things you will see is the preinstallation of the Azure Arc agent. Windows Server 2025 is now fully ready to integrate with Microsoft Azure. We saw this start with Windows Server 2019 with the Azure network adapter and other features. Then we saw even more integrations with Windows Server 2022. Now we are seeing the culmination of efforts from Microsoft on this front.

Azure arc installation in windows server 2025
Azure arc installation in windows server 2025

Windows Server 2025 Features: What’s New?

Windows Server 2025 introduces a range of new features that enhance server functionality and management.

New Active Directory functional levels

One of the new things about Windows Server 2025 is the new Active Directory functional level. We haven’t had a new functional level since Windows Server 2016. So the new functional level in Windows Server 2025 is definitely a new enhancement to note. Check out my post covering that topic specifically here: Windows Server 2025: Initial Glimpse with New Domain Functional Level.

Hyper-V and Storage

Windows Server 2025 has many new Hyper-V technologies built-in.  Windows Server 2025 marks a significant advancement in server management, offering robust virtualization capabilities and intelligent automation. Note the following:

  • Windows Server vNext boosts IOPS by 90% on NVMe SSDs.
  • Includes NVMe over Fabric (NVMe-oF) support.
  • Features a 3x performance enhancement in Storage Replica.
  • Offers Thin Provisioned storage solutions.
  • Supports Stretched Clustering for Storage Spaces Direct (S2D).
  • Enables certificate-based VM Live migration in AD-less clusters.
  • Improves Cluster Aware Updating for enhanced resilience.
  • Integrates GPU-P support in Hyper-V, with Live Migration capability.
  • Incorporates NetworkATC support in Windows Server.
  • Introduces new ReFS native deduplication and compression, tailored for high-activity data like virtual machines.

Windows Server Hotpatching

One of the anticipated features to come to on-premises environments is Hotpatching. Windows Server Hotpatching allows for seamless Windows Update security updates without reboots.

Networking: Enhanced Control and Optimization

There are advanced networking features in Windows Server 2025, such as alternative SMB server TCP ports and QUIC alternative server port configuration. Microsoft has added a wireless LAN Service in Windows Server 2025.

Administration and Feedback in Windows Server 2025

Windows Server 2025 introduces the new Feedback Hub app and an enhanced Windows Event Log Service. These provide deeper insights into server performance and streamlined feedback mechanisms for administrators.

New Windows Server Flighting

Microsoft has announced something new with the Insider Preview editions. You can stay up-to-date with the latest server technology by participating in what they are calling Windows Server flighting. What is it? The program allows you to test and experience new features as they are released, so your Windows Server Insider Preview will always stay up-to-date.

Joining Windows Insiders

Joining the Windows Insiders program is not difficult. It basically involves just signing up with an email address. Joining the Windows Insiders program will grant you access to the vNext previews as well as the Windows client releases that are coming down the pipes. It is a great way to beta test the features before they make it to a GA release. You can sign up for the Windows Insiders program here: The Windows Insider Program (microsoft.com)

Wrapping up Windows Server 2025

Windows Server 2025 is on the cutting edge of new technology and has a very similar look and feel to Windows 11. In terms of the cloud, Microsoft has deep and native integration with Microsoft Azure, including the Azure Arc agent, which is already preinstalled in the operating system out of the box. 

Let me know in the comments what you think about Microsoft’s new Server operating system as well as your thoughts on the new installation screens. With the Windows Insider program, you can get your hands on the Preview Build right now. With the new flighting concept, you can get your hands on new builds seamlessly. It will be interesting to see how it progresses over the next few builds. It will undoubtedly be an operating system that most admins will want to upgrade to reap the benefits of the new AD functional level, hotpatching to install patches, Hyper-V features, etc.

Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at Virtualizationhowto.com and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

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