How can you convert a Desktop Experience edition of Windows Server 2016 to a Core edition? For previous insider builds you use the powershell uninstall-windowsfeature cmdlet to remove features such as server-gui-shell and server-gui-mgmt-infra to convert a Desktop Experience edition to a Core edition, but these features no longer exist in the RTM version.


I'd like to start getting some Windows Server 2016 Core VMs up and running. As it is not yet available on MSDN i'm forced to use the evaluation ISO. This works fine in the long term (>180 days) if you want to use Desktop Experience editions, as you can change the evaluation edition to a licensed edition with a product key and dism.exe /online /set-edition:ServerDatacenter /productkey:00000-00000-00000-00000-00000 /accepteula but this wont work with the Core editions of Server 2016 as dism.exe /get-targeteditions doesnt list any options to change it to a non-evaluation edition. So right now i'm forced to either wait a few weeks for it to become available on MSDN, or convert a desktop experience edition to a core edition as i'd need these VMs to work past 180 days.

2 Answers 2


In Server 2016 there is no longer a supported way to change to Core Edition, you have to make the decision which edition to use at install time.

I haven't seen any hacks yet to make this work, of course you can change the shell to cmd.exe or powershell.exe but I wouldn't recommend a manual removal of files and changing the registry.

So in your case I'm afraid you have to wait until ISOs are available on MSDN.

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    Yes, exactly what Peter said. The ability to switch from Full/Desktop Edition to Core or the opposite was removed in Server 2016. It was one my proud features in Server 2012/R2, was sad to see it go. Dec 15, 2016 at 18:19
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    Matthew Wetmore was part of the Windows Server team, so he should know. Jan 30, 2017 at 15:41

For those who always want to have statements backed up by vendor's documentation - statement can be found here and I quote it:

"Unlike some previous releases of Windows Server, you cannot convert between Server Core and Server with Desktop Experience after installation. If you install Server Core and later decide to use Server with Desktop Experience, you should do a fresh installation."

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