Server Core is a minimal server installation option that is available on Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2016.
The Server Core installation option does not include the standard user interface and is managed using the command line, Windows PowerShell, or with remote tools.
Minimal Server Interface
Minimal Server Interface is a GUI installation option that you can install with Server Core.
It contains a subset of the Server Graphical Shell components, making it faster and more resource efficient than a Server Graphical Shell installation.
This option is only available on Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. Minimal Server Interface is intended to transition users from a Server Graphical Shell installation to a headless server installation.
Nano Server is new installation option that is a future replacement for Server Core.
It is only available for Windows Server 2016 and later versions of Windows Server.
Nano Server is a headless, more compact installation option than Server Core, and it has lower resource consumption.
In addition, Nano Server is designed to run cloud applications, virtual machines, and containers with lower OS resource consumption than other installation options.
Windows Server 2016 Installation Options
The Windows Server 2016 Setup wizard offers these two high-level options for configuring the installation.
Windows Server 2016. This is the default option. Choosing this option (which is recommended) reduces management and servicing by installing only what is needed to run most server roles and applications. This configuration does not include a GUI, but you can fully manage the server locally or remotely with Windows PowerShell or other tools. This configuration is also known as Server Core.
Windows Server 2016 (Desktop Experience). Choosing this option is useful when a GUI is required; for example, to provide backward compatibility for an application that cannot be run on a Server Core installation. All server roles and features are supported. This configuration is the equivalent of Server Graphical Shell on Windows Server 2012 R2.
You can also configure an option called Nano Server. The Minimal Server Interface option of Windows Server 2012 R2 is not available.