Windows Server

What are the differences between a Role and a Feature

I have decided to blog today because, people find these terms confusing and I have been asked to explain a couple of times. So article I will explain the differences between a role and a feature.

A brief overview of what a role, role service, and feature are?


The role is the services needed to run Active Directory Domain Services (ADDS). That is, a server role is a set of software programs that, when installed and properly configured, lets a computer perform a specific function for multiple users or other computers within a network.

  • Roles specifically describe some primary function, purpose, or use of a computer. A specific computer can be dedicated to performing a single role that is heavily used in the enterprise. It may also perform multiple roles if each role is only lightly used in the enterprise. Eg., DHCP, DNS, ADDS, and Print Service roles.
  • They provide users throughout organizations access to resources managed by other computers. Some of such resources include Web sites, printers, or files that are stored on different computers.
  • They typically include their own databases that can queue user or computer requests, or record information about network users and computers that relates to the role. For example, ADDS includes a database for storing the names and hierarchical relationships of all computers in a network.
  • If properly installed and configured, roles function automatically. This allows the computers on which they are installed to perform prescribed tasks with limited user commands or supervision.

For how to install a role, see how to set up a DC (Setting up the Two Domain Controllers). And how to set up (add) a second Domain Controller (DC) to your environment. The image below is a list of server roles available in Windows Server 2019.

Server roles

Role services: These are software programs that provide the functionality of a role. When you install a role, you can choose which role services the role provides for other users and computers in your enterprise. Some roles, such as DNS Server, have only a single function, and therefore do not have available role services. Other roles, such as Remote Desktop Services, have several role services that can be installed, depending on the remote computing needs of your enterprise.


Features are optional Windows Server components that provide helper functionality and are just some frontend programs to work with the services once installed and configured. Therefore, you can refer to a “feature” on the other hand as add-ons that can support the functionality of one or more roles, or improve the functionality of the server, regardless of which roles are installed. For how to install a Feature, see how to install the Linux Subsystem (WSL) which is a feature of WS 2019.

The image below is a list of server roles available in Windows Server 2019.


I hope you found this blog post on the differences between a role and a feature helpful and informative. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment session. I welcome you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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