What is SharePoint?

Organizations use SharePoint to create websites. You can use it as a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from any device. All you need is a web browser, such as Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox. Want to learn more? Get started with SharePoint.

Take a look at the latest version of SharePoint. When you create a new team site, this is what you’ll see.


SharePoint Online

SharePoint Server 2016

SharePoint products and downloads

 "SharePoint" can refer to one or more SharePoint products or technologies, including:

  • SharePoint Online       A cloud-based service, hosted by Microsoft, for businesses of all sizes. Instead of installing and deploying SharePoint Server on-premises, any business can subscribe to an Office 365 plan or to the standalone SharePoint Online service. Your employees can create sites to share documents and information with colleagues, partners, and customers. To get started storing your files on your team site, see Set up Office 365 file storage and sharing. Give Office 365 a try.

  • SharePoint Server       Organizations can deploy and manage SharePoint Server on-premises. It includes all the features of SharePoint Foundation. And it offers additional features and capabilities, such as Enterprise Content Management, business intelligence, enterprise search, personal sites, and Newsfeed. Give SharePoint Server 2016 a try.

  • SharePoint Foundation       No longer available separately for the SharePoint 2016 release, SharePoint Foundation was the underlying technology for all SharePoint sites. SharePoint Foundation (formerly Windows SharePoint Services) is free for on-premises deployment. You can use SharePoint Foundation to create many types of sites where you can collaborate on webpages, documents, lists, calendars, and data. Download SharePoint Foundation 2013.

  • SharePoint Designer 2013       A free program last released in 2013. Used to build powerful, workflow-enabled solutions. And used to edit external content types for an external data solution based on Business Connectivity Services. Download SharePoint Designer 2013.

  • OneDrive for Business sync        A desktop program that you can use to sync documents from a team site or OneDrive for Business to your computer for offline use. Learn more about OneDrive for Business.

For more information about trying, buying, or using SharePoint products and technologies, see SharePoint product information.

If you’re familiar with SharePoint and want to know what’s changed recently, see Follow the latest updates in SharePoint Online and What's new in SharePoint Server 2016.


Set up a general development environment for SharePoint


Learn the steps to set up a SharePoint development environment by installing SharePoint and Visual Studio.

How to determine the SharePoint development environment you need


First, decide what you want to build (to learn more about SharePoint Add-ins, see SharePoint Add-ins):

  • If you want to build farm solutions, we provide those steps in this article.

  • If you want to create SharePoint Add-ins, see Tools and environments for developing SharePoint Add-ins.

Create a SharePoint development environment on a Microsoft Azure virtual machine


If you have an MSDN subscription, you can quickly provision a virtual machine in Azure.

If you haven't activated the Microsoft Azure benefit that comes with your MSDN subscription, you can learn more about it atMicrosoft Azure Benefit for MSDN Subscribers.


The Microsoft Azure Image Gallery no longer provides images with SharePoint and Visual Studio preinstalled. But a Microsoft Azure virtual machine is still a good option for a development machine. Sign in to the Microsoft Azure portal. Create a VM using one of the images in the gallery for Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 x64, Windows Server 2012 (or later). Follow the instructions provided by the virtual machine creation wizard. We recommend an X-Large VM size for SharePoint development. After the machine is provisioned and running, complete the setup using the same procedures in the section below Create a SharePoint development environment on premises. (Skip the section about installing the operating system.) Once you've set up your development environment, you can access your source control from Visual Studio on the virtual machine by using an Azure Point-to-Site connection. See Configure a point-to-site VPN connection to an Azure Virtual Network for instructions on how to do this.

Create a SharePoint development environment on premises


Install the operating system for your SharePoint Add-ins development environment


The requirements for a development environment for an installation of SharePoint are less stringent and costly than the requirements for a production environment. In any development environment, you should use a computer with an x64-capable CPU, and at least 16 GB of RAM to install and run SharePoint; 24 GB of RAM is preferable. Depending on your specific requirements and budget, you can choose one of the following options:

  • Install SharePoint on Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 x64 or Windows Server 2012 (or later).

  • Use Microsoft Hyper-V and install SharePoint on a virtual machine running a Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 x64 or Windows Server 2012 guest operating system. See Use best practice configurations for the SharePoint virtual machines and Hyper-V environment for guidance on setting up a Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machine for SharePoint.

Install the app development prerequisites for the operating system and SharePoint


SharePoint requires your operating system to have certain prerequisites installed before installation begins. For this reason, SharePoint includes a PrerequisiteInstaller.exe tool that installs all of the prerequisites for you. Run this tool before running the Setup.exe tool.

  1. Run the PrerequisiteInstaller.exe tool.

  2. Run the Setup.exe tool included with your installation files.

  3. Accept the Microsoft Software License Terms.

  4. On the Choose the installation you want page, choose Stand-alone.

  1. If any errors occur in the installation, review the log file. To find the log file, open a Command Prompt window, and then type the following commands at the command prompt. A link to the log file also appears when the installation is complete.

cd %temp
dir /od *.log
  1. After the installation is complete, you are prompted to start the SharePoint Products and Technologies Configuration Wizard.


    The SharePoint Products and Technologies Configuration Wizard can fail if you are using a computer that is joined to a domain but that is not connected to a domain controller. If this failure occurs, connect to a domain controller either directly or through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection, or sign in with a local account that has administrative privileges on the computer.

  2. After the configuration wizard is complete, you see the Template Selection page of the new SharePoint site.

    Figure 3. Choose site template page