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Evaluation Versions and Upgrade Options for Windows Server 2012

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Published: August 15, 2012

Updated: August 15, 2012

Applies To: Windows Server 2012

This document summarizes key information about evaluation versions of Windows Server® 2012, including where to obtain them, the limits on their use, and how to convert them to full retail versions. It also summarizes the supported upgrade paths from previously licensed retail versions of Windows Server to Windows Server 2012.

Fully functional time-limited evaluation versions of Windows Server 2012 are available for the following editions:

  • Windows Server 2012 Standard
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter
  • Windows Server® 2012 Essentials

These evaluation versions are 64-bit only and can be installed with the Server Core option or the Server with a GUI option. For more information about these installation options, how to convert between them, and how to use the new Minimal Server Interface and Features on Demand, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831786.

For all editions, you have 10 days to complete online activation, at which point the evaluation period begins and runs for 180 days. During the evaluation period, a notification on the Desktop displays the days remaining the evaluation period (except in Windows Server 2012 Essentials). You can also run slmgr.vbs /dlv from an elevated command prompt to see the time remaining.

You can get evaluation versions by the following methods:

All evaluation versions are fully functional during the evaluation period, although booting to Safe mode is not available. The Windows Server 2012 Standard and Windows Server 2012 Datacenter editions come with the activation key pre-installed. After the 180-day evaluation period elapses, the server warns you in various ways depending on the edition:

Windows Server 2012 Standard; Windows Server 2012 Datacenter:

  • The following warning appears on the Desktop: Windows License is expired
  • When you log on to Windows, you are prompted with the following options:
    • Activate now
    • Ask me later
  • The system shuts down every hour.
  • The only updates that can be installed are security updates.
  • Event ID 100 from source WLMS “The license period for this installation of Windows has expired. The operating system will shut down every hour.” appears in the Application log.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials: you receive warnings on the Desktop and on the dashboard, but the server does not shut down.

Most evaluation versions can be converted to full retail versions, but the method varies slightly depending on the edition. Before you attempt to convert the version, verify that your server is actually running an evaluation version. To do this, do either of the following:

  1. From an elevated command prompt, run slmgr.vbs /dlv; evaluation versions will include “EVAL” in the output.
  2. From the Start screen, open Control Panel. Open System and Security, and then System. View Windows activation status in the Windows activation area of the System page. Click View details in Windows activation for more information about your Windows activation status.

If you have already activated Windows, the Desktop shows the time remaining in the evaluation period.

If the server is running a retail version instead of an evaluation version, see the “Upgrading previous licensed versions” section of this document for instructions to upgrade to Windows Server 2012.

For Windows Server 2012 Essentials: You can convert to the full retail version by entering a retail, volume license, or OEM key in the command slmgr.vbs.

If the server is running an evaluation version of Windows Server 2012 Standard or Windows Server 2012 Datacenter, you can convert it to a retail version as follows:

  1. If the server is a domain controller, you cannot convert it to a retail version. In this case, install an additional domain controller on a server that runs a retail version and remove AD DS from the domain controller that runs on the evaluation version. For more information, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh994618.aspx.
  2. Read the license terms.
  3. From an elevated command prompt, determine the current edition name with the command DISM /online /Get-CurrentEdition. Make note of the edition ID, an abbreviated form of the edition name. Then run DISM /online /Set-Edition:<edition ID> /ProductKey:XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX /AcceptEula, providing the edition ID and a retail product key. The server will restart twice.

For the evaluation version of Windows Server 2012 Standard, you can also convert to the retail version of Windows Server 2012 Datacenter in one step using this same command and the appropriate product key.

TipTip
For more information about Dism.exe, see http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=192466.

 

The table below briefly summarizes which already licensed (that is, not evaluation) Windows operating systems can be upgraded to which editions of Windows Server 2012.

Note the following general guidelines for supported paths:

  • In-place upgrades from 32-bit to 64-bit architectures are not supported. All editions of Windows Server 2012 are 64-bit only.
  • In-place upgrades from one language to another are not supported.
  • In-place upgrades from one build type (fre to chk, for example) are not supported.
  • If the server is a domain controller, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/library/hh994618.aspx for important information.
  • Upgrades from pre-release versions of Windows Server 2012 (such as the Release Candidate) are not supported. Perform a clean installation to Windows Server 2012.
  • Upgrades that switch from a Server Core installation to the Server with a GUI mode of Windows Server 2012 in one step (and vice versa) are not supported. However, after upgrade is complete, Windows Server 2012 allows you to switch freely between Server Core and Server with a GUI modes. For more information about these installation options, how to convert between them, and how to use the new Minimal Server Interface and Features on Demand, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831786.
  • If you do not see your current version in the left column, upgrading to this release of Windows Server 2012 is not supported.If you see more than one edition in the right column, upgrade to either edition from the same starting version is supported.

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