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I have Server 2003 Standard (not R2!) running as the sole server on a network of XP clients, with the domain forest level at 2000.

We want to put a second server on the network running a trial of 2012 Essentials, but not have any clients use it for anything while we slowly set it up and test it during daytime hours. We may be rebooting a lot while we install and test software, and don't want it kicking clients off or otherwise causing problems. Am I correct in assuming that this will mean somehow preventing the 2012 box from being a domain controller? If so, how can I do that?

An outside IT company may be doing the initial install and I want to make sure it does smoothly. Is there anything special we need to do while installing to keep 2012 more or less as just another client for the moment? (Later, once we're satisfied that it's set up okay, we'd like to migrate everything to the 2012 box, I imagine after raising the DFL to 2003 native.)

(I realize this is similar to this question but I'm not using a beta nor SBS, so I want to make sure the answer applies to this specific situation.)

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Am I correct in assuming that this will mean somehow preventing the 2012 box from being a domain controller? If so, how can I do that?

Server 2012 Essentials is essentially the re-branded Small Business Server. This means that it must be the only DC on the network. You can usually only migrate from an SBS server to another SBS server, not add SBS to an existing domain. It's designed for starting from scratch, not adding to a new network.

That's not to say it can't be done, but you are likely to run into issues like you saw in the linked question. I am however quite certain that you can't just keep it as a "normal" box whilst setting it up.

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This is news to me. Would 2012 Standard do the trick? (It's a shame, Essentials' standard license quantities were perfect for us.) – Kev Jun 12 '13 at 11:20
@Kev Windows 2012 Standard would work, you can have other DCs - they just can't be SBS. See here – cole Jun 12 '13 at 18:46
@Cole according to your link, you can have one SBS DC and then other non-SBS DCs. So I could actually use 2012 Essentials (SBS) and 2003 Standard (non-SBS) and even a Samba 4 AD (non-SBS) in theory, right? – Kev Jun 12 '13 at 23:07
@Kev Correct. As long as there is only one SBS DC - you're good to go. – cole Jun 12 '13 at 23:23
@Mark Henderson, what makes you certain you can't keep it as a "normal" box? – Kev Jun 12 '13 at 23:25

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