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I have been using a evaluation version of Sever 2012 Standard for the last few months and want to now buy the retail version.

Is there a way to retain the same copy of Windows, but turn it into a Retail version without having to reinstall Windows? I've read before that it's not as easy as it sounds, and I have tried it once before but it wouldn't accept the key (same version and all).

If I have to build a new VM with the licensed copy of Windows, what is the easiest way to copy AD over? Create AD as a domain controller and then run dcpromo on the old machine?

Any advice appreciated!

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marked as duplicate by Sven, Falcon Momot, Wesley, Scott Pack, kce Jul 21 '13 at 4:57

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Why were you running an evaluation copy of windows as a DC with production data in it? – Falcon Momot Jul 19 '13 at 6:18
When did I say it had production data on it? Nice conclusion jumping there. – Lock Jul 19 '13 at 6:20
@Lock: If you don't have production data, why worry about rebuilding? – Sven Jul 19 '13 at 6:24
Because I've got a good home setup going and really don't have the time to rebuild....? – Lock Jul 19 '13 at 6:25
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You can usually convert any evaluation version of Windows Server 2012 to a full version by entering your product key using a special command; however, based on the linked article, it seems you can't do this on a domain controller, so you'll have to install a new one.

The easiest way to move AD to the new server is to simply make it an additional domain controller in your already-existing domain (making sure to also enable the DNS service and the Global Catalog role), and them demote the old server; this will replicate AD to the new server and it will also move all single-server roles to it. After this is done, you can simply shut down the old server and throw it away.

If you find again in need to install a temporary server which may or may not be converted to a production server in the future, just use a standard installation DVD (or ISO) and don't enter any product key; you'll be free to use it for 120 days, after which it will start prompting you for activation (but it won't stop working, it will just remind you everytime you log on). This is exactly the same as an evaluation version, but you can subsequently activate it by simply entering an appropriate product key, without the need to rebuild anything.

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Thanks! And thanks for the tip on the 120 days, I'll keep that feather in my cap. – Lock Jul 19 '13 at 6:26

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