I would like to downgrade Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard (OEM) to Windows Server 2012 Standard, the reason being instability of WS 2012 R2, most probably caused by incompatibility with the RAID controller in my server (details follow, skip if uninterested). The controller is HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i and the instability problem is that Windows crashes for no apparent reason returning a KERNEL_SECURITY_CHECK_FAILED error. See screenshot here. HP does not currently provide any drivers for WS 2012 R2 -- it's supposed to be released in early 2014 but with no specific date given.

Windows Server 2012 is officially supported by HP and since R2 does not introduce any features of interest to me I figured I could downgrade R2 to the previous edition. As far as I'm aware the license allows that.

My question is: how do I do that?

I'm at the point of system installation, so there's no problem with that. The trick is I only have an R2 installation DVD. Where do I get Windows Server 2012? The 180-day evaluation edition that is available from Microsoft does not allow for activation with my R2 licence key (I've just tried that).

Where can I get installation sources for Windows Server 2012 that will allow activation with a commercial key? Or is it done some other way?

  • 2
    I got bit by that one, but fortunately we'd just planned on doing a RAID-1 w/ SATA disks so I opted to put the controller in JBOD / AHCI mode and just run Windows software RAID. I wanted R2 a lot more than I wanted the faux "hardware" RAID of that B120i controller. – Evan Anderson Jan 9 '14 at 12:54
  • Thanks, @EvanAnderson, tried that already. This might be a good solution for some, but hardware RAID is the only viable choice in my case. One of the reasons is that you cannot use Bitlocker drive encryption with software RAID. – Erathiel Jan 9 '14 at 13:29
  • I thought of an idea to boot from Installation DVD, launching Command Prompt and then renaming Windows into WindowsR2 for example, and Windows.old into Windows and then reboot with old 2012, - not sure this will work, but I will give it a shot in a testlab. – Volodymyr M. Apr 24 '14 at 15:00

Where can I get installation sources for Windows Server 2012 that will allow activation with a commercial key?

From your Microsoft Volume License Portal - likely the same place that you got the 2012 R2 ISO and key. They're two different ISOs and keys. After all, they're two different operating systems.

  • This would be a good suggestion, if the 2012 R2 I have were not an OEM version :) I received a DVD and a license key in an envelope together with the server instead of downloading anything. Sorry, I forgot to mention that in the OP. I'm also not registered in MS Volume License Portal. – Erathiel Jan 9 '14 at 13:18
  • Then you need to contact the OEM. – MDMarra Jan 9 '14 at 13:30
  • 1
    And likely you are stuck. Bad news - there is a price for using OEM cheaply. Here it comes. And I am not so sure aobut downgrading rightous outside volume licensing - better check that. – TomTom Jan 9 '14 at 13:43
  • People still buy OEM versions? – Evan Anderson Jan 9 '14 at 14:08
  • 2
    The worst part is that if you have a single volume license for a product and you have retail/OEM channel products out there, you're entitled to use the VLK for imaging/activation/etc without having a re-buy licenses for everything in your enterprise. Yet, people STILL don't have VLs for some reason. – MDMarra Jan 9 '14 at 15:19

OK, being somewhat pressed for time I have decided to call Microsoft support and ask them directly.

Yes, it is possible to downgrade Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2012 but to do this I need an installation medium for WS 2012 and a license key. Yes, it's not enough for me to own a WS 2012 R2 license key, I need a target system's (the one to which I'm going to downgrade) license key.

The procedure, according to MS consultant, is as follows:

  1. Install the target system (Windows Server 2012 in my case).
  2. Activate the system with its own license key (again, WS 2012 license).
  3. Call Microsoft Support on the phone to inform them about the downgrade.
  4. Your 'source' system (WS 2012 R2 in my case) is the proof of you using the system legally.

What if I own neither an installation medium nor a license key for the target system? Well, I should take a look around and try to borrow them from someone (yes, this is what I heard from the MS consultant). Come again?

The evaluation version does not help either, since it only provides the installation medium, not the license key and would still need activation with a WS 2012 key. Oh, well, case closed, I guess.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.