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I am looking to upgrade our small server from server 2008 rs to windows server 2012 essentials, however we are only using one server and do not have funds to run another.

I came into this job recently and there is no documentation or proof of purchase for the current OS, i have no idea if it is even genuine or not and this is making me concerned, i have made the boss aware of this situation and they have asked if i can sort it asap, we have a copy of windows server 2012 essentials that has been unused and i plan on upgrading the system to that, this would mean me wiping the current server OS and installing the new OS as i don't want any sort of license conflict if i run upgrade setup, however this then means i will have to start a fresh active directory and the client computers will have to change domain causing me the headache of having to setup each computer.

Can anyone recommend a route I could take to wipe the current server OS, replace with 2012 essentials, but keep the active directory domain services without using a secondary server to migrate it?

Or should I just bite the bullet and start fresh?

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I would suggest building a temporary "place holder" server on whatever hardware you have that can support the OS, a workstation maybe? All you're looking for is a temporary staging platform to allow you to move everything to the newly installed 2012 OS. While you can upgrade I think most recommend fresh builds over upgrades.

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Provided you have an installation of Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit you can probably get away with an in-place upgrade.

Domain controllers that run 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 can be upgraded to Windows Server 2012.

Technet article

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