My task is to install a Win Srv 2012 R2 Essentials instance in a Hyper-V VM onto a Win Srv 2012 R2 Essentials host. I added an external virtual switch, and the VM connects to that. The host computer has proper computer access.

I'm in the early phase of the installation, and when I enter the product key, I get "We couldn't verify the product key. Please check the installation media".

I don't know how to get through that. I try to use the host machine's key (which is surely legitimate). As far as I could look it up, it's allowed to have an extra instance running in a VM with the same product key. PDF accessible at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Licensing/learn-more/brief-windows-server-virtualization.aspx says "For small businesses that want to use virtualization as part of their backup and recovery plan, Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is the right edition to use. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials edition entitles you to run one instance in the physical OSE and one instances in the virtual OSE".

I also created an internal virtual switch and connected the VM to that one (note: I haven't restarted the VM since in this early phase of the install I cannot shut it down). Still I get the same "We couldn't verify the product key. Please check the installation media".

I suspect that the VM may not able to access the internet, but I'm not 100% sure about that (cannot get to a command prompt at this early phase tof the install).

Any help is appreciated.

1 Answer 1


You are indeed allowed to use a virtual machine, as long as the host is only used to manage the virtual machine, nothing else (page 5 of linked PDF).

Sometimes that message is because you are using the wrong media - make sure it is a Server 2012R2 Essentials disk.

If you still can't get past the key screen, there are two options:

  • Don't enter a key yet. Never used essentials, but other editions let you skip entering a product key. After it is installed you'll end up in the 180 day trial mode and still need to activate, but at least you can test your internet connection and such.
  • If it doesn't let you skip entering a product key, you could temporarily use the "KMS Client Setup Keys" Microsoft lists on technet. Unless you actually have a KMS server, it won't activate, but it will let you get past that screen and diagnose your activation issues after the OS is installed.

Neither method avoids activation, just delays it - once you get it installed you'll need to fix whatever is wrong and and activate it with the proper key either through the GUI or the command line tool slmgr.vbs, which can also give you useful diagnostic information. But at least you'll be able to check that you have an internet connection and what edition was installed.

  • This Essentials won't let me skip this step, so I'll try the KMS route
    – Csaba Toth
    Mar 29, 2016 at 4:13
  • The KMS didn't work, but I'll keep trying
    – Csaba Toth
    Mar 29, 2016 at 15:35
  • @CsabaToth What disk are you using, and how did you obtain it?
    – Grant
    Mar 29, 2016 at 15:47
  • I tried to use the OEM Server 2012 R2 Essentials physical install disk, and I think somehow it's a wrong media. Now I downloaded the Trial version ISO, used AVMA product key (technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn303421.aspx) advised in superuser.com/questions/1058426/…. Note, KMS product key might work too. My plan is to upgrade it with my genuine OEM key once the install is successful.
    – Csaba Toth
    Mar 29, 2016 at 23:32
  • I'm torn a little now, because the server has 16GB physical RAM, and I could hardly allocate the 4GB for that VM, which is the bare advised minimum.
    – Csaba Toth
    Mar 29, 2016 at 23:33

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