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I wasn't able to find a duplicate, but I apologize if this is.

I have a server that has Windows Server 2012 Essentials installed and running in trial mode, which is about to expire. I have purchased a Windows Server 2012 Essentials R2 retail disc and key. Much to my surprise there is no direct upgrade between the two. The migration procedure appears to require a source and destination server, which won't work. The source is the destination.

I called Microsoft and they suggested I buy a 10 pack of Essentials 2016 through volume licensing and then choose to 'downgrade' to get the key. I don't want to insert much personal opinion here, but I will say, buying 10 copies of 2016 to get a single key for 2012 doesn't seem logical.

So, assuming that I can't activate this trial to R2 using my retail key, do I have any options for upgrade or migration? I can't seem to find many retailers that will sell me 2012 (non-r2).

  • 2012 (non-R2) was as much of a dead end as the corresponding Windows 8 (non-8.1). Don't even bother trying. – Michael Hampton Mar 8 '17 at 20:19
  • I sadly had already made that assumption, I was so hoping I was wrong. @MichaelHampton – bc2946088 Mar 8 '17 at 20:47
  • OK, so just install 2012 R2 and go on with your day. You didn't actually do anything important with the trial, so it's all right if there's no upgrade or migration path. – Michael Hampton Mar 8 '17 at 20:56
  • Oh how I wish that were the case. I only have about 5 hours into it, but it's setup and machines are on the domain. All that bring said, it doesn't appear to matter. @michaelhampton – bc2946088 Mar 9 '17 at 3:13
  • Why is WSE with a trial license running your production network? – user2320464 Mar 20 '17 at 15:56
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Retail product (FPP) come with limited downgrade's right wrote in each EULA.

For Windows Server 2012 R2 Essential. (http://download.microsoft.com/Documents/UseTerms/Windows%20Server_2012%20R2%20Essentials_English_786e41e5-0113-45ee-bbc3-536624460b15.pdf)

It's wrote that way:

DOWNGRADE. Instead of creating, storing, and using the software, for each permitted instance, you may create, store, and use an earlier version of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials or Windows Server 2012 Essentials software. This agreement applies to your use of the earlier version of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials or Windows Server 2012 Essentials that you elect to use under this downgrade option. For the avoidance of doubt, by electing this downgrade option: (i) you will not have the right to create, store, or use a greater number of instances of the software than are permitted under this agreement, and (ii) you will need to acquire licenses for the number of processors in the physical server in accordance with Section 2 of this agreement. If the earlier version of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials or Windows Server 2012 Essentials includes different components, not covered in this agreement, the terms that are associated with those components in the earlier version apply to your use of them. Microsoft is not obligated to supply earlier versions to you. At any time, you may replace an earlier version with this version of the software.

The limitation in your case is you can go only N-1, not N-2 like on VLSC. As such please recall the licensing please. Explain your situation and they can give you a onetime activation code.

Downgrading a OEM/FPP(retail) is always a pain to do, the problem with such downgrade is that they assume you already have a working product key of the older version, so technically you never have to call them for a activation code, as you can use the older activation code and keep the one you bought not used.

She suggested you a VLSC license because in the portal they are easy to downgrade, you got a direct access to them. In your situation, as the eula cover it, it's a bad advise. (and for the ten copy, I wonder if she think for CAL use)

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    Thank you for this information. I ended up getting it resolved with a VLK after all, but this is great information. – bc2946088 Mar 20 '17 at 20:30

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