We recently bought a Dell PowerEdge T130 with Windows Server 2016 Essentials.

According to Microsoft (1) (2) I knew it is possible, since Windows Server 2012R2, to install Essentials as a virtual instance hosted on a physical instance of Essentials with all roles disabled except Hyper-V.

So I was expecting to receive some kind of product key to activate a virtual instance of Essentials after disabling all roles of the preinstalled physical instance of Essentials.

Moreover, I enabled the paying configuration option “Hyper-V role enabled with pre-installed STD or DC Ed OS on incl Virtual HDD [add 21,30 €]” so I was guessing to receive a preinstalled virtual instance of Essentials already enabled as standard server or domain controller.

But when I received the server Hyper-V role was enabled but any VM running or configured and any product key to activate a virtual instance of Essentials.

I investigated on this topic and, according again to Microsoft (3) (4), I think now that any OEM can design to provide Essentials as a physical instance, as virtual instance or with the option for the final user to choose, but only during the first boot.

Because of this, I suppose that Dell choose to provide Essentials only as physical instance, contrary to best practices, without providing any advice on that during the order on the web site.

Indeed I spoken with a Dell technician, a Dell customer service representative, a Dell pre-sales chat operator and anyone was able to explain how Essentials should be preinstalled on Dell server and to confirm or deny my findings.

Anyone with experience on this matter can help me to understand?

The virtualization right of Essentials was taken into account carefully when buying this edition of the OS.

Now, what we can do to have our server virtualized? Should we buy an expensive Windows Server 2016 Standard Retail license with CALS just to run one virtual server and just because of this decision of Dell or there are more options?


Essential is a 1:1 license. Take the same key as the physical instance to activate the virtual instance.

The OEM licence attach that license, physical and virtual, to that server.

Essentials edition allows to run one instance of the server software in one physical operating system environment, and one instance in one virtual operating system environment on the licensed server. If you run both permitted instances at the same time, the instance of the server software running in the physical operating system environment may be used only to run hardware virtualization software or provide hardware virtualization services.

For the CALs buy, I don't think so as Windows Server 2016 Essential still follow their predecessor licensing method. See that for reference;

Please note that although licensing for Windows Server 2016 Standard and Datacenter will follow the core-based licensing structure, Windows Server 2016 Essentials edition will continue to follow the processor-based licensing model used in previous iterations of Windows Server. Licensing continues to follow a per-server licensing, where one license covers one Server with up to two processors and Server CALs are not required.

  • Thanks for reply. Unfortunately no product key was provided. – unlikely Oct 7 '17 at 5:26
  • @unlikely from dell its usually wrote on a small paper that is shipped with the server – yagmoth555 Oct 7 '17 at 5:45
  • Nothing has been provided with our Dell computers... no label on computer, no one on cd, no one on papers – unlikely Oct 7 '17 at 7:19
  • @unlikely they forget it.. buy the server from a revendor or directly ? I would contact to get it. error is human, for me dell forget in the past the vmware paper. had to call back – yagmoth555 Oct 7 '17 at 9:43
  • I think product key is stored only in the NV memory of the pc since windows 8... – unlikely Oct 7 '17 at 10:29

Hi Just to let you know I too bought a Dell T130 server with Essentials software. Like you I wanted to Install Essentials as both host and VM. I didn't order mine with the pre-configured hyper-v role, but did get a copy of installation media. I simply added the hyper-v role to the preinstalled software and removed the essentials role. I was then able to create a VM and install essentials from the supplied media. The preinstalled (now host) software was already activated. I was able to activate the VM copy using the product code found on a label on the server PC. I had to scratch a small piece away to reveal it all. This then activated ok. Both the Host and VM seem to be working fine, this was after a long conversation with Dell when they assured me the the essentials license doesn't allow this. I think their information is out of date. MS clearly say you can do it, and I can say it seemed straightforward enough.

Hope this helps.

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