Upgrade the Windows Server 2012 R2 Edition from Standard to Datacenter

Technically, there are no differences between Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard and Datacenter other than licensing. I ran into an issue the other day where a 3rd-party package performed an edition check and refused to install on Standard. I contacted their support and they basically told me reload the box. (Thanks, guys!) After I little research, I was able to figure out that changing the edition from Standard to Datacenter is actually pretty simple and only requires a reboot.

01-change_server_2012_r2_editionIn addition to looking in System, we can also run the DISM tool to show the current edition of Server 2012 R2 that we’re running:

02-change_server_2012_r2_editionWe’ll need to find out if the install is capable of being upgraded to a higher edition.  To do that run:

03-change_server_2012_r2_editionIt looks like we’re eligible to upgrade!  Next, we’ll need to change the edition, accept the EULA, and provide a product key.  If you’re using Volume License (VL) media, you’ll need to use the Datacenter setup key that is provided by Microsoft.  If you’re using non-VL media, your mileage may vary.

04-change_server_2012_r2_editionNow we reboot and run the edition check again:

05-change_server_2012_r2_editionWe’re done!  After changing the edition, you’ll need to reactivate Windows Server with your KMS if you’re using a VL copy.

Can I go from Datacenter to Standard?

Unfortunately, no.  Using DISM to change the edition from Datacenter to Standard isn’t supported.  Here’s what happens if you try:

06-change_server_2012_r2_editionChecking the eligible upgrade editions will tell you that “The current edition cannot be upgraded to any target editions.”

07-change_server_2012_r2_editionHonestly, this is a big shortcoming from a licensing perspective.  Sure, if your entire environment is virtualized, this isn’t an issue for you since all the VM’s on top of your hypervisors are fully licensed by having the Datacenter edition on the host(s).  But if you still (for whatever reason) are installing physical servers that are running non-virtualized workloads, paying for Datacenter licenses over Standard licenses if you don’t need Datacenter can be pricey.

I’ve seen several posts on forums and blogs that say you can change a Registry setting to go back to Standard.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that probably isn’t going to be supported.

One other word of warning:  I performed the edition change with DISM on a recently deployed OS.  I haven’t (and probably won’t) try doing this with a server/VM that’s been in use for any amount of time.  If you’re in that boat, definitely make sure you have a full backup of the system before you start making changes.

Kyle Beckman

Kyle Beckman

Kyle is a Systems Administrator with 15+ years of experience. He currently works in Higher Education supporting everything from smartphones to desktop PC's to Hyper-V Failover Clusters. (If it has a IP address, he probably supports it!) He has also worked in Small Business IT consulting supporting a wide variety of businesses and non-profit organizations.

Kyle is also the Vice President of the Atlanta Windows Infrastructure and Virtualization User Group (WINVUG).You can find additional articles he's written on 4sysops.com.
Kyle Beckman


Add a Comment
  1. Excellent ! Very clear, and it looks like you have tested all the scenarios.

  2. Perfect! This is exactly what I was looking for. Worked as described.


  3. Excellent article – precise and informative. Thanks

  4. Very Good, thank you very much. Worked with an Datacenter OEM Key.

  5. I converted all my Server 2012R2 Standard to Datacenter without issues. I was also able to convert my Domain Controllers (without demoting them)

    I used DISM /Online /Get-TargetEditions on my Domain Controllers and it showed

    C:\Windows\system32>DISM /Online /Get-TargetEdition

    Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool
    Version: 6.3.9600.17031

    Image Version: 6.3.9600.17031

    Editions that can be upgraded to:

    Target Edition : ServerDatacenter

    The operation completed successfully.

    1. I was also able to convert on R2 but it fails on ServerStandard

  6. OMG you have save my end of day!! 🙂 While dual installing 2 VM’s and twice starting again before finding the trick of disabling secure boot on Hyper-V gen2 VM’s to allow the 200+ updates to not fail! I then notice my provider has supplied ‘Standard’ media for my datacenter hosts! With your steps could upgrade to datacenter and activate!! Many Thanks!!

  7. Works perfectly.thank you very much.

  8. Thank you for this. Saved me a lot of time.

  9. Do I need ti wait till the “Do you want to restart this server?”

  10. Thank you !!!! 😀

  11. Can this procedure be run on a serever that is part of a cluster? Would be a big help if possible to upgrade clustered nodes one by one.

    1. Good question, but I don’t know to be totally honest. Spin up a couple of test VM’s and try it out!

  12. Hi friends, do I have a question? After doing the migration from standard to enterprise, delete some information from the operating system or continue all normal and only requires the restart

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