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.

Group Policy Quick Tip: Exclude Files From Being Cached by Offline Files

In this edition of Group Policy Quick Tips, I’ll be covering a policy that has been around a while, but was renamed and might be hard to find if you haven’t configured it before.  In Windows 7/Server 2008 R2, this setting was called “Exclude files from being cached.”  With Windows 8.x/Server 2012, the name changed to “Enable file screens.”  Same thing; different name.

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