All Windows Server 2012 evaluation versions are fully functional during the evaluation period, although booting to Safe mode is not available.
After the 180-day evaluation period elapses, the server warns in various ways depending on the edition (Windows Server 2012 Standard; Windows Server 2012 Datacenter):
- The following warning appears on the Desktop: Windows License is expired
- When you log on to Windows, you are prompted with the following options:
- Activate now
- Ask me later
- The system shuts down every hour.
- The only updates that can be installed are security updates.
Windows Server 2012 Essentials: you receive warnings on the Desktop and on the dashboard, but the server does not shut down.
Most evaluation versions can be converted to full retail versions, but the method varies slightly depending on the edition.
- If the server is a domain controller, you cannot convert it to a retail version. In this case, install an additional domain controller on a server that runs a retail version and remove AD DS from the domain controller that runs on the evaluation version. For more information, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh994618.aspx.
- Read the license terms.
- From an elevated command prompt, determine the current edition name with the command DISM /online /Get-CurrentEdition. Make note of the edition ID, an abbreviated form of the edition name. Then run DISM /online /Set-Edition:<edition ID> /ProductKey:XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX /AcceptEula, providing the edition ID and a retail product key. The server will restart twice.