Install server 2012R2 with KMS host key?


  • I am finally upgrading my servers from 2008R2 and going to try an in-place upgrade to see if it will work, fall back is to wipe everything and start clean, but want to try the in-place upgrade first. Destination is Server 2016, but since I'm on 2008R2, I need to go up through 2012R2 first.

    So I start the 2012R2 upgrade and get to the point where it asks for a product key. Pull out my 2012R2 STD/Datacenter with windows 10 KMS host key and type it in... Says the key is not valid. I know the key is correct because I have it running on the 2008R2 install to activate Win10 clients, just the installer is giving me problems.

    So in order to work around this should I:

    #1 use a MAK key to get 2012R2 installed and then change the key to a KMS host key

    #2 use a regular 2012R2 KMS host key to get through the install and keep most of the clients activated

    #3 use no key and go through the install, then add a proper level KMS host key once it is working

    #4 ignore the KMS stuff, get the 2012R2 working and upgrade the other domain controller, then upgrade up to 2016 and install the KMS host key for 2016

    I'm concerned that I'll get part way through this upgrade, and something that demands attention will pull me away so I want things to stay running. No I don't have other hardware I can use to install and migrate services. If I absolutely need to do this, I can wipe the first server which is my KMS host, then go all the way up to 2016 with a clean install, and add the few roles/features back in. This first server upgrade functions as my second AD, second DNS, and KMS host. It also does my WDS but I've removed that role while I upgrade to make things run more smoothly. I can handle client imaging with USB and boot disks for the time being. But clean install is the last thing I want to do, I learn nothing about in-place upgrades and their pitfalls by clean install. I have several other servers that need this same process, and some would be difficult to perform a clean install on. These are all physical machines, not running any virtual machines at this time. Once the KMS host is upgraded, the others can just use a KMS client key.

    Also, I need to end up at 2016 because I'm rolling out win10 LTSB, the 2012R2 STD/Datacenter with win10 host key does not know how to handle the LTSB releases, it was created before Microsoft started the LTSB releases (and KMS client key), so they do not activate. And I need to move up for a few other services as well on other servers.

    Thursday, May 10, 2018 8:21 PM

All replies

  • I would do #3. Use the embedded/default KMSclient pkey, then when your box upgrade is done, uplift the box to your desired KMShost pkey/function.

    You can load the WS2016 KMShost pkey into it, which will suit your Win10-LTSB goal too.

    Or, implement ADBA and start your abandon-KMS journey :)

    Don [doesn't work for MSFT, and they're probably glad about that ;]

    Thursday, May 10, 2018 9:46 PM
  • Hi,

    I agree with Don.

    ADBA apply to the OS below:
    Windows 10
    Windows 8.1
    Windows 8
    Windows Server 2012 R2
    Windows Server 2012

    There is a figure for you.

    Best Regards,

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    Friday, May 11, 2018 8:18 AM
  • Hi,
    Just checking in to see if the information provided was helpful. Please let us know if you would like further assistance.

    Best Regards,


    Please remember to mark the replies as an answers if they help.
    If you have feedback for TechNet Subscriber Support, contact

    Monday, May 14, 2018 9:10 AM
  • If you want to go through the in-place upgrades, the above is the recommendation.  But since you will end up going through two in-place upgrades to reach your end goal, it is really highly recommended to perform a clean installation instead of performing two in-place upgrades.  When troubleshooting issues in the future, you will never know if the issue is the result of an artifact of upgrade one or upgrade two or a combination of the two.  Performing a clean install removes any possibility of an artifact from an in-place upgrade.


    Monday, May 14, 2018 1:23 PM