How to upgrade Windows Server Essentials to Standard edition

Time for another quick tip.  In case you hadn’t guessed already, I really like Essentials.  You get quite a few features for a much better price than Standard edition.  There are some limitations though with Essentials.  The good news is that the server can later be upgraded to Standard and the process only takes a few minutes.  On the flip side, a standard license has to be purchased.

Let’s walk through the upgrade process.

  1. Purchase a Windows Server Standard license
  2. Open an administrative PowerShell command
  3. Run the following command to verify the target edition:
    dism /online /Get-TargetEditions
    You should see Target Edition : ServerStandard or something similar
  4. Run the following command to complete the upgrade:
    dism /online /Set-Edition:ServerStandard /ProductKey:XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX /AcceptEula
    Change the edition and product key to match the ones you have.

You should see output similar to below.  Reboot when prompted.

upgrade-to-standard

I hope you found this informative.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below.

30 thoughts on “How to upgrade Windows Server Essentials to Standard edition

  1. great help … thanks! I’ve never done this type of license conversion … will all the shares, data and security settings remain in tact upon completion to server 2016 standard?

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  2. Hi thanks for this very simple explanation.
    But what happens to the old License for Windows Server Essentials. Can I just use it on an other Server without a problem?

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    1. That’s a great question. If the Essentials license is not OEM then you should have no problem using it on another machine. However once an OEM license is used on a server it is attached to the hardware and cannot be moved.

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  3. Hi! One question:

    Can you use this method with no problems with an WS2016 Essentials Domain Controller server in order to Upgrade to WS2016 Standard?

    I read in other site that you can’t do this with a DC.

    Thanks!

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  4. I have 365 integration on essentials, will this break when upgrading to standard ? if so what needs to be done to fix ?

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    1. No, upgrading to Standard edition will not break the features of Essentials.

      After the transition, the Windows Server Essentials features remain on the server and are supported for up to 75 users and 75 devices. If you exceed either of these limits, you should use the Windows Server native tools to manage user accounts and devices.

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    1. This process can take 20-30 minutes in my experience. I have also seen it hang once indefinitely and not work. Unfortunately we were not able to figure that one out. If you are still having trouble though, I would review the CBS and DISM logs from the time you tried the upgrade. These logs can be found in the C:\windows\logs folder.

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  5. I have added an additional Domain Controller to the Essentials Domain. I plan to transfer the FSMO roles from the Essentials to [this] Windows Server 2019 Standard, then demote the essentials back to a member server, then remove it from the domain. Any reason it would not be a Windows Server 2019 Standard Active Directory domain after these steps? (I want to keep the domain, and lose the WS2012 Essentials server.) [Not happy about loss of Essentials ROLE from WS19 either, but that’s another story.]

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    1. This is a good plan to migrate away from Essentials. Just don’t take too long after moving the FSMO roles. The Essentials server will start shutting down shortly after removing them. Also, make sure that SYSVOL is upgraded to DFSR. NTFRS is not available in 2019.

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      1. So after upgrading to Standard edition, you no longer need silsvc (Software Infrastructure Licensing service). I would leave it stopped and you should be fine.

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  6. Maybe I’m not reading this correctly. Do you need to run the upgrade from Essentials to Standard, or will this license upgrade automatically put you on Standard without the need to run anything else?

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    1. To upgrade the edition from Essentials to Standard, you just run the dism set-edition command. Following the steps above is all you need to do to upgrade and remove the restrictions, but not the features, of Essentials.

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  7. so in this process right now.. any clue how long this takes to do the upgrade? In powershell seeing Finished Installing product key and has been blinking there for a long time. Task Manager shows high cpu usage for the windows installer module so i’m assuming it’s doing something

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    1. The process should not take more than an hour in my experience. If it is taking longer there may be a problem. I would check the C:\windows\logs\cbs\cbs.log file first.

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    2. I had a few issues upgrading to standard. Got MS involved and after a lot of investigation, found that some of the updates were corrupt. Removed the updates that hadn’t installed correctly and any superceeded, ensured all other updates were installed and the upgrade then went smoothly.

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