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SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade

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  • SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade

    Installed a SBS 180-days evaluation copy a couple of months back for our own small organization. Got everything we need up and running, from our own primary MX host to Windows Mobile phone access and Exchange SP2.

    Since I got another 60 days to go, it's about time to plan for moving to a fully licensed setup.

    In an ideal world I guess I would buy a real license, start the "upgrade_to_licensed.exe", enter the new license key and be done!

    My experience however tells me that it wont be the case, the nightmare
    scenario is having to redo a lot/everything, but I guess reality is somewhere in between.

    Haven't found much info either on the web in general or MS web, the most relevant info I've found is concerning Windows 2003 eval:

    "To remove the 180-day expiration period for an evaluation version of Windows Server 2003, upgrade your computer to the full retail, released version of Windows Server 2003."

    Upgrade to me implies a scenario closer to the "nightmare" than the "ideal world".

    Any experiences or suggestions?

    Best Regards,


  • #2
    Re: SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade

    Please contact the local MS office. I dont think that buy SBS its a good solution. Try to move the customer to regular Win 2003 and regular Exchange.


    Best Regards,

    Yuval Sinay

    LinkedIn:, Blog:


    • #3
      Re: SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade

      I need to have a pretty good reason for why to do that, since server 2003 and exchange 2003 standalone is twice the price of SBS 2003 for a small config like this.

      Anyway, even if going to standalone versions is the thing to do, the original question remains, how do you minimize the time, impact and exposure to problems when doing the upgrade?




      • #4
        Re: SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade


        I haven't done it yet, but have been researching this as I may be facing it soon.
        I found this: which has opinions running the gamut from it was horrible to it's straightfoward and simple!

        Also found which addresses this upgrade as well as others. And lastly, found out (which you probably already know) that if the evaluation version has expired you cannot upgrade it.



        • #5
          Re: SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade

          Thanks for the links Peter!

          From MS:

          "Important If you are upgrading the evaluation version of Windows Small Business Server 2003 to the retail version or if you are upgrading Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, you must reinstall your existing service packs and hotfixes after Setup is complete."

          This statement makes me concerned since I can't interpret it in any other way than that both server and exchange will be downgraded and service packs removed.

          Last edited by slindebe; 11th December 2005, 11:01.


          • #6
            Re: SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade


            You are welcome, and sorry for mispelling your name!

            Good catch on the service packs thing, but I think I would simply do what they suggest and let the automatic updating service take care of it. Also, you should do a system state backup before the upgrade.


            Originally posted by slindebe
            Thanks for the links Peter!

            From MS:

            "Important If you are upgrading the evaluation version of Windows Small Business Server 2003 to the retail version or if you are upgrading Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, you must reinstall your existing service packs and hotfixes after Setup is complete."

            This statement makes me concerned since I can't interpret it in any other way than that both server and exchange will be downgraded and service packs removed.



            • #7
              Re: SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade

              I think that the link prettty much covers it.
              Rerunning the service packs is pretty standard procedure - you are taking retail media with the original files, dll's etc and overwriting what is on your server. re applying the Service Packs would then re-update those overwritten files. You could save yourself a lot of hasssle by making sure you purchase media with SBS SP1 slipstreamed in (Most new SKU's should contain the SP1 bits in them). More importantly, run Microsft Update after the installation to get the absolute latest bits for your server providing nothing clashes with any of your apps

              Steven Teiger [SBS-MVP(2003-2009)]
              Iím honoured to have been selected for the SMB 150 list for 2013. This is the third time in succession (no logo available for 2011) that I have been honoured with this award.

              We donít stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.


              • #8
                Re: SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade

                We inadvently missed the 180day limit, from exerience I can tell you what happens after the 180day period expires, its fairly well covered here:


                NB the comment at the bottom of this article "The option to upgrade in safe mode may not be available if your computer is running as a domain controller"

                Of course in an SBS installation - the SBS03 server is the domain controller.

                Once the trial period has expired, the system shuts down automatically after logon. It is possible to logon in safe mode and access the system - although AD is not available.

                Installing the SBS03 retail media and running setup in the above scenario results in an error message "Active Directory not available" and the setup terminates.

                Although MS does not explicity state it, it appears impossible to upgrade an SBS evaluation installation after the 180days has expired.

                It is very dark on the dark side of 180days!!

                In correspondence with MS, I was given a very complex procedure to setup a new server and migrate the existing settings across, then after a clean install of SBS, migrate them back again.

                OK - what I have done.

                Applied one of the readily available WPA hack/patches.

                This has worked effectively, I can now log onto the SBS as an administrator and use the system in it's normal state. Only drawback is that the system re-boots every 3hours.

                I have purchased the Retail Edition of SBS03 SP1... now the real bugger:

                On running setup, the system provides an error message: "You are running an evaluation version of Windows Small Buisiness Server - unable to complete upgrade"

                This has me baffled, as all the instructions direct users to "run setup with the retail media". The media I have is the boxed FFP real-thing retail CD / DVD.

                Anyway - 2 separate MS employees have acknowleged widespread problems with the evaluation versions and lack of really clear directions.

                My advice: Get the retail edition and install before the 180days is over!!

                Any advice from anyone how I can save all of our server settings and then re-apply them if I have to do a clean install?



                • #9
                  Re: SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade

                  An update to yesterday's post, I have successfully upgraded the trial version to retail:

                  1: Install the SBS retail media (CD 1 / DVD)

                  2: Boot to CD

                  3: Choose: "R - Repair existing windows installation"

                  4: Choose installation: C:\Windows Small Buisness Server 2003"

                  Copies installation files, system reboots

                  5: Choose locale

                  6: Enter CD license code

                  Installation continues reeboot


                  I have wasted so much time on this evaluation version, and it is clear from various other forums that other folks have done so as well.

                  The procedure above seems so straightforward - why can't MS document it?

                  I will certainly be very careful about putting any other MS evaluation software into a production environment - there is not alot of help outthere if things go pear-shaped.

                  Moving on now


                  • #10
                    Re: SBS 2003 eval to licensed upgrade

                    Warning: Long post

                    Decided to do the upgrade last night, had read in several places that the method suggested in Microsoft most likely didn't work, i.e. using the supplied setup procedure and do an upgrade.

                    1) MS method, setup.exe based upgrade
                    Fail since the pre-req check reports that it can't upgrade an eval installation. Expected this but tried anyway.

                    2) Tried the method supplied by Gonetouring in this tread.
                    That is booting from the install CD and do a repair, failed since it couldn't find my HD's. Tried adding latest drivers for the LSI CERC ATA100 RAID controller I have in my Dell 600SC with F6 during boot. The drivers were identified correctly and loaded, but still the install couldn't find my HD's. Tried both 2k3 and 2k versions of drivers but no difference.

                    3) Surfed the net a while and found alternative method, as described by ChrisF in MS small business community forums at MS:

                    "For whatever reason, I was unable to upgrade my SBS 2003 evaluation license to the full retail version by simply running setup from the retail installation CDs. I kept getting an error message that an eval version SBS 2000 was installed (even though it wasn't) and it could not not be upgraded to SBS 2003. Here's what I did to get around it.

                    I browsed to the \I386 folder on the retail disk #1 and ran the installation program (WINNT32.exe) directly instead of running Setup from the root directory on that same CD. When I did this, the installation program recognized my existing SBS 2003 installation and prompted me to perform an upgrade. From there on the upgrade went smoothly. All accounts and settings were preserved. Once the upgrade was complete, I had to reapply patches and hot fixes as expected.

                    Everything is working great now."

                    Tired this version, seemed perfect initially. When I rebooted the system I had two options in the boot menu, 1: boot SBS (trial) as installed or 2: SBS setup.

                    When I selected 2 it start OK, initial windows logo appeared OK then I got a blue screen with a STOP 0x0000007B, i.e. couldn't detect boot-disk, which is strange since the boot started OK from that drive. OK tried the same two controller drivers mentioned above, some stop in both scenarios.

                    OK, so I can't boot the SBS retail install CD with the bundled drivers or the latest from Dell, I can't boot the "SBS setup" from the boot menu with bundled drivers or the latest from Dell.

                    Then I tried the SBS trial CD from I used when doing the original install, same problem. OK, back track, what has changed since the original install, two things new FW in the controller and two new disks, so lets call Dell support. They suggested doing exactly what I have done, so that didn't help much.

                    Then they suggested slip-streaming a new CD with the latest controller drivers, cant really see how that would help.

                    Searched and crawled the net for a considerable amount of time but didn't find any even remotely relevant info.

                    Asked Dell for back-level FW for the controller but they haven't succeeded in finding it, the only suggestion they have is trying again with back level drivers.
                    Might do that, but I'm not convinced.

                    Since I can't boot from the install CD correctly, HD's not found, I can't do a clean install either.

                    The SBS trial expires in 10 days, so I feel I'm sitting on a ticking bomb!

                    Potential options to try:

                    1) downgrade FW if Dell can find it, or I on the net
                    2) remove extra HD's

                    After that my only solution today is getting a new server and installing the retail version I have restore the system from backups from the trial system. As a gateway of last resort I might have to do that, but I'd hate to.

                    The retail SBS I have it the latest and include SP1.

                    Desperately looking for new ideas to avoid buying a new server!

                    Best Regards,