The Microsoft evaluation releases of their products are incredibly valuable and useful tools as they allow you to have an unlimited number of test, demo and development environments to work with at no cost. The only catch is evaluation releases are time limited, so the more time you can squeeze out of them, the more useful they can be.
Here we are going to show you how to extend the usage time of the Windows Server 2008 R2 evaluation release to its maximum.
How it Works
Once activated the Windows Server 2008 R2 evaluation (or trial) lasts for 180 days, after which you must either enter a valid license key or the server will shut itself down after one hour of use.
With most every Microsoft product which requires activation, there is a grace period of several days in which the product can be used (unrestricted) before activation is required. In the case of Windows Server 2008 R2 evaluation, this grace period is 10 days which can be reset (or re-armed) 5 times before activation is required. When fully utilized, gives an extra 60 days of usage time.
To put your mind at ease, this practice is completely legal and actually promoted by Microsoft. We are simply approaching this with an automated “set it and forget” it process.
Rearming the Grace Period
Our first task, “Reset Activation Timer” takes advantage of all 5 of each of the 10 day grace periods. Each instance of this task is a one time, date specific call. The first call should be set to 10 days from the first system boot with each subsequent call set 10 days after the previous one.
Note: We have included tools to calculate this information for you which we discuss later in the article.
The actual command is a call to the “slmgr.vbs” script with the -rearm parameter followed by a system reboot.
The result is the task will reset the number of days left for activation…
Note: The screenshot below shows 8, but in practice the countdown would reach 0.
…back to 10.
Activating the Server
Once we have used up all the reset/rearm commands, we have to actually activate the server. This is done in the “Activate Server” task.
This task should be set 10 days from the last call to the “Reset Activation Timer” task.
The actual command again calls the “slmgr.vbs” script but with the -ato parameter (which performs the activation) followed by a reboot.
The end result is the 180 day time limited server activation.
Importing the Scheduled Tasks
While you can create the appropriate scheduled tasks manually, for your convenience we have included the tasks in importable XML format (see the links section at the bottom).
To import these, simply open Task Scheduler, right click on the Task Scheduler Library item and select Import Task.
Browse to the extracted Tasks folder and select one.
Once selected for import, you will need to change the account the task runs as to be consistent with your server. In the Create Task dialog (which opens after picking a task to import), click the Change User or Group button.
Enter “administrator” and click Check Names followed by OK.
You should see the Administrator account respective to your machine as the effective account.
When you apply the settings of the task, you will be prompted for the Administrator password.
Repeat these steps for each of the XML task files.
Configuring the Scheduled Tasks
Setting the Dates
The most notable change you will need to make is to update the respective dates of the scheduled tasks. To make this easy, we have included a tool as part of our download package which will calculate the exact dates for each task. Simply run ActivationDates_RunMe.bat from the extracted zip file and you will see output like the sample below.
Update the dates of the respective scheduled task accordingly to maximize the usage time.
Expiration Warning Emails
After 240 days, the server activation will expire. While you can view the time remaining by logging into the server, after 8 months it can be easy to forget to do this. So to automate the process of reminding you of the impending expiration, we have included a scheduled task which will automatically warn you via a daily email as the expiration approaches.
In order for this to work, however, you must have Blat (a command line email tool) configured on your system.
The configuration is simple, just download Blat and extract it to your C:\Windows directory (or another location set in your PATH variable) and from the command line, set the send properties:
BLAT -install <email server> <sender email address>
For example, to configure Blat to send email through the server “smtp.myemail.com” using the email “firstname.lastname@example.org“, the command would look like this:
BLAT -install smtp.myemail.com email@example.com
Once Blat is configured, under the Actions tab the task, edit the action.
Under the Add arguments line, scroll to the end and update the value following the -to parameter to the email address the warnings should be sent to. Additionally, if you want to edit the message body and/or subject of the resulting email, you can do that here as well.
Once you apply your settings, you can test the email task by viewing the main Scheduled Task Library, right-clicking on the email warning task and selecting Run.
If everything is working, you should receive an email at the address you specified earlier.
Again, by default, this action will run daily starting 10 days before the server expires.
Download Server Activation Tools from How-To Geek (includes Scheduled Task XML files and date calculation tools)