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How to use Windows (2012R2) Datacenter OEM licensing on your VMware hosts

EDIT update2: See newer post, it wasn't working because the key was misprinted (apparently very rare, but does happen).  We used another OEM 2012R2 key and it worked.

The below is what happens when nobody realizes this is the case.

Posting about this because Google failed me, and 75% of the reps I spoke to (3/4) had zero clue how to resolve the problem.

Problem:  You are running ESXi.  Your server has 2012R2 Datacenter (or whatever) OEM licensing that allows unlimited VOSE's.  You make an ISO of the provided & corresponding OEM media and install to create a fresh template.  The server's key (on the sticker) does not let you activate said guest VM.

Solution: You should have received the downgrade package 'DO NOT DISCARD' with one or two stickers containing Microsoft license keys - the title post-fixed with PHYS, one with VIRT.  If you did not, request it from your Dell rep.

i.e. Windows Svr Ent 2008 R2 Virt.  Use the corresponding 'Virt' key to activate the guest VM's Windows OS.

The reason why this was an issue for me:

  1. Dell manufacturing forgot to include the card with the 2012R2 Virt key.
  2. Dell ProSupport rep#1 directed me to customer care to 'convert OEM key to one usable in a virtual environment'.
  3. Dell Customer Care rep (after much on-hold time) said they only had keys for 2008R2 and insisted that ProSupport was the place to get this resolved.
  4. Dell ProSupport rep#2 immediately (and somewhat arrogantly) said this is a sales rep question and they could not help me (so stop wasting my time).
  5. Dell sales rep and software rep were uncertain and got ProSupport involved.
  6. Dell ProSupport rep#3 tried the AVMA key, I reminded them it was ESXi (Oh, of course, sorry!), and then immediately said 'you are missing the card with 2012R2 Virt, let me send you one'.  (He tried AVMA because sending the card can take up to a week and wanted to give me an immediate solution)
Big props to rep#3.  We aren't time constrained, thankfully, so in a week it is.  The new Dell rep gave an excellent account of himself in this.

Protip:  There is no 2012 Virt key!!!  MS is directing everyone to jump straight to R2, in a similar fashion to them offering Win8 to 8.1 a free upgrade.

So, if you have purchased 2012R2 Datacenter OEM licensing, you have:
  • A 2012R2 Datacenter OEM DVD and Virt key
  • A 2008R2 Enterprise OEM DVD and Virt key
  • A 2008 Enterprise OEM DVD and Virt key
All of that should have come in a bundle with your new server.  You have Enterprise 2008 stuff because Datacenter only really matters for physical installs.  There is no activation limit or VOSE limit because you already have 2012R2 Datacenter licensing.

Again, build your templates using ISOs of the OEM DVDs!! (not 100% necessary, but recommended)

P.S.  AVMA, for those too lazy to Google it, is a new feature in 2012R2 - if you are running 2012R2 Datacenter as your host OS and using Hyper-V as your hypervisor, the HV guest activation is done using an AVMA key (generic).  That key queries the hypervisor for what key IT is running, and if 2012R2DC, auto activation presto hey.  Of course, this ONLY works for Hyper-V 2012R2.


  1. Thanks for the post. Similar thing happened to me - Dell forgot to include the 2012 Virt keys.

    You would think being armed with the above useful info, Dell could have solved this post hast. But, apparently Dell metrics are skewed towards quantity of calls taken, and not actual problem resolution.

    My experience with Dell (Yes I am venting!)

    Armed with the above info, I called Dell Pro Support and spoke with rep #1, who after getting my name, rank, serial number, contact info, names of my unborn children, and detailed problem analysis, told me he couldn't help, and transferred me to Customer Care rep #2.

    Rep #2 took my name, rank, serial number, etc. etc only to say I needed to talk with someone in MS licensing. I was then transferred to licensing rep #3.

    Dell rep #3 again took my name,rank, etc and all pertinent information. After about 10 minutes of ensuring I wasn't a brain dead buffoon that didn't know how to open a blister pack and separate and read little slips of paper that contained licensing keys, he agreed that Dell left out key (pun intended!) information. He was terribly sorry, but he couldn't assist me, as the task of mailing licensing keys was beneath him. Server Support was created for such menial transactions, and he transferred me to Rep #4.

    Dell Server Rep #4 did thoroughly and cheerfully take my name, rank, serial number, etc. and with great enthusiasm, assured me that he couldn't solve my problem, but...BUT....B U T Customer Care WOULD!!!. He attempted to transfer the call. Unfortunately for me, customer care was out trying to solve World Hunger or create World Peace, because about 2 minutes later Rep #4 told me he couldn't wait all day for Customer Care to answer their phone. Rep 4 told me he couldn't help me any more than he already had (?) so all he could do was email the case info, and number for customer care so I would need to call again, so I could (again) explain my dilemma. Or, he said, I could contact person # 5 - my Dell Sales Rep. As Rep #4 emailed me the wrong # for customer care, I decided to call my Dell sales rep (#5).

    Calling Dell Sales Rep (#5), I got the usual voicemail and left a message. "Hi, this is me - I am ready to go Postal on Dell. Can you help solve what should have been a 5 minute phonecall, and not an introduction to all of the remaining staff that Dell has not yet gotten around to firing? Please call soon. Thanks". No one can tell me I leave boring messages....

    Undaunted, but with a temper building steam like Old Faithful, I looked up the correct Dell Customer Care #. Nervously I dialed. Was my optimism soon to be dashed, or would I hear the sound of angels singing a chorus as someone at Dell found the strength withing to solve my Herculean problem.

    Dell Customer Care rep #6 answered. There was a pause... No angel trumpets...Instead, yet again I was asked for my name, rank, serial number, the atomic weight of Cesium, number of hydrogen atoms in a red dwarf star and the meaning of the life, the universe and everything. Before I could provide the answer, I was transferred to Dell Customer Care rep #7.

    Rep #7 didn't have a clue, but it sounded like he was having a good time being clueless, as the background noises sounded like party time in Bangladesh! After taking my name, rank, serial #, etc. I was transferred to Dell customer care specialist #8.

    (to be cont)

  2. Dell #8 was clearly very smart and knowledgeable, and quickly told me that anyone who knows anything knows that I needed to be talking to product support, and at light speed transferred me to Dell Rep #9 at 'customer triage'.

    Dell Rep #9 informed me that he was terribly, terribly sorry that I had been transferred so many times, and was very sympathetic. He was saddened that I now had a hoarse rasp in my voice from giving my name, rank, serial number, etc. etc so many times, but alas!... he wasn't able to help, and told me I needed to talk to those infinitely knowledgeable resources in customer care. As my voice was failing, he agreed to remain on the line as he attempted to get hold of someone who could help. After about a 15 minute holding pattern, Dell rep #10 in Customer Care answered.

    Dell Customer Care rep #10 absolutely needed all of my information AGAIN (apparently the 73 pages of information I previously supplied Dell took too long to read). He then proudly informed me that an answer was only a phonecall away - and that I needed to talk to someone in server support. He allegedly emailed the request to this mythical Dell person of Power, and told me to EXPECT someone to call tomorrow. It is, after all, only the server people at Dell that can reissue a license key certificate, and I should expect great things.... tomorrow......

    Sadly I wish I was making this up. 2 hours on the phone with Dell. And all I have to show for it is this post.

  3. Um...perhaps you should change careers to writing...? Sorry to hear that.

    Hopefully you saw my update to this post, and the following one - misprinted key was my issue.


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