How to Downgrade Windows Server Datacenter to Standard Edition


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By analyzing the server licenses used in our corporate network (with KMS installed), we discovered that the most expensive version of Windows Server Datacenter was installed on one of the nodes. At the same time, the server does not make use of data center functionalities such as virtualization, S2D, Azure Stack, Storage Replica, etc. We had to downgrade the installed Windows Server 2016 data center to the standard edition to save money. A clean reinstallation of Windows Server was out of the question for us, as some roles are already configured and additional software with hardware-related licenses is installed on the server.

Although Microsoft only supports upgrading Windows Server with DISM (see my article on upgrading to a licensed version of Windows Server Evaluation), you can also revert this and downgrade the data center to the Standard version and keep all current settings, installed roles, and applications.

Important! Officially, Microsoft does not support downgrading from a higher version of Windows Server to a lower version. The officially recommended method is to install a clean operating system. Therefore, you perform the operations described below at your own risk.

It is strongly recommended to backup the operating system image (at least via the Windows server backup) before performing the downgrade.

Also, be very careful when downgrading a Windows server with the ADDS Domain Controller role installed. It is best to move the FSMO roles and downgrade from DC to a domain member server (make a backup of the domain controller first so you can restore DC from the backup in case of a problem).

  1. On a running Windows Server 2016 data center, open the Registry Editor and navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersion key;
  2. Check the values of the following REG_SZ parameters: EditionID = DPC server, ProductName = Windows Server 2016 DPC ;
  3. Change the values as follows: Edition ID on ServerStandard, product name on Windows 2016 Server Standard;data center.
  4. Close rgedit.exe ;
  5. Install the Windows Server 2016 ISO image and run the installation wizard (setup.exe);
  6. When selecting installation options in the Windows Server Setup window, select Upgrade and Windows Server 2016 Standard (Desktop Experience) Edition;.
  7. Check the Keep personal files and applications box;
  8. Press the Confirm button for found items. In my case, my first paragraph said that upgrading the Windows server is not recommended and that you should clean up your installation, but my second paragraph said that redirecting USB PnP and RemoteFX devices is disabled by default in this version of Windows;
  9. Perform the Windows server update. Wait for the process to complete and after a few restarts, make sure the host is running the default version of Windows 2016.

This downgrade method should work for all supported versions of Windows Server (2012R2/2016/2019). You can also use it to downshift and upshift, for example. B. from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2019 Standard (although this is also not recommended).

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