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Windows and Windows Server downgrade FAQ

Find answers to the most popular Windows and Windows Server downgrade or down-edition rights
questions.

Windows Downgrade Rights FAQ

Q. Who can install the downgrade software?


A. A system builder (when authorized by the end user) or the end user can install the software.

A Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business media disk is needed to facilitate the downgrade from
Windows 8.1 Pro.

A Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate media disk is needed to facilitate the downgrade from
Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate to Windows Vista Business.

A Windows XP Professional media disk is needed to facilitate the downgrade from Windows 7 Professional or
Windows 7 Ultimate to Windows XP Professional.

Get more information about Windows life cycle and Windows product availability policies.

Q. Where does the system builder or end user get the Windows 7 Professional, Windows Vista
Business, or Windows Vista Ultimate media disk to perform the downgrade?
A. The downgrade media can be media associated with any prior legally licensed version from the OEM system
builder or retail channels. Additionally, end users who are licensed separately through Microsoft Volume Licensing
programs may provide their Volume Licensing media and key to a system builder to facilitate the downgrade on
their own systems.

Q. Do I need separate media for each downgrade?


A. No. Media associated with one prior legally licensed version of Windows can be used for multiple installations.
Multiple sets of media are not necessary for each PC being downgraded. As long as each PC acquired by the end
user included a legitimate full Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate license, this
confers upon the user the right to downgrade to the versions specified in the license.

Q. Do I include the media in the box with the end user's system?
A. No. While system builders may help end users facilitate their downgrade rights, they may not provide the
downgraded media with the system, because it is not the product licensed with the system. They should, however,
ensure that the PC includes the Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate edge-to-edge
recovery media, as appropriate. The end user will need this software to upgrade to Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7
Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate when ready.

Q. Will the downgraded software require product activation? If so, what product key should be used to
activate the software?
A. Once the downgraded software is installed, the PC will prompt for a product key in order to activate the
software. The product key associated with the original Windows software should be used for activation. If the
product key has been previously activated, which is likely if the media came from a prior legally licensed version
that has been activated in the past, the software may be unable to activate over the Internet, due to the hardware
configuration change when installing this media onto the Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7
Ultimate system. When this happens, the appropriate local Activation Support phone number will be displayed, and
the person performing the downgrade will need to call the Activation Support Line and explain the circumstances to
a customer service representative.

Once it is determined that the end user has a valid Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7
Ultimate license, the customer service representative will provide a single-use activation code that can be used to
activate the software.

Q. Clarify again why product activation may fail?


A. Product activation is an anti-piracy technology that associates the hardware configuration of the PC with the
software. If the Windows product key used when downgrading has been activated in the past, it will be associated
with a different hardware configuration and may register an activation failure when used on the new PC. If
activation fails, call the local Activation Support center for help in activating.
Q. What are the end-user benefits of downgrade rights?
A. With downgrade rights, end users are allowed to acquire Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows
7 Ultimate, but continue to use an earlier version of Windows until they are ready to upgrade. When they are ready
for Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate, they already have the license.

Windows Server Downgrade Rights FAQ

Q. Who can install the downgrade software?


A. A system builder (when authorized by the end user) or the end user can install the software.

Q. Where does the system builder or end user get the Windows Server 2012 R2 media disk to
perform the downgrade?
A. The downgrade media can be media associated with any prior legally licensed version from the OEM
system builder or retail channels. End users requesting this service are responsible for providing the media
and keys necessary to perform the downgrade. Additionally, end users who are licensed separately through
Microsoft Volume Licensing programs may provide their Volume Licensing media and key to a system builder
to facilitate the downgrade on their own systems.

Q. Will the downgraded software require product activation? If so, what product key should be
used to activate the software?

A. Once the downgraded software is installed, the server will prompt for a product key in order to activate
the software. The product key associated with the original Windows Server software should be used for
activation. If the product key has been previously activated, which is likely if the media was previously
installed on a server, the software may be unable to activate over the Internet. When this happens, the
appropriate local Activation Support phone number will be displayed, and the person performing the
downgrade will need to call the Activation Support line and explain the circumstances to a customer service
representative.

Once it is determined that the end user has a valid Windows Server 2012 R2 license, the customer service
representative will provide a single-use activation code that can be used to activate the software.

Q. What end user downgrade and down-edition options are available for OEM customers?
A. The right to run an earlier version of the licensed product is an end user right that is provided under the
Microsoft Software License Terms for certain products, and is called a downgrade. For example, the License
Terms for Windows Server 2012 R2 provide End Users with the right to downgrade to Windows Server 2012,
Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2003.

Applicable only for certain Products, and permitted under the product License Terms, the End User also has
the right to run what is popularly known as a “down edition” of the software. For example, an end user may
run an instance of Windows Server Standard 2012 in place of Windows Server Datacenter 2012.

Q. Why are downgrade and down-edition rights important for Server products?
A. Downgrade and down-edition rights can simplify application migration scenarios by allowing end users to
license the latest Windows Server product so as to benefit from the latest and greatest technology and then
to run earlier versions and/or down editions of Windows Server in virtual instances to support their legacy
business applications that have not yet migrated to the latest technology.

Q. How are downgrade media and keys distributed through the Direct Downgrade Program?
A. The Direct Downgrade Program provides media and keys (downgrade kits) for certain products, through
the Direct OEMs only. The downgrade kits may only be provided upon end user request. Each OEM has their
own fulfillment process and should be contacted directly for information on how to acquire downgrade kits.

The table below represents both the down-edition and downgrade scenarios that are available as downgrade
kits. As you will notice, the kits do not include Windows Server Essentials, Windows Server Foundation, or
earlier versions prior to Windows Server 2008 R2. The customer is responsible for obtaining their media and
keys for these products.
Q. Can a new Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard customer downgrade to Windows Server 2008
R2 Standard? What about to Windows Server 2003 Standard?
A. Yes. The Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard License Terms include the end user right to downgrade to
an earlier version of Windows Server Standard, including Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard and Windows
Server 2003 Standard.

However, at this time, neither Microsoft nor Microsoft’s channel partners can provide downgrade keys or
media for Windows Server 2003. This is true for both Volume Licensing (VL) and OEM license types. Since
Windows Server 2003 is now out of mainstream support, a customer may only use its own previously
licensed Windows Server 2003 keys and media when exercising downgrade rights to Windows Server 2003
from a Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012 license.

Q. Can keys or media from another channel be used for downgrading OEM Licenses?
A. Downgrade rights are available to the end user, and the end user can leverage media and product keys
from any Microsoft authorized source they choose. However, the media (OEM, VL, or retail) and the product
key need to be obtained from the same channel. A Volume Licensing product key will not work with OEM
Media, nor will VL media work with an OEM Key.

Q. Does the Windows Server 2012 R2 Foundation and Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials
customer have downgrade rights?
A. The Microsoft Software License Terms for Windows Server 2012 R2 Foundation and Windows Server
2012 R2 Essentials provide downgrade rights to prior versions. However, the Direct Downgrade Program
does not offer downgrade keys or media from Microsoft. Since both of these products are “first servers”, the
anticipated demand is low for downgrades, and therefore it is not in the Direct Downgrade Program
deliverables. As you can see in the license terms excerpt below:

DOWNGRADE. Instead of creating, storing, and using the software, for each permitted instance you
may create, store, and use an earlier version of Windows Small Business Server Essentials software.
This agreement applies to your use of the earlier version of Windows Small Business Server
Essentials that you elect to use under this downgrade option. For the avoidance of doubt, by
electing this downgrade option: (i) you will not have the right to create, store or use a greater
number of instances of the software than are permitted under this agreement, and (ii) you will need
to acquire licenses for the number of processors in the physical server in accordance with Section 2
of this agreement. If the earlier version of Windows Small Business Server Essentials includes
different components not covered in this agreement, the terms that are associated with those
components in the earlier version apply to your use of them. Neither the manufacturer or installer,
nor Microsoft is obligated to supply earlier versions to you. At any time, you may replace an earlier
version with this version of the software.

Q. Is it possible to downgrade the Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Client
Access License (CAL)?
A. The RDS CALs do have downgrade licensing rights. However, because the RDS CAL has a product key
and connects to the server, the user will have to obtain the new product key for the downgrade key to be
the same as the Windows Server. The downgrade kits do not include previous version RDS Keys. Customers
will need to contact the Microsoft Clearinghouse for their country or region.

Q. My customer has purchased Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter from a Direct OEM. They
want to run Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard in a virtual machine (VM). Do they need to
purchase the Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard license? Where do they obtain the media and
key?
A. They do not need to purchase another license to run the Windows Server 2008 R2 Version. The Windows
Server 2012 R2 Datacenter License Terms provide the end user with both downgrade and down- edition
rights so the end user can use both the previous Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system version and the
down-edition, the Windows Server Standard. The downgrade or down-edition media and keys should be
obtained from the Direct OEM from whom they purchased the hardware.

Q. For a customer who purchases Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter, can they use the same
key for both physical and VMs? What if the VM is being downgraded? Can any previous version
media and key be used?
A. There is only one key for Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 that should be used for
activating both the physical server and virtual instances. If the VM is being downgraded, the downgrade
media and keys should be obtained from their Direct OEM from whom they purchased the hardware, or they
should use the media and keys from the previous version of the software for which they have acquired
licenses, if applicable. The source of the media and key must be from the same channel (retail, VL, or OEM).

Q. A customer purchased Windows Server 2012 Standard ROK from a reseller and now needs to
downgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard. How do they obtain the downgrade media and
keys?
A. The customer should contact the ROK reseller from whom they purchased the installed server software
to obtain the downgrade kit for their license. The Direct Downgrade Program is not available directly to our
resellers, however, they can obtain the kit from the OEM who sold them the ROK product.

Q. Is there an upgrade ‘patch’ for Windows Server 2012 Standard to Windows Server 2012 R2
Standard?
A. No, there is no upgrade between these two products. Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard is considered a
major upgrade and requires a new license purchase.