Growing Beyond 25 Users with Windows Server 2012 Essentials

[Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Cristian Molina from Windows Server Essentials Team]

Hi, I’m Cristian Molina, Lead Program Manager on the Windows Server Essentials team, and today I want to share with you more information around our growth story for moving past 25 users in Windows Server 2012 Essentials (Essentials).

One of the major pieces of feedback about the previous version, Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, was that after a customer had grown beyond the 25-user limit, they had to migrate to Windows Server Standard. After the migration, key Windows SBS-specific features that they had come to depend on (such as client backup, Remote Web Access, and the Dashboard) were no longer available. We wanted to address this issue in Windows Server 2012 Essentials, so now we enable customers to do an in-place license transition to Windows Server 2012 Standard.

The process for performing the transition is documented on the TechNet page, Transition from Windows Server 2012 Essentials to Windows Server 2012 Standard. Customers need to purchase a copy of Windows Server 2012 Standard, and because Essentials does not have any client access licenses (CALs), they will also need to purchase the appropriate number of Windows Server 2012 CALs for their environment (these can be either Per User or Per Device CALs, but Per User CALs are more common). For example, if an organization with 26 users is performing the transition, they will need 26 Windows Server 2012 Per User CALs to be license-compliant.

After you have transitioned to Windows Server 2012 Standard, the Windows Server 2012 Essentials limits are removed, including restrictions on user accounts, number of devices, the Hyper-V role, and Active Directory. Instead, you will be subject to the limits and restrictions of Windows Server 2012 Standard. The Essentials features will still be there with the exception of the media features, which no longer work due to technical limitations. The removal of media functionality means that media features in other parts of the Essentials experience will be removed (for example, the ability to access media via Remote Web Access, media settings in the Dashboard).

After an in-place license transition to Windows Server 2012 Standard, the Windows Server 2012 Essentials features can support up to 75 user accounts and 75 devices. Note that there are no restrictions placed on the number of users and devices that can be added to a Windows Server 2012 Standard environment. For the Essentials features to function properly, the Windows Server 2012 roles and the features they depend on must not be removed or reconfigured, such as the Active Directory Domain Services role, the Web Server role, or others. Our goal is for Essentials features to work after the in-place transition for up to 75 user accounts and 75 devices. We used this goal to help scope our testing effort as well as our support statement. Customers can, of course, make any number of changes to their systems, but we had to strike a balance here of enabling customers to grow while also having a stable and supported system.

In the event that you grow beyond 75 user accounts or 75 devices, or you want to move to a different solution for specific pieces of Windows Server 2012 Essentials functionality, the Essentials features can then be turned off, which is also documented on the TechNet page. After the Essentials features are turned off, it is not possible to turn them back on.


Windows Server 2012 Essentials enables customers to grow beyond 25 users by doing an in-place license transition to Windows Server 2012 Standard. After making this transition, you will be able to continue using Essentials features with the exception of media features. Essentials features are supported for up to 75 users and 75 devices. If you grow beyond 75 or want to change the configuration of the server, we recommend that you turn off Essentials features.

If you haven’t already, please download the beta and give us feedback via the Windows Server 2012 Beta Essentials forum. We’d love to hear from you!