SharePoint 2013 Trial License – License Upgrade FAIL

I consider myself as someone who knows a lot of SharePoint. I don’t know everything and I’m learning new things every day. Which is good because this motivates me. One of those things I learned (the hard way) in the last couple of weeks is about licensing and the consequence of using a SharePoint TRIAL license. Let me elaborate a bit on this.

Last year, I installed 2 SharePoint farms at a client. When you install SharePoint, the first thing you need to provide, is the license key. Because nobody was able to provide me the key at that time, I used a trial key which is valid for 180 days. You can get this key over here.

A few weeks ago, I was notified that a Microsoft audit was on the way concerning licensing and they ran the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit to have an overview of the licenses. The result was that all involved SharePoint servers were identified as ENTERPRISE servers. This was a problem since they don’t have Enterprise licenses and were expecting Standard servers.

I was convinced I never activated any Enterprise features in both environments and ran some PowerShell scripts to see on all kind of levels if Enterprise features were active and to my surprise, they were activated on all sites. Since none of those features are used, I proceeded to deactivate all of them.

The report was created again… still Enterprise servers.

Then I remembered that I used a trial key and the Upgrade License page in Central Administration allows you to see the current license and replace that license with a different license.

And there was the culprit… the Trial key for SharePoint 2013 is a “SharePoint Server Trial with Enterprise Client Access License

My first reaction was: “I never saw an option to choose between a Standard and Enterprise Trial”. And that’s correct… there’s only 1 trial and that’s Enterprise!

I checked the page where you can find the evaluation version and you won’t find any reference or notification of the fact that the trial version is an Enterprise license!!!! Come on!? Why not? The only possible hint of this being an Enterprise version is the mentioning of “full-featured” in the Preinstall Information section. But that’s interpretation, right?

One would think that you could simply put in your Standard license key and “upgrade” that Enterprise trial to a Standard server license, right? Well, I wish it was that simple. enterprisetrial

It’s simply not possible. You cannot replace the Trial license with a Standard Server license. It expects an Enterprise server license key. Somehow this makes sense. When you look at SQL Server, the same thing applies. You can’t downgrade an Enterprise Edition to a Standard Edition either.


Well, not many I’m afraid. The only viable option I found was to uninstall SharePoint completely. And by uninstalling, I’m referring to this. That’s removing the binaries from the servers and reinstalling them. Upon installation, provide the Standard Server License key and get that show on the road. Luckily, you can hook up the databases from the old trial environment without issues.
This is such a situation where having a detailed installation/configuration documentation pays off. I make a habit of documenting everything in full detail with screenshots in OneNote, with the scripts I use and the parameters which are used for them. This makes it very easy to redo it if needed. So, doing this reinstallation was a breeze for me.

But I can imagine that if you don’t have such documentation or you have it but some wannabe professionals came in and started modifying things manually, not documenting a thing… you might be in a world of hurt.

As a seasoned SharePoint professional, I have to admit that I was a bit shocked of the fact I didn’t know this. This seems like a “Duh! Basic knowledge!” kind of thing. Definitely not my best day when I found out about this. 😳