If you choose to download the template instead of creating a server from scratch, you will notice that the type of server included with the template is an evaluation build of Windows Server Standard 2016. Microsoft will supply the pre-made template, you just have to supply the licensing for it.
The licensing is for 180 days from first power-on of the server. As time goes on, you will notice that the server will begin to behave strangely once the licensing ticks past day 0. The main thing being that the machine will randomly shut-off, as with most license expired related issues. This can be remedied a few ways.
I’ll go over a few ways below, first starting with extending/re-arming the evaluation licensing using the SLMGR csript commands. Second I will cover converting the evaluation build of Windows Server to the retail version of Windows Server using DISM.
Extending Evaluation Licensing
First, we need to check the rearm count on your configuration server. This can be done by typing the following into an elevated command prompt:
After the above command is input, it will take a moment to query the licensing service to view the remaining rearm counts for your server. You will see an output like the following image:
In the above image, you can see a a lot of information in the top of the box, but the needed information is the number next to the rearm counts. You will most likely see 4, or 5 rearms on an evaluation build. Not 1001.
Continuing to the next step of extending the evaluation licensing, this can be done by typing the following into an elevated command prompt.
After running this command, you will be notified that the command completed successfully. You will also be prompted, not forced, for a restart for the licensing change to take effect. So plan accordingly for this step. The result will look like the following:
Once you restart your machine, and provided you had available rearms for your evaluation license, you will log back into your Configuration Server to an additional 180 days. At this point if your server did have an expired license, you can rest assured that there will be no more unexpected server shutdowns or restarts for another 180 days.
Installing a Windows License with DISM
For an overview of the DISM tool, please see the following official documentation from Microsoft.
So you have a license purchased and you want to install it to the template server. This step will cover getting the eligible editions of Windows Server you can upgrade to, as well as upgrading from Evaluation to Retail server.
The first command you will want to run is to check for the editions you can upgrade to. You can perform this by typing the following into an elevated PowerShell:
Dism /Online /Get-TargetEditions
The output will be similar to the following image:
The above command, when ran on my fresh Windows 10 Pro machine, will list out all of the eligible editions I can upgrade to. If I went out and purchased an Enterprise key, I can upgrade to Enterprise using the below steps. When using the template, you will see the following two options: ServerStandard and ServerDatacenter.
So you have your target edition, and you have your product key. Now we want to convert the evaluation build to match your new key. This can be done by typing the following command into and elevated PowerShell.
Dism /Online /Set-Edition:<EDITION> /AcceptEula /ProductKey:<PRO-DUCT-KEY>
In the above command, you will need to modify <EDITION> to match the edition you are going to, as well as inputting the product key with hyphens.
Once you do this, DISM will take over and begin removing the Windows Server Standard 2016 Evaluation components, and install the needed components from the target edition you are going to. After DISM is complete, you will be prompted to restart to complete the installation of the upgrade. After the restart, you can enjoy your retail version of Windows Server 2016 by noticing that the evaluation watermark (including the countdown timer) is now gone! Hurray!