Vmware V center migration of VM to new ESXi Server causes windows reactivation

Posted on 2010-11-27
Last Modified: 2012-05-10

We tried doing a V center cold migration from a ESXi 4.0 Host on local storage to a ESXi 4.1 host with SAN storage.  (windows 2003 VM)

ESXi 4.0 running on Dell 2850

ESXi 4.1 running on Dell 2950

The cold migration worked fine, except that now I need to reactivate the windows license is this normal?

Error:  since windows was first activated on this computer the hardware on the computer has changed
Question by:pancho15
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Expert Comment

ID: 34224107
ESX doesn't mask all of the hardware details to the guests, so windows would see the change in the processor.  When you powered on the VM, did you get a question if you moved or copied the VM, too?  That would have changed the GUID depending upon how you answered it.

If you changed it to virtual hardware version 7, that would be another change that Windows would key off of.

Author Comment

ID: 34224145
Well when I did the migration from within V center it didnt ask if I copied or moved the VM. I know you get this option if you copy the files manually.

I would have thought that if you do a miogration from within V center - it wouldnt cause this issue ?  Or did this happen because I had two different ESXi hosts (Dell 2850 and dell 2950)

I assume I wont have issues if I just reactivate?>
LVL 42

Accepted Solution

paulsolov earned 500 total points
ID: 34224347
If you had moved it to the same hardware platform it wouldn't have asked to re-activate.  In this case you went from a P4 based CPU to an Core2 based CPU with Intel VT.  The Windows OS deemed this a critical enough change to ask for windows re-activation.

Author Comment

ID: 34224348
anyone else any comments on reactivation when moving VM's
LVL 42

Expert Comment

ID: 34224349
You are correct.  You will not have any issues after re-activating.
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LVL 118
ID: 34224815
There are enough differences between the host Dell 2850 and Dell 2950 two cause a Re-activation, because the hardware has changed. If you were going to keep both in the "farm", it's likely you would have issues using vMotion between them without using CPU Masks.
LVL 118
ID: 34224820
one of the elements of Windows Activations is using the Processor Type and Serial Number, as this has now changed, this is likely to cause a re-activation.
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Expert Comment

ID: 34226981
Are you running a retail or OEM license on your Windows? If that is the case I am not surprised you are asked to reactivate. If it is an OEM license it shouldn't be on VMware to start with as that license is irrevokably tied to its original hardware. If it is a retail license you should be able to reactivate and run fine. However retail licenses still have some limits to how often it can be transferred.

I have not run into the reactivation issue using volume licenses, even going between AMD and Intel processor architectures. That licensing is what you should pursue if you need to have your VMs be portable between systems.

Good Luck
LVL 118
ID: 34227138
and also technically if using vMotion or DRS you may want to check what Microsoft licensing model you have, because technically you'll need a license for every HOST you vmotion to in the farm. So if you have three ESX hosts in your VMware Cluster, a VM could be on one of three hosts = 3 Microsoft Server licenses.

It can be beneficial to license with the datacenter edition.
LVL 118
ID: 34227142
a good article here to read through, although Microsoft have moved the License Calculators.

Expert Comment

ID: 34227782
Also read up about EVC - Enhanced VMotion Compatibility.  No need to license each host in a VMware cluster either.

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