Server 2012 R2 without product key - what are the limitations

I have a bunch of virtual machines that I've set up running Windows Server 2012 R2. Since I'm spinning them up fairly quickly I haven't gotten around to licensing them yet. When I installed Windows I skipped entering a product key.

I will have a volume license key eventually, but these virtual machines have been running for the last month and a half without and key.

So far the only limitation I've encountered is a "Activate windows" watermark on the screen. The servers are running fine.

How long do I have before Windows must be activated? Will the servers start shutting down or rebooting or otherwise fail to operate at some point down the road? Can I leave them unactivated like this for a couple more months before licensing them with a volume license key?

What are the consequences of running a Windows server 2012 r2 machine for a long time without a product key?
LVL 31
Who is Participating?
I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

I believe you have 90 days before it is de-activated.
As far as I know it is more than 90 days, more like double that. There are no limitations in functionality during that time. Once the trial period has expired, the OS will automatically shutdown or reboot at random times.
HuaMin ChenProblem resolverCommented:
It would lead to problem, if you do not activate it for few months. While it is also bothering, due to the message prompt to you.
noxchoProduct ManagerCommented:
Once the trial time comes to expiration use a  slmgr -rearm command to prolong the trial period if you do not have the key yet.
I am using the trial version for tests very often and have not seen any limitation so far.

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today
Windows Server 2012

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.